Jaydin Taylor didn’t know she was a target audience as she sat for face painting outside of Canal Park before Thursday night’s Akron RubberDucks opener.
Jaydin is only 7 and let her father do the talking.
Chris Taylor of Akron explained how he loves baseball, heard about the street festival before the game and was looking for some family fun for Jaydin’s spring vacation.
“I bring her to games as much as I can,” he said.
So there they were was on a sunny, windy day on Akron’s Main Street with jugglers, stilt walkers, inflatable slides, a mini soap box derby ride and a trolley for kids.
Ken Babby, owner of the RubberDucks, hopes the next step for the Taylors and lots of families is to buy a ticket for the ballgame.
“Our mission is to build affordable family fun, and that’s what we do,” he said. “When kids come to a game it’s sometimes even less about the game on the field than about the kids getting their face painted and the stilt walkers. A real family, almost circus-like atmosphere at the ballpark and doing it at an affordable price.”
Last year that involved building a big new scoreboard. This year the stadium has a tiki bar in right field for any adults who show up needing a cold beer, a restaurant that opens onto Main Street even when the Ducks are traveling and a new seating arrangement in left field that can test anyone’s reflexes.
They call the left-field danger area Duck Row and if you sit there, you better be able to duck.
It forms the first two rows not far from the playing area — prime foul ball territory. (A section nearby has tables and is called Fowl Territory)
Bryan Gross and four family members were the first to sit there before Thursday’s game.
He was effusive about the virtues of a seat that let’s him swivel in any direction.
“Just being so close to the field!” he said. “You get a wait staff so you don’t have to get out of your seat to eat or drink.”
But what if a screaming line drive comes when he’s not looking?
“We got our soccer goalie right here,” Gross said.
He was referring to his daughter, Alexis, a freshman soccer goalie at Mount Union University.
Sara Avalos grew up in Akron but spent the last 10 years in Los Angeles. She and husband Pedro moved to Ohio because they consider it family friendly.
That’s what brought them to the park Thursday with son Pedro, 2, and daughter Amara, 5.
Sometimes families with young children leave before the game is over. No way, said Sara Avalos.
“We are die-hard Dodger fans, so he’s lasted through many games,” she said of young Pedro.
So how does the minor-league Canal Park compare with Dodger Stadium in the big city?
“In a good way,” she said, “less congested.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.