By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
Several inches of snow had fallen by midday Sunday, but inside the Akron Civic Theatre baseball was in the air.
The Akron RubberDucks unveiled their new uniforms and caps after a snappy, big-screen film clip of the minor team’s young fans — dozens of carefree kids hamming it up for the camera — during last season’s ballgames at Canal Park.
Club officials estimated that nearly 450 fans attended the Family Fun Day program at the Civic, which began, of course, with the theater’s pipe organist playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Ken Babby, the team’s chief executive officer, RubberDucks General Manager Jim Pfander and many other club officials personally greeted the bundled-up fans in the ornate lobby as they came inside from the cold.
“We’re overwhelmed with the support. It’s a great indication when you see everybody coming out,” Babby said. “On a day like today, with 18 degree temperatures, snowy roads and ice and wintry weather, it’s amazing to see all the families here, eight weeks before opening day, excited for baseball and great, affordable family entertainment. We can’t wait.”
The new RubberDucks uniforms were shown off on the Civic’s grand stage by area media personalities wearing, in order, the five variations that will be seen throughout the Class AA Eastern League season — home whites with RubberDucks in tire-black lettering across the chest; road grays with Akron on the chest; black mesh batting practice jerseys; special off-white Sunday jerseys with electric blue caps; and an alternate electric blue jersey with a tire-black cap.
Many fans attending the affair already were wearing the black caps, featuring a long-billed duck with narrow eyes, snarling teeth and a black tire tread for a neck.
The father and son team of Joseph Dobo, 83, and his son David, 42, gave the uniforms and caps rave reviews.
“You wouldn’t want to cross this duck,” David Dobo said, pointing to the logo on his new RubberDucks cap.
Juli Donlen, the team’s sponsorship sales coordinator, had a table set up inside the lobby with all three versions of the new caps on sale for the fans.
“Everyone has been very receptive. We’re getting positive feedback from everybody. It’s a fighting duck, just like the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame,” Donlen said.
Joseph Dobo, a 1989 Acme retiree from Akron, had high praise for Babby in his second year of club ownership.
“He’s the brightest light that’s come to Akron in about a hundred years. He had the right idea on how to run promotions and make people come to the games. His prices are fabulous, and he’s done everything he can to make us happy. We’ve been fans since they started the stadium. We saw our first no-hitter down here,” he said.
Many parents brought their young children to the event.
Jason Adams, a judicial attorney in Summit County Common Pleas Court, attended with his wife, Joanna, and their 5-year-old daughter, Juliana, who was wearing a pink and raspberry sparkled Valentine’s Day dress with pink boots.
But that didn’t stop her from walking up to the pitching-speed game and flinging a few balls at the catcher behind the plate.
Juliana has been going to games at Canal Park since she was a toddler, her mother said.
After the little girl’s turn at the pitching game, she gave her own thumbs-up review to the RubberDucks logo.
“It’s funny,” she said.
The new home-whites will be on display for the first time on Thursday night, April 10, when the RubberDucks play the Bowie Baysox in the 6:35 p.m. home opener at Canal Park.
The team’s 2014 season opener is April 3 when the RubberDucks play the Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets on the road.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.