AKRON Some top outfield prospects have passed through Canal Park in recent years, most of them known for their big bats and offensive production.
Greg Allen brings a different slant to the spacious outfield confines in downtown Akron, having won the Rawlings MiLB Gold Glove Award for a 2016 season he split between Class-A Lynchburg and Akron.
Winning the award is noteworthy because despite there being multiple levels of minor league baseball, only one award is given out per position. Allen’s speed and ability to cover ground in center field helped him post a .994 fielding percentage in 128 games last season and as he looks to continue his development in Akron this year, his focus is on the finer points of the game.
“I think a lot of it is probably just attention to detail. Sometimes as you progress and move up, you can kind of lose sight of the small fundamentals, so holistically speaking, offensively, defensively, it’s paying attention to those small things,” Allen said. “Offense, defense … whatever the situation’s calling for, just being able to anticipate and just being aware.”
Coming to Akron for a full season is an appealing prospect for a player who has seen the likes of Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin and others use it as a productive stop on their way to success at the Triple-A and MLB levels. Although his game is different than that of bigger, more power-hitting outfielders such as Zimmer and Frazier, Allen takes encouragement from former RubberDucks players who have learned the game better during their time at Canal Park and moved up.
“Absolutely, it means a lot … there’s a handful of names that have come through and guys that you’ve now seen have some success at the major league level … Tyler Naquin, Yandy Diaz, just watching games with guys like that, it always lends some encouragement and lets you know that you’re on the right path and just to continue going forward,” Allen said.
Staying in Akron after ending last season with the team also means reuniting with new RubberDucks manager Mike Budzinski, who moved up from Lynchburg to take over a team that won its fifth Eastern League title last season. Both Budzinski and Allen expressed confidence in the team’s pitching staff and with Allen anchoring the outfield defense behind whomever is on the mound, the staff figures to have solid support when the ball is put in play.
Although the winter-like weather that upended much of the team’s opening weekend homestand made for erratic play, it was merely the first round in a long season that debuts with 16 players on the roster who have previously suited up for the RubberDucks. All but two have played for Budzinski previously, further extending the feeling of familiarity, and it remains to be seen how that will translate on the field.
“It’s great … to have a chance to play under Bud in my first year, it’s incredible. I was able to learn so much from him and enjoyed my time there, it’s great to be able to pick up where we left off and I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to have a productive season,” Allen said. “You look to the coaching staff and veteran players to see the way things are handled and how they go about their business.”
The spacious confines at Canal Park can make life interesting for hitters and outfielders alike and Allen noted that the bigger green space in the outfield and the demands that makes on outfielders are “stuff you’ve definitely got to take into consideration. I’m sure our pitching staff loves it because this field can play pretty big at times, but I think it’s just being able to make those adjustments and going from there.”
Winning another gold glove potentially playing a full season at Canal Park would be a challenge in its own right, but Allen has shown thus far in his major league career that he’s capable of covering plenty of ground and being a reliable presence in center wherever that real estate may be.
The RubberDucks and Coca-Cola have signed a seven-year partnership agreement to make the soft drink provider the official beverage of Canal Park. According to the team, this is the first time Coca-Cola products will be available at Canal Park since its doors opened in 1997.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer our fans Coca-Cola products for the first time at Canal Park, beginning this season,” RubberDucks general manager Jim Pfander said. “We are excited about the new multi-year partnership with Coca-Cola.”
The new beverage lineup at Canal Park was available beginning with the opening homestand last weekend. As part of the deal, Coca-Cola signage will appear around the stadium as well as the company having a role in other hospitality arrangements.
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