Three months and one week after I began my journey to all the Midwest League ballparks, I finally achieved my goal tonight by attending a game at my 16th MWL stadium: Classic Park, home of the Lake County Captains.
My wife was able to join me on this trip, so we celebrated my accomplishment by spending the game in The Officers Club, an all-you-can-eat suite on the second level of the ballpark. Normally it costs $20 to enter The Officers Club, but tonight the Captains ran a “Date Night” promotion that allowed two people into the suite for just $25. The food was great and the fans we sat near outside the suite were very friendly and interested in talking about baseball, my journey to all the Midwest League ballparks and the book I’ll be writing about it during the rapidly-approaching offseason.
Here is the view of the field from The Officers Club suite:
The game, won 7-2 by the West Michigan Whitecaps, was a sloppy one. Seven errors were committed, including five by the home team. In the 4th inning, something interesting happened that I had never seen previously. I’ll set the scene with this excerpt from tonight’s game story on the Whitecaps website:
The big sequence of Thursday’s contest was a sloppy top of the fourth inning in which the Whitecaps erased an early 1-0 deficit.
It started with a walk and a hit batsman that put runners at first and second with nobody out. Jason Krizan laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by the catcher, but his throw to first bounced away and allowed the game-tying run to score. After a walk to James McCann loaded the bases, Dixon Machado sent a bouncer to the right side that plated the go-ahead run as the Captains took the force out at second.
The play turned into a comedy of errors as shortstop Ronny Rodriguez air-mailed a throw to first in an attempt to turn a double play. The ball quickly caromed back towards the infield, which forced the runners to hold, but second baseman Nick Bartolone grabbed the ball and threw home anyway. His throw sailed over the catcher and into the Whitecaps’ dugout, granting two bases to each runner as Krizan scored and Machado ended up at third.
Machado scored on the very next pitch when Luis Castillo laid down a suicide squeeze bunt. Hernan Perez followed with a four-pitch walk, scoring moments later on a double to the gap in right-center field by Nick Castellanos. The double by Castellanos was just the first hit of an inning that featured three walks, two errors and one hit batsman, but when the dust settled West Michigan had claimed a 5-1 lead.
The above summary is lacking in one respect: it doesn’t mention a major mistake committed by baserunner Krizan. After Bartolone’s throw went into West Michigan’s dugout, the home-plate umpire pointed to the baserunners and said Krizan scored and Machado’s on third base. Krizan then proceeded to walk from third base to the dugout. He never touched home plate and, surprisingly, Captains manager Ted Kubiak never said anything about Krizan’s mental lapse and his team never appealed the run. It was obvious the scoreboard operator wasn’t sure what to do about it, either, because the run wasn’t tallied until play continued.
I guess we’re supposed to chalk that one up to being just another one of those “only in the minor leagues” moments.
Anyway, when we first entered the ballpark, we walked around it to get the lay of the land, so to say. We both were impressed by the stadium, which I’ll write about more soon in an upcoming post. We’ll be back at Classic Park for the Captains games tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.
Oh, and one more thing to note: I found five batting-practice balls in the leftfield bleachers!