If you want to see the future Detroit Tigers, head to Akron now

After hitting an RBI single against the Altoona Curve in the first inning, Erie SeaWolves batter Spencer Torkelson, left, greets teammate Drew Ward coming out of the dugout on June 16, 2021, at UPMC Park in Erie.P1seawolves061821
After hitting an RBI single against the Altoona Curve in the first inning, Erie SeaWolves batter Spencer Torkelson, left, greets teammate Drew Ward coming out of the dugout on June 16, 2021, at UPMC Park in Erie.P1seawolves061821 /

The Detroit Tigers are starting to look like a baseball team. The arrival of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning has finally given Tigers’ fans something to watch at the major league level.

The development from start to start is encouraging and gives us all hope for the future of the Detroit Tigers.  What about the bats you say? Are you ready to hit the road after 16 months of Covid inactivity? The Erie Seawolves are loaded now as you are probably aware. Spencer Torkelson, perhaps the new number 1 prospect in all of baseball, and Dillon Dingler have joined Riley Greene to form a Big 3 for the position players.

Akron is the closest that the team gets to Detroit and I made the 3-hour trip to see our young guns in action. I would encourage anyone with an interest in the Tigers, or a Steve Urkel Bobblehead, and some time on their hands this weekend, to make a trip down to this charming ballpark and quaint downtown area.

Canal Park in Akron, Ohio is about a 3-hour drive from the Metro Detroit area. Very easy commute down 75 to the Ohio Turnpike and then I-77 South. Capacity is 7630 and the stadium is nestled in perfectly with the surrounding downtown area.

The Rubber Ducks are the home team and an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, so it is also an opportunity to see the next generation of players who will torment us as future division rivals. It is a very lively atmosphere, with their PA announcer really engaging the crowd.

I promise I will never forget that Luigi’s Restaurant is the presenting sponsor of foul balls. They also feature 4 mascots and the throngs of children at the game just loved interacting with them all as part of the ballpark experience.

The variety of food was truly impressive for a Double-A team, the standard ballpark fare featuring $2.00 Hot dogs and a refillable souvenir pop cup makes for some solid economical choices. There were also some delicious-looking steak sandwiches, mini donuts, pork pulled nachos, and an assortment of ginger ale for the adults amongst other items.

The park itself as far as gameplay and affordability is a little gem. For $13.00 I was able to score a front-row ticket right behind the plate. Parking right across the street from the entrance was $5.00 and there was a $2.00 lot right next to it but it was full when I arrived. It is 400 feet to straight away center and it’s approximately a 10-foot wall, with 331 down the left-field line. It slowly makes its way to the centerfield distance, making for an inviting power alley that Spencer Torkelson found to his liking:

The surrounding downtown area has a few bars and restaurants within walking distance and it has the classic feel of old-time Americana. I felt very safe walking around the ballpark area. As far as lodging there are a ton of hotels within 15-20 minutes with price points and levels of quality available to suit anyone’s needs. With other attractions such as the Akron Zoo and the Pro Football Hall of Fame about 30 miles away in Canton, it is easy to make a nice weekend getaway close to home.

As far as my observations from the games I saw today (June 23rd):

1- I thought at first that Dillon Dingler might need more time to adjust than Spencer Torkelson when they were first announced as moving up the ladder but his swing is so quick to the ball and he seems to be handling the more advanced pitching just fine.

2- Spencer Torkelson is going to continue to move fast. He did seem fooled by a couple of pitches today but it doesn’t carry over to the next at-bat and he seems to adjust quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a shot in Toledo before the season ends. He seemed more comfortable at 3B than he did 6 weeks ago when I saw him in West Michigan but I am not ready to say he won’t end up at 1B, which would be just fine.

3-Joey Wentz was not bad for his debut game at AA this season coming off of the IL. He went two innings, hitting 91-94 on the stadium gun. He didn’t seem to have a great feel with his secondary pitches and he was overthrowing in the 2nd inning, missing high and walking a couple of batters, but was able to right the ship and have a scoreless outing. Look for him to be in Detroit before the end of the season to help the big league club as the innings start to get limited on the Big 3 in Detroit.

4- 2B Andre Lipcius and SS Ryan Kreidler hit opposite-field home runs on a couple of mediocre pitches screaming to be hit. Both of these young men are at least worth keeping an eye on for future development. Neither of these positions has an heir apparent for the big club so there is an opportunity for them to shine. Much work is still needed, Kreidler with pitch recognition and staying away from the chase pitches, Lipcius needs more time to adjust to the level after his promotion.

5- Elvin Rodriguez who started out with a couple of nice starts to the season and I was excited to get a look at life was not impressive to me at all. Fastball was left in the hitting zone at 92-94 and pretty straight and the Rubber Ducks tuned him up in 4 innings, giving up 3 runs and 1 HR amongst 4 hits and 2BB’s. With several other hard-hit balls both fair and foul he was lucky the box score wasn’t worse.