Wednesday, April 29, 2009

HUNTINGTON PARK- What a ballpark should be!

Nothing says spring like baseball! A couple of weeks ago Bill & I attended the Columbus Clippers home opener. And what a beautiful day it was. Anne, Chuck, Danielle, Adam & I met a Boston's a fun bar up the street from Huntington Park to toast the day. It was 70's and sunny - who could ask for anything better. (You may notice the absence of Bill. One guess where he was - golfing! But he joined us at the Park before the opening pitch.)

The Arena District was buzzing. In addition to the game that afternoon, there was the Fleetwood Mac concert at Nationwide Arena and a Blue Jackets playoff game on TV later that evening.

After we finished our beverages we headed over to the game. We settled into our seats on the third base line a little past the skin of the infield. All of our gang savored the scene. The freshly mowed green grass of the field struck us all as the very essence of spring. We have Tom Houle and his wife Terese to thank for coming up with the joint plan to buy tickets. Unfortunately Tom and Terese could not make the first game, but their kids rooted for the home team. Chuck Ticknor, my long time sports viewing sidekick and his wife Anne Eckhart were with us So were our friends, the Fields - Danielle and Adam.

In the wake of the excitement over the construction of Huntington Park, the Columbus Clippers' new baseball stadium, Lisa and I along with six other great friends bought a package of twenty games. Opening day for the Clippers and the new park was Saturday, April 18 at 4 PM. This also marked the Clippers' first game as the Triple A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

In recognition of this, opening festivities included the introduction of arguably the Indians' all-time greatest player, Bob Feller who donned an Indians' field jacket. Rapid Robert, now 90 and baseball's oldest living hall of famer, looked remarkably healthy and vigorous as he waved to the adoring fans. I actually saw Feller pitch in 1956, his final year with the Tribe.

But the real star of the day was Huntington Park. It has that wonderful retro feel that Camden Yards and Progressive Park have also achieved. Old time ball parks often had quirky dimensions so that the field could fit inside a city block. Like Boston's Fenway Park, Huntington has several angled walls where batted balls can carom in unforeseen directions and a mini "Green Monster" in right field. I suppose "ambience" and "nostalgic" are overused words but they are the ones that best describe this new park. Just walking up Nationwide Blvd. to the park is something of a revelation. The park fits perfectly into the western quadrant of the Arena District, and the uneducated observer would justifiably believe that it has been there for many decades. There are even gaps in the wall where those out for a stroll can peer into the game for free just like the old "knothole gangs" were apt to do in bygone days.

I actually knew a few of the players as the Clippers' Andy Marte, Josh Barfield, and starting pitcher Jeremy Sowers were on the parent club in Cleveland in 2008. We did not worry too much about who was winning (for the record the Clippers lost 3-1 to the Toledo Mudhens). Soaking up the sun, beer and hotdogs were the order of the day.

I am sure there will be those that will argue that the Clippers abandoned their roots by jettisoning Cooper Stadium which is located in a poor section of the west side. No one can deny that baseball at the old park provided cheap entertainment to those who had trouble affording the likes of OSU football tickets. In contrast, at Huntington Park, there actually will be plenty of suits attending the "businessman specials." The bottom line though is that Huntington Park offers atmosphere that baseball fans are looking for at an affordable price. We look forward to the season.

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