The Akron RubberDucks and Canal Park take top honors for offering the biggest, boldest, most family-friendly fan experience around

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In the 11th inning, the Akron RubberDucks pulled off a dramatic win against Maryland’s Bowie Baysox at the May 15 game. Final score 5-2. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Patricia Nugent

Each year there are more and more reasons to come out to Canal Park—giveaways, amazing fare, celebrity visits, fireworks and themed events—not to mention the baseball.

“Our owner, Ken Babby, and I have made an annual tradition of visiting ballparks around the country, on the lookout for ingenious ways to entertain our fans,” says Jim Pfander, general manager for the Akron RubberDucks. “We make it our mission to stay at the forefront of providing the family-friendliest fan experience.”

To that end, he reports one of the most popular additions to the 2019 season is the Duck & Donuts Cart behind home plate.

“Before your eyes, the machine shoots homemade batter onto a conveyor belt and cooks the donuts,” says Jim. “Fans can top the mini-donuts with choice of glaze, powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. The smell is indescribably delicious. On opening night, we went through 100 pounds of batter.”

Two other fan-forward introductions this year are T-Shirt Tuesdays—the first 1,000 fans through the doors for Tuesday home games receive a T-shirt—and testing out adding some Thursday night fireworks.

“We make it our business to analyze what our fans enjoy best about the ballpark—and they love fireworks,” says Jim. “In 2013, we added Friday and Saturday nights and we’ll see how our fans support the big bang show set to the backdrop of Peter Gabriel’s music on Thursday, August 15.”

Also new this year, as a way to say thanks to the fans, he says they are introducing Free Pop Nights. The next one is Wednesday, August 14. Anyone bringing in their Webster Duck mug can enjoy free Coke drinks all night long.

Amping Up Celebrity Appearances
Throughout the season, you can expect some thrilling celebrity appearances. Saturday, July 20, is The Shawshank Redemption Night, featuring an appearance by actor Bob Gunton, who played Warden Norton in the film, and Warden Norton bobbleheads to the first 1,000 fans. Players will don prison-style jerseys and they are capping it off with fireworks synched to jailhouse rock music.

Fans of the hit television show The Office won’t want to miss Saturday, August 24, “It’s Probably the Thing I Do Best” Night. Actor Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone, will throw out the first pitch and sign autographs, and the bobblehead in his likeness goes to the first 1,000 fans.

Scouting Report: The Hottest ‘Ducks to Watch
“New manager Rouglas Odor and his coaching staff are seasoned and coming together,” says Jim. “We’re currently just a few games out of first place. The RubberDucks are already breaking records. On Saturday, May 11, for the first time since 2008, we had a six home-run game, clobbering the Fightin’ Phils, 15-2.”

These players will have you saying, “They did not just do that!”

  • Pitcher James Karinchak has not given up an earned run yet this year, and already has six saves on the season.
  • Daniel Johnson leads the team with five stolen bases.
  • Wilson Garcia leads the team with 17 RBIs so far this year.
  • Drafted by the Indians in 2016, outfielder Mitch Longo is a local player, hailing from Mayfield, Ohio, and Ohio University.
  • Also fun to watch is left-handed pitcher Sam Hentges, who brings six-foot-eight-inches to the mound and knows how to toss the heat.

Unveiling Mouthwatering Ballpark Fare
This spring the team “beefed up” its extreme food menu by unveiling the OBJ Dog in honor of new Cleveland Browns player and Louisiana native Odell Beckham Jr.

“Already a fan favorite, this jumbo all-beef dog is dipped in Louisiana hot sauce and topped with onion-bacon-jalapeno relish,” says Jim.

Another de-lish dish is the Bavarian Rhapsody, which features an extra-long, beer-braised Austrian sausage inside a Bavarian pretzel bun, and the whole thing is dipped in a Dijon cheese sauce and topped with crispy potato sticks.

Fourth on the Field
Looking for the best seat in the house to enjoy Fourth of July fireworks? Canal Park has about 7,600 of them for you. People can watch the show either from the field or the stands.

“For the past several years, we’ve teamed up with the City of Akron to offer Fourth on the Field,” says Jim. “Families can enjoy a movie before the show, as we’re showing the original Avengers film.”

On Thursday, July 4, gates will open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie will be shown around 8 p.m. Fireworks follow around 9:45 p.m. Concessions will be open for the evening.

And they are also kicking the holiday weekend off on Wednesday, July 3, at the game against Altoona with Lynyrd Skynyrd fireworks.

The Akron RubberDucks play at Canal Park, 300 South Main Street in downtown Akron, less than five minutes off I-77, through October. Game tickets are on sale now, starting at $5. To check out the game schedule or purchase tickets, visit or call at 330-253-5151.