Chronological Tour: Stop 382

Jimmy Johnís Field

Main entrance and ticket windows at Jimmy Johnís Field, Aug-2016.

Fans enjoying the game from the right-field berm.

A healthy crowd attends on a Saturday night.

Quick Facts: Rating: 3 baseballs
Veteran sports executive Andy Appleby had the idea to bring affordable, accessible professional baseball to the northern suburbs of Detroit. In 2016, he began the United Shore Professional Baseball League, an independent league focusing on players just out of college. The league began with just three teams, each playing a 50-game schedule, and one ballpark, this new facility shoehorned into the historic (platted in 1829) city of Utica, 12 miles north of the Detroit city line in Macomb County along the Clinton River.

Appleby plans to open a second ballpark to the west, in Oakland County, which will host two teams, giving the league four teams playing at two sites. The idea is to play no games Monday or Tuesday evenings, which are historically weak attendance days, and focus on the more profitable late-week and weekend dates. As a one-time owner of the Fort Wayne Wizards and a former executive in the group that owns the NBA Detroit Pistons (who play their home games in Oakland County), Appleby is familiar with both the Detroit market and the trials of operating a baseball team. The northern Detroit suburbs may well be fertile ground for independent ball. Indeed, there was a previous effort to build a ballpark in Waterford (west of Auburn Hills and Pontiac) for the Midwest Sliders of the Frontier League, who played one season at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. The new ballpark, if it is built, would likely be in Birmingham or Bloomfield Hills.

One unusual note: The league itself has a naming sponsor. United Shore Financial Services is a mortgage lender based in Troy, in Oakland County.

Getting to the Game

The ballpark is located along the banks of the Clinton River (on a capped brownfield) right at the east end of the M-59 freeway, less than half a mile from Van Dyke Avenue (the historic M-53; that highway now bypasses downtown Utica to the east). Access is not perfect from M-59, which settles back onto a section road in Utica, due to the freeway and its terminus; it is easy to overshoot the park and be forced to turn around to come back to it. The park is on Auburn Road, the historic downtown street of Utica just north of the section road.

There is a sizable unpaved parking lot just across the river from the park, accessible from Auburn Road or from Cass Avenue, the other main downtown Utica street.

Watching the Game

Ticket prices for the main seating bowl are high for this level of play, but it seems to be working. The minimum for an actual seating bowl ticket is $12, with most seats in the bowl going for $15. The front rows of the bowl are more expensive, and ushers do stand at the entrances with a velvet rope to block casual fans from running in front of those fans during play.

There is also a lower club level, right at field level between the dugouts, where tickets run as much as $35 each. There is also a small sky box level centered directly above the press box. However, one can get a ďdrink railĒ ticket (a reserved place to stand along the upper concourse rail) for $10, and general admission is $6. With the general admission ticket, one can hang out on the berm in left or right field (the one in right field is more expansive and offers a better view).

The club also sells group plans for various picnic areas, one along each baseline covered by tents and a pavilion with a car-port style roof beyond left field.

Enjoying the Game

There is a sizable fun fan area down the right-field line. The area beyond the right-field berm consists of a kidsí play area including a narrow Wiffle Ball field as well as playground equipment. For the older kids, there is an open area set up with boards for cornhole, the beanbag toss game.

Several concession stands line both the lower and upper concourses. Surprisingly, while the local franchiser for the Jimmy Johnís Subs chain sponsors the ballpark, there is no Jimmy Johnís stand.

Also surprisingly, the USPBL does not run the usual gamut of between-innings contests, at least not at the game I attended on a Saturday in 2016. However, it was 50s & 60s Night, with a live band performing in the outfield picnic pavilion before and after the game as well as between innings. Kids do get to run the bases after every game, and they also run the ubiquitous Launch-a-Ball contest after the game.

Game # Date League Level Result
1473 Sat 6-Aug-2016 United Shore Ind. Birmingham 4, UTICA 2
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This page updated 8-Aug-2016