There has been a big push by parent MLB clubs over the last 20 years to secure PDCs (Player Development Contracts) with minor league franchises that are geographically closer to the big boys. The Indians certainly fit that mold now, with 4 of their 5 primary minor league affiliates within a 2 hr drive.
AAA - Columbus Clippers
AA - Akron Rubber Ducks
Low A - Lake County Captains
Rookie - Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season)
Last night was a direct benefit to that setup. My brother heard last week that Kluber would be on a rehab start with the Rubber Ducks. Tickets? Done! But when we got there........
It was like turn back the clock night to 1997 when the park first opened up. We parked on Water Street like we always do, and walked around to the gates on South Main St. Whaaaaaat?
We arrived at 5:45pm for a 7 pm first pitch on a Tuesday night - and the lines already were snaked 3 rows deep - both north and south of the main gates. When Jim picked up the tickets, he said there was someone trying to buy tickets at the gate. They were not happy, because the only tickets left were in Homerville (right field porch) at $25 per seat. Now that is set up as a picnic area, and food is included with the ticket - but it still was $25 per ticket.
I don't know how Jim always does it - but he could sell an Eskimo a freezer, or a sandbox to a bedouin. Our plan was to be at the gate at 6pm when they open up - and sprint to the railing overlooking the Duck's bullpen to watch Corey warm up. I could see Jim's heart sinking as he looked the crowd already lined up............
But when the gates opened and we got in, I heard Jim shout "TOM!" and he just pointed - and he was off. The bullpen railing - for some God unknown reason - was still clear. Haven't seen the man move that fast since his heart attack a few years ago. But there we were at 6:03, on the railing overlooking the Ducks 'pen. Corey got there about 6:45.
Two very cool things about that. All the other pitchers had assembled in the 'pen by the time Corey started to warm up. ALL the players on BOTH teams not directly involved in warming up the pitchers were standing at attention - mesmerized watching the 2 time Cy Young winner warming up in the pen. Once Corey had tossed 20 or so pitches, he wanted to switch balls, so he flipped the ball up to a boy with a mitt on the railing! Talk about a memory of a lifetime!
The game was great. Current Ducks 3B Nolan Jones IS the real deal folks. 6'4" and runs very fluidly. Ball comes off his bat with a different sound - a more solid thud. And he drives the ball with authority. I bet you he is the Tribe's opening day starter at 3B in 2020.
Kluber tired in the forth inning. Finished by throwing 60 pitches. Otero and Tyler Olson also pitched an inning of relief on rehab assignments. My guess is Klubs will need one more rehab start to stretch out to 80-90 pitches. Whether that is in Akron or Columbus - TBD.
Oh yeah, did I mention my brother's sales skills? We were sitting 8 rows up from the field, right behind the 1st base dugout. Sweet seats. BTW - last night was the 5th largest crowd in Ducks history - announced at 8,322.