UPMC Park, formerly known as Jerry Uht Park, named after the founder of Professional Communications Inc. and former minor league player in the Cleveland Indians Organization, has been entertaining baseball fans for almost 23 years.
The park plays host to the Erie SeaWolves, the double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The park has banners of some of the now big-leaguers who have graced the dirt and grass in the park.
Players such as current Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander and John Hicks, a catcher and first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, have given fans a major league experience without the cost of attending a major league stadium.
Before the SeaWolves were picked up as an affiliate of the Tigers, they were a part of the Pirates organization from their inception until 1998.
The first game was against the Jamestown Jammers on June 20, 1995, and in front of a crowd of 6,300, the SeaWolves won after Jose Guillen launched a solo home run over the civic center — now the Erie Insurance Arena — in left field to win the game.
The Los Angeles Angels then picked them up in 1999 and they entered the Eastern League. They won the 1999 Southern Division Championship after finishing the season with 81 wins and 61 losses.
After two years with the Angels, the SeaWolves were picked up by current affiliate Detroit and have remained with them since.
The 2001 season was a big season in terms of attendance and performance for Erie; 246,000 fans passed through the turnstiles and the SeaWolves had their best record as an organization, 84-58.
Their record propelled them to the top of the Eastern League Southern Division.
The team didn’t place in the top three in their division until three years later when they placed second with a record of 80-62, 5.5 games behind Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate Altoona Curve.
They finished sixth in the division for the next two years and then placed first in 2007 with a record of 81-59.
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Jerry Uht Park was renamed UPMC Park after UPMC Hospital purchased the naming rights of the park in a five-year contract.
Other changes that have occurred over the year include the video board in right-center field and the addition of a two-level picnic area down the first base line toward the outfield. The two levels have picnic tables and concessions. The upper, “The Bud Light Beer Garden,” features 11 party deck boxes. Fans can rent the open-air boxes for games and the boxes can hold up to 10 people.
As the weather breaks and spring comes around, the stadium becomes a social and entertainment hub for locals and Gannon students. Senior mechanical engineering major Mitch Vogatsky said he loves the low ticket prices, proximity to campus and the deals on concessions.
“As a Gannon student, I love how close it is to campus,” he said. “It makes it very accessible for us, and it’s an affordable night out as well, especially on ‘Buck Night,’ which tends to draw a big crowd.”
Although the semester is coming to an end, the SeaWolves will play at home Friday through Monday against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Former NFL quarterback and current left fielder for the Ponies, Tim Tebow, will be in Erie to play.
Head on over to UPMC Park and let out a loud “A-OOOOO!”