Utica’s field of dreams starts charming public

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Utica’s field of dreams starts charming public

Jimmy John's Field on opening day, May 30. For more photos, check out the Oakland Post's Facebook page. 

Jimmy John's Field on opening day, May 30. For more photos, check out the Oakland Post's Facebook page. 

Jimmy John's Field on opening day, May 30. For more photos, check out the Oakland Post's Facebook page. 

Jimmy John's Field on opening day, May 30. For more photos, check out the Oakland Post's Facebook page. 

Robert Andrews

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Just west of downtown Utica and less than 20 minutes from Oakland University is the new three-story baseball stadium that was imagined for about 10 years. On May 30, Chairman and Founder Andy Appleby’s dream came true as the United Shore Professional Baseball League finally started in the new $15 million Jimmy John’s Field.

The USPBL is a new independent baseball league and has three teams — the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers and Utica Unicorns. The USPBL gives young ballplayers another chance to extend their baseball career and gives the residents of Metro Detroit another summer activity to enjoy.

Just off of M-59 and Van Dyke, the stadium has more than just baseball for the fans. The unique three-story stadium has plenty of entertainment and premium hospitality for fans of all ages.

The field sports 2,000 box seats, 18 field-level tables which include a locker to store personal items, 24 suites located throughout the stadium, pavilion seating and lawn seating, which make for a total capacity of 4,500.

On the grandstand level are seven Founder’s Level suites that overlook the ballpark and the surrounding areas. The decor of these suites includes high-top leather chairs, metal counter tops, a view that oversees the field and first-class service.

37 feet behind home plate are five Premium Dugout Suites. These suites offer unique ground-level seating for the game with full service.

Fans can also enjoy the games in one of 12 Cabana suites, all of which include ceiling fans and gas fire pits.

Jimmy John’s Field makes the experience convenient for kids, as well. A play structure and wiffle ball field, both of which are free to the fans, sit behind left field.

There will also be promotion nights throughout the season. Some themes include Star Wars Night, Thirsty Thursdays and fireworks every Friday night.

Opening day

The entertainment level on the first day pleased fans.

“It has been pretty awesome; I didn’t know what to expect,” said Ferndale resident Adam Girard. “The park looks great, a lot of people. The baseball, I was wondering how the skill level would be, but it’s quite up there with some of the professional games I’ve seen. So all around pretty entertaining.”

The day started off at noon when Appleby held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the entrance of the stadium.

The league had planned plenty of entertainment for its sold-out crowd. Kids and parents could have their faces painted. They also could take pictures with the teams’ mascots.

Pegasus Parachuting delivered the game ball via skydive before the first pitch. A drumline played throughout the game, and the famous Team Ghost Riders (monkeys that herd goats while riding dogs) showed up in the bottom third and sixth inning.

“As it’s with most minor league teams, it’s not about the product on the field. It’s about the fan experience,” said minor league baseball enthusiast Nick Banaszak. “And I think they really captured that here, here in Utica.”

Since, the USPBL is not affiliated with Major League Baseball, fans did not know what talent to expect. Most of these players were former college baseball players or athletes.

Two Oakland University alumni were in the mix. Shane McCatty (Class of 2009) is a Unicorns pitching coach. Luke McCatty (Class of 2016) is a pitcher for the Unicorns.

The Utica Unicorns and the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers played the inaugural game and the Unicorns won 5-1. The game was the pitchers’ and there were 21 strikeouts between the teams.

The Beavers scored the first run in the top of the second when Nic Wilson homered to left field. Not only was that Wilson’s first hit in the league, it also was the first hit and home run for the USPBL. One lucky fan had hands fast enough to capture the ball. Alex Peters was that fan.

“I saw a big boy get into the box, and I said man, he’s got some power,” Peters said. “And next thing you know, he’s hitting a home run out right in front of me and I run up there. Takes one bounce and I pick it up and everyone wanted to take pictures with me. It’s been a great day so far.”

But what would it take for Andy Appleby to get that ball?

“Me and my buddy were out here and I think [Appleby] would buy a jersey from each team and a hat from each team and maybe an away hat. Yeah that’s about it, I don’t want a whole lot.”

Because the USPBL is independent, all of the expenses are paid out of pocket, and entertainment is survival.

“We intend to make Jimmy John’s Field the cleanest and safest ballpark in America, with double the service levels, so that we deliver a premium experience at a less-than-premium price,” Appelby said. “This ballpark is a crown jewel and I intend to make it THE place to be in Macomb and Oakland County”

Games are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:25 p.m and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The last game is Sunday, September 11.

Individual tickets start at $6 and go up to $40.

More Information is at https://uspbl.com.