The Major League Baseball lockout ended, delaying the start of the big league season, but the minor leaguers were unaffected. The Akron RubberDucks, the Class AA affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, are already gearing up for the team’s 25th season at Akron and Canal Park.
Team owner Ken Babby said he considered opening day “a holiday” and was excited for the season ahead.
“Our players started spring training on time at the end of February,” Babby, who also owns the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the AAA affiliate of the Miami Marlins, told the Akron Jewish News. “Operationally, our clubs in Akron and Jacksonville will start their season on time, but it’s always great to see Major League Baseball back on the field. I think we were all thrilled to see the news (March 10). It just adds more to the joy. Opening day is like a vacation in our family, sure, and it will be nice to see it start in early April.
The RubberDucks had several players on last year’s squad – which won the Northeast Championship Series – selected for the Guardians’ 40-player roster, meaning they were unable to show up for practice and spring training during lockdown, Babby said. Although they have yet to receive this season’s roster from the Guardians, it was unlikely that many of these players would have returned to the RubberDucks anyway due to promotions and the big league club’s needs, a- he declared.
“There really hasn’t been much of an impact on our season,” he said. “We are truly proud to be the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians. We continue to look forward to a competitive baseball year. Rouglas Odor returns as manager to defend our 2021 championship. It’s been a really exciting season, a really exciting championship run. And the objective each year is obviously to offer a great experience to our fans and to field a competitive team. Last year’s result was extraordinary and exciting for everyone associated with RubberDucks baseball.
He said fans can expect changes at Canal Park, including the complete replacement of every seat in the stadium. Babby said most of the seats were the original ones, installed in 1997, about 10 years past their 15-year life expectancy. He also said the replacement of the stadium’s air control system, which helps on cold nights at the start of the season and hot nights during the summer, is less noticeable. And, a complete renovation of the National Interstate Insurance Suite Level is now complete after three years.
Babby also said there were plans to honor the team’s 25th anniversary, but was unable to share many details at the time. The team’s plans will be announced at the start of the season as the departure will focus on celebrating the championship, he said.
The team moved from the Eros to the RubberDucks in 2013.
“We will start the season recognizing our championship team at the start of the season – one of the first games (April 16) all fans in attendance will take home replica 2021 championship rings,” he said. he declares. “So that will be a lot of fun.”
He also teased that the franchise would do something in the future once it was the 13th anniversary of the RubberDucks rebranding.
“We joked that when we approach the 13th anniversary of this, a real bar and bat mitzvah would be needed for Webster and Rubberta, our mascots. So it’s something fans can look forward to in the future. We will definitely do that,” said Babby, who grew up in a conservative Jewish family.
The RubberDucks season begins April 8 in Erie, Pennsylvania, and opening night at Canal Park is April 12.
Ed Carroll is a freelance writer.