Saturday, July 14, 2012

Akron Redux - Seeing Cole in the Rubber City

Of all the nicknames a city can give itself, "Rubber City" probably sounded a lot better in theory than in actuality.  Massive conglomerate tire maker Goodyear has its world headquarters in Akron, thus the City sucks at its rubbery teat, so it probably came down to "Rubber City" or "Tired City".  Tired City would attract too many narcoleptics, I suppose.

Anywho, what brings me to this sleepy City home to the Akron Zips?  Only the Pirates' #1 prospect, Gerrit Cole, that's what.  Just out of curiosity, I Google Mapped how long it would take to get to Akron instead of going to Altoona -- turns out it is a 1/2 hour closer from where I live.

I was a little hesitant to come to Akron because my last time here was not real pleasant.  It was the summer of 2008 and my Dad and I came to the National Burger Festival -- a made up festival to generate interest in local burger joints.  It was held on Main Street, one block down from the Akron Aeros baseball stadium.  At the time in 2008, I was going through a pretty rough period and was really down on myself.  I had a lot going on and my heart wasn't really into a road trip 2 hours away with my Dad to eat burgers.  We still had a good enough time, though; I just didn't really want to be there mentally.

When I pulled into town at 5:30 p.m., on the same stretch of Main Street as the 2008 Burger Festival was now the 2012 Italian-American Festival.  The same stretch was blocked off and the same amount of people, same pavilion with music blaring, same security checkpoint was in place.  But this time was different.  Because now in 2012 I'm happy and in a good place.  I have a great wife who has changed how I think of myself and others.

The downtown area of Akron seemed just a little bit livelier in 2012, too.  Whether that's my imagination or not, I'm not sure.

The Akron Aeros play in Canal Park, which is an ode to retro neo-classical with the red brick front and plenty of wrought iron.  It is exceedingly clean and located right downtown.  It has an open concourse layout so all views are good, with one level of seats.  There's only a tiny section of seats in right field, with no other seating in the outfield.  I'm always amazed when you go to a minor league park and there's suites in the second deck.  What's the point of that?  Why would you try to big-time it at a Double A park in a big town/small city?

As I'm typing this during pre-game warmups, there's some sort of karate studio stretching behind home plate next to all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I see a big pile of wood between the two groups -- this has a recipe for disaster/hilarity written all over it.  The one little tyke is only stretching half-heartedly; he's fixated on Donatello.  Or Michaelangelo.  Can't remember them.

With respect to Cole, I'm hoping he comes out here in a 1/2 hour and just puts on a dominant 99-mph-fastball followed by 90-mph-change followed by 88-mph-curve performance and figuratively gives a middle finger to Mark Appel.  The next time I see Cole in July, I have a feeling it will be in July 2013 at PNC Park.

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