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Northern Ohio a baseball haven03/02/2010 10:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
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Eight U.S presidents have called Ohio home at the time of their election, leading to the state's well deserved reputation as "The Mother of Presidents." But the Buckeye State is equally fertile ground for professional baseball, hosting six Minor League clubs as well as the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians.
In this edition of Roadtrip, we'll spend some time in baseball-rich Northern Ohio. After three nights of Minor League Baseball, it should become apparent why this is one of the most important "swing" states in the nation.
Day 1: Lake County Captains (Eastlake, Ohio)Captains tickets | 2010 Captains schedule
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (AP)
Cleveland's reputation as a rock n' roll hotbed is largely due to DJ Alan Freed, who did much to popularize the emerging genre in the mid-50s. Today, that reputation lives on in the form of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The gleaming six-floor facility is an excellent place in which to learn about ground-breaking musical heroes, from Little Richard to Black Sabbath to the Sex Pistols.
Along similar (but yet much different) lines is the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, located in nearby Euclid. Here, one can see how Slovenian folk traditions were fused with a new world sensibility in order to create what the Web site describes as "the happiest sound around." Make your plans accordion-ly.
An even quirkier attraction can be found back in Cleveland proper -- the Christmas Story House. Fans of the cult holiday movie classic "A Christmas Story" can gaze longingly at the Major Award leg lamp while taking a tour through the house, and then walk across the street to the Christmas Story Museum and Gift Shop. Here one can see a vast array of props from the film before buying a leg lamp of their very own.
But not even electric appendages can compete with our national pastime. Located in close proximity to the aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the Baseball Heritage Museum, a 5,800-square foot facility dedicated to preserving and celebrating the sport's rich history.
As great as it is to celebrate the past, sometimes it's even better to revel in the present by watching the future. That is to say, it's time to check out up-and-coming Indians prospects at immodestly named Classic Park. There, fans can take in the action within an intimate facility whose spacious concourse allows plenty of room in which to wander.
Day 2: Akron Aeros (Akron, Ohio)Aeros tickets | 2010 Aeros schedule
All-American Soap Box Derby (AP)
Like many cities, downtown Akron boasts both an art museum and a zoo. The former boasts an ever-changing array of eclectic exhibits, such as this summer's three-screen multimedia installation featuring footage from the North Pole. The latter offers a chance to see exotic species such as Komodo dragons, Jamaican fruit bats and pygmy goats (all of which sound like good names for a Minor League team).
Those who crave the thrill of competition will want to head over to the one-and-only Derby Downs, site of the All-American Soap Box Derby. This world-famous competition takes place each July, but local races are run throughout the summer. Stock car kits are available for purchase, perfect for the young speed demon in your life.
But fans of the gridiron might want to drive right past Akron, in order to check out Canton's Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year's induction ceremony takes place in August and includes Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Dick LeBeau.
But nothing is more LeBeautiful than a game at Akron's Canal Park. The facility was designed by the world-famous H.O.K. architectural firm, and it features the largest free-standing scoreboard in all of Minor League Baseball. All the better to view the copious nightly action, which last season included rough-and-tumble between-inning mascot Cream Stick races. That's the sort of thing you can't see anywhere else.
Day 3: Toledo Mud Hens (Toledo, Ohio)Mud Hens tickets | 2010 Mud Hens schedule
Millennium Force at Cedar Point (AP)
If coasters give you butterflies in your stomach, then why not check out some actual butterflies instead? The aptly named Butterfly House is in the town of Whitehouse, about 15 miles outside of Toledo. Over 1,000 butterfly species exist within an idyllic garden setting, providing an atmosphere of multi-hued insectian serenity.
Like Akron, Toledo is home to both an excellent art museum and a zoo. As befits a metropolis nicknamed "The City of Glass," the Museum of Art features a Glass Pavilion that houses more than 5,000 works of very fragile art. The pavilion itself is made of large panels of curved glass, resulting in a very reflective museum-going experience. The zoo, meanwhile, houses over 6,000 animals representing 750 species. Make sure to check out the Hippoquarium.
Experiencing the remarkable diversity of Earth's life forms builds up an appetite, and in Toledo there's one place that stands out above the rest. Tony Packo's features hearty Hungarian food, and their hot dogs and fried pickles are the stuff of legend. The eatery was made world-famous by Toledo native Jamie Farr, whose character on "M*A*S*H" repeatedly expressed his love of Tony Packo's hot dogs.
Farr also made the Mud Hens world-famous, as his Maxwell Klinger often sported a team hat. Today, the team plays at Fifth Third Field, which is often hailed as one of the best in all of Minor League Baseball. Thanks to its downtown location and Major League amenities, the stadium often boasts crowds of over 10,000 people and a festive atmosphere prevails.