Erie Crushers pitcher Jason Faiola talks to the crowd earlier
this month at The Belvedere in Westlak. Faiola and his wife,
Allison, will live in a suite there during the team’s 2009 season.
(West Life photo by Caitlin Fertal)
time is now for Crushers
By Jim Horvath
Published May 27, 2009
For just over
nine months, the building of the Lake Erie Crushers professional
baseball team has been a labor of love for general manager Ryan
Gates and his staff.
The team, a
member of the Frontier League, opened its 2009 season on the road
last Friday in Pennsylvania against the Washington Wild Things.
After a pair of three-game series with the Windy City Thunderbolts
and the Rockford Riverhawks, it will finally be time to come home.
will be the true birth of the franchise.
At 7:05 p.m.,
the Crushers will host Windy City in their first-ever game at the
brand-spanking new All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon. A weekend series
with Rockford will cap the beginning of minor league baseball in
eastern Lorain County.
“It’s a very
exciting time for us, without a doubt,” said Gates last Thursday
as he and his staff readied to move its operations into the new
liken this to awaiting a newborn,” said Gates. “We’ve been working
on this since last Oct. 1, so it’ll be nine months and a day when
we open here. We’ve got 11 fulltime staffers working, and we’ve
added a dozen interns to help us for our first season.
“As we get closer,
it’s like throwing a lot of baseballs up in the air. All of a sudden,
all of those balls come crashing down at once, and that can be a
lot to handle,” he said.
Gates, public reaction to the new team has been positive.
“We’ve had a
couple of events at the new ballpark where people have had the opportunity
to see it up close,” said Gates. “A lot of people have seen it driving
past it on the highway, but when they actually get inside they all
comment about how beautiful it is. ‘We didn’t think it would be
this nice’ has been a comment made by many of our visitors.
“We’ve had a
lot of local interest, and a lot of people can’t believe there’s
something like this right in their back yards,” he said.
The team will
play a 96-game schedule, with 51 of them to be played in Avon during
it inaugural season. The ballpark, which seats 5,000-plus, has a
variety of ticket plans and seating options, from private suites
and club seats to box seats and general admission in left field.
As with many
other minor league-level teams, the Crushers’ ticket prices are
way below that of a Major League club. The team’s general admission
seating price is $6, with home box seats at $9 and field box seats
at $13. Terrace Tables, which include four tickets, are priced at
$60. There are a variety of season ticket plans, along with prices
for group outings.
The team’s 24-man
roster was recently named by manager John Massarelli. Teams in the
Frontier League are not affiliated with any Major League teams and
are made up of players released from Class A, AA and AAA minor league
“The last four
or five cuts were very difficult,” said Gates. “That’s a testimony
to the level of talent we had on our preseason roster. We expect
to have a very competitive team heading into the season.”
Gates and his
staff have spent hours upon hours promoting the team and the new
facility. One such event was recently held in Westlake as one of
the team’s pitchers, Josh Faiola, helped host an event at The Belvedere
stay with host families during the season. In a unique arrangement,
Faiola, a former pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization,
and his wife, Allison, will be staying in a suite at the Belvedere
The team has
a mascot, Stomper, who will be present at all home games. Stomper,
along with the team’s players, is available for appearances at local
In all, it’s
a family-oriented entertainment package that’s right down the highway
at the corner of Routes 2 and 611.
“We’ve had a
good response in the local communities,” said Gates. “We’re hoping
that when people come here, they’ll want to buy tickets ahead of
time for future games, like for July 4, or for later in the season
“Like I said,
it’s been a lot of work. We’re excited that our home opener is finally
almost here,” he said.
about the team, its players, events, game schedule, ticket plans
and more is available at the team’s Website, www.lakeeriecrushers.com.