The Lake County Captains are an American professional baseball team that serves as the Class-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland, Ohio’s Major League Baseball team, and plays their games in the Midwest League.
The organization was founded in 1991 in Columbus, Georgia and went by the nickname of the Columbus Indians originally and then switched to the Columbus Redstixx after the 1991 season.
While in Columbus, the Redstixx claimed four first-half division titles in the Southern division placed in the South Atlantic League while claiming three second-half division titles during that span.
Columbus officially moved to Eastlake, Ohio and formed the Lake County Captains prior to the 2003 season and began to call Classic Park home. Classic Park gets its name after coming to a naming agreement with local auto dealership chain Classic Automotive Group.
Their first year in Lake County ended up being the end of a nice run. After continuing to place themselves towards the top of the standings year-after-year and after owning a 97-43 record, which was the best regular season record in professional baseball, in the 2003 season, the Captains failed to claim another division title until 2008.
After the 2009 season, the Captains were shuffled over to the Midwest League after the Columbus Catfish, who took over for the Redstixx in 2003, moved again. This time moving to Bowling Green, Kentucky and eventually going by the nickname Bowling Green Hot Rods.
The move was a good one for Lake County allowing them to be closer to their competition than before. In the previous years playing in the South Atlantic League, their closest opponent was the West Virginia Power in Charleston, West Virginia, which equated to a 256-mile drive from Classic Park.
In 2010 the Captains hit the peak of their brief history, earning the first-half Eastern Division Champion title as well as going on to become the Midwest League Champions altogether. In that series, Lake County took it from the Clinton Lumberkings (Seattle Mariners Class-A team) three games to two winning the clinching game with a score of three to two after three straight innings (5-6-7) of scoring one run in each. The winning pitcher was Jeremy Johnson.
The organization as a whole, dating back to their Columbus days, has produced more than a few notable players that went on to play Major League Baseball.
From their Columbus times, players that came up through the system were; pitcher C.C. Sabathia, catcher Victor Martinez, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, pitcher Jaret Wright and first baseman Russell Branyan.
Branyan currently holds the franchise record for most home runs hit in a season with 40 in 1996.
As for players that came up through Lake County, multiple all-star appearances are seen on this list as well. Notable Captains alumni who have made the ‘bigs’ are; pitching coach Mickey Callaway, pitcher Josh Tomlin, pitcher Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez,) shortstop Francisco Lindor, infielder Jose Ramirez, pitcher Luis Perdomo, infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff, catcher Chris Gimenez and pitcher Rafael Perez.
Classic Park, in 2006, held the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 20, 2006 that saw players such as outfielder Andrew McCutchen, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, outfielder Eric Young Jr. and outfielder Austin Jackson.
Zach Harley is a freelancer out of Parma, Ohio.