While Parkview Field is widely regarded as top-notch, the Midwest League is full of other enjoyable ballparks.
For fans thinking of catching the TinCaps on the road, or those who want a quality, summer day trip, a pair of cities are inviting.
The Journal Gazette recently visited the stadiums in Dayton and Lansing, Michigan, to see how they stack up.
Fifth Third Field
On May 10, the Dragons celebrated their 1,000th consecutive sellout, so they’re doing something right.
The planets aligned in Dayton, team president Robert Murphy said.
Fighting crowds on the thin concourse is a challenge, but the energy at the ballpark is palpable at the front gate.
It’s the same feeling on a (weeknight), Murphy said. That’s what we’re used to. Sounds, smells, interaction – all that is put together.
So many fans, all passionate. Dayton is an affiliate of the Reds, which makes for a much deeper connection as far as rooting interest.
For us, it’s better than driving to Cincinnati, said Gary Newcomb, a season ticket-holder from Vandalia, Ohio, 10 minutes north. You look at the guys who have come through – (Joey) Votto, Jay Bruce – they’re big-time. Reds who rehab come here.
The brick exterior – which blends with surrounding warehouses – is the beginning of a fulfilling experience. Smiling ushers engage in chitchat, and kids stay busy with mazes, a prize wheel and a Strike Zone pitch game.
Everything for children is great, Newcomb’s wife Alle said. It’s reasonably priced. Families can come.
Backed seats with plenty of leg room are inviting, as are the outfield lawn and party deck. Suites were remodeled a year ago with LED lighting.
I like the intimate nature of it, Murphy said. This stadium really allows you to appreciate baseball players.
Meanwhile, Murphy has 24 employees focused just on in-game entertainment. On a given day, toddlers race or senior citizens dance.
We don’t do things for sponsors, Murphy said. We only do things we think are fun. You have an acid test.
The gift shop carries everything under the sun, with Dragons logos on water bottles, T-shirts, Post-it notes, onesies, hoodies, notebooks, wallets, lapel pins, hoodies, coasters and umbrellas.
The stadium has seven concession stands and 13 specialty carts, so refreshments are never far.
Visit the Dragons Fire Grill on the first-base side and order the Dragon Fire burger if you don’t mind sticky fingers and a little heat.
The quality of Fifth Third Field is worthy of Triple-A.
When they put this up (in 2000), everybody was hesitant about this team making it, Newcomb said. It’s been just the opposite.
Cooley Law School Stadium
Home of the Lugnuts, a Blue Jays affiliate, it’s about two hours from Fort Wayne.
The interstate drops you off pretty much right at the field, although its downtown location makes parking a bit scarce – arrive early.
The variety of food is an asset. They sell footlong bratwursts for $6.75, and the smoked turkey leg, huge, succulent and piping hot, is a real bargain at $7. Lather it with spicy barbeque sauce.
Every time we come, there seems to be something different with food, said Bruce Barrows, who attended the first game there in 1996 and has been a regular since.
Across the street is the Nuthouse Sports Grill, the perfect spot for a drink or bite either before or after the game. The wings – especially in citrus jalapeno – are beyond standard bar fare.
The stadium, almost 20 years old, is clearly a pitcher’s park – fly balls that don’t hug the foul pole must travel a minimum of 330 feet to become home runs.
Most non-suite seating is bleachers, but there are no awkward sightlines on either side.
There is lawn space.
It’s cozy, said Barrows, who lives 40 miles away. There’s not a bad seat.
For a hoot, come on a Wednesday to see Humphrey, a live camel new this year.
Daniel Krolczyk, of Manistee, Michigan, brought his kids just for that reason.
It’s fantastic, not at all what you expect, he said. They were loving it.
Humphrey takes a walk around the spacious concourse, then poses for pictures and petting while eating hay.
Unlike Parkview Field’s glimpse of the city skyline, there is nothing to see over the outfield walls – for now.
Earlier this month, the Lansing City Council approved a $23.5 million renovation that will bring apartments to the outfield, as well as a modern video board.