Prep Baseball Report

2019 OHSAA State Tournament - Venue Chatter

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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2019 OHSAA State Tournament - Venue Chatter

AKRON - Anytime there is a major change, a cause for concern is only natural.

That was most definitely the case at the 92nd annual Ohio State Baseball Tournament which was moved to Canal Park in Akron for the first time. Not only was the event not played at Huntington Park in Columbus where it had hosted for more than a decade, but it was moved back a week on the calendar in two-part, one due to the recently adopted pitch-count rules as well as an effort to lengthen the regular season - something that proved beneficial with the rain-filled spring in the state.

Adding to the change was moving the tourney from a Thursday through Saturday format to Friday to Sunday. This one was done because the Akron Rubberducks were completing a homestand with Reading on Thursday.

Tim Stried, Director of Communications with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, was at the stadium on Sunday and has heard good response.

“The feedback that we have received so far about Canal Park and Akron has been overwhelmingly positive,” Stried said. “The stadium staff had the ballpark ready for the state tournament and they were so happy to work with the OHSAA and the state qualifying teams before and during the state tournament. We certainly understand that teams from Southwest and Western Ohio had a longer drive, but we hope their experience at Canal Park made up for that. Several teams that I talked to after the championship games indicated they had a very positive experience and were very happy with the site selection. We are already looking forward to being back in Akron for the 2020 baseball state tournament.”

Coldwater was at state for the second year in a row so head coach Brian Harlamert was able to have a qualifying point of view.

“Canal Park was a nice venue for the state baseball championships,” the coach of the Division III state champions said. “The Rubberducks staff was so friendly and willing to help out in anything we asked. A huge shoutout to Rob Hobble, the field manager, and the top-notched grounds crew. We look forward to working hard in 2020 and having a chance to return.

“I know many fans in our area would have loved to have it in Columbus, but Akron put on a championship effort.”  

OHSAA officials obviously had some worries as how it would all play out. When Stried arrived at the park on Sunday he made an early visit to the booth where PBR was located and promptly asked views on how the change has gone - the good and the bad.

When our drive from a half hour away from Indiana to the eastern part of the state took 3.5 hours (an accident on the turnpike brought a 30-minute delay), distance for those on the west side of the state was the first thing that came to mind as a problem.

But the rest of the change brought out minimal concerns.

In a world with so many that look at the glass as half empty, negativity at Canal Park was at a minimum. Sure, construction was everywhere - including a detour from motel to the ballfield - and parking was hit-and-miss. But in the end those turned out to be, as Tom Petty brilliantly wrote in his classic Crawling Back to You … “most things I worry about never happen anyway.”

As for inside the stadium, personnel from the Rubberducks were as friendly and cordial as anyone while picnic areas and things for younger children to keep occupied were available if needed. One great idea was a meeting place for each team and their fans and family after the game that was specified on the scoreboard (which by the way was not up to par with the Class AAA scoreboard at Huntington).

Once suites were opened up for the media when it was figured out nobody outside of the front row could see home plate, even those covering the event were happy.

Most importantly, mother nature was never better. The only rain occurred approximately an hour before the tournament began on Friday, lasting 20 minutes, and then immediately after the tourney finale when a drizzle began while awards were being presented.

All in all, the change proved to work out well for most everyone involved with all looking forward to 2020 when Canal Park hosts again.