On the Road: 2013 Edition

I generally lay low in the month of April, as the combination of bad baseball weather and school season concerns can result in sparse crowds. But, soon enough, it will be time for me to break free of the NYC grind and hit the open road for yet another round of Minor League Baseball stadium tours.

Here I come, America!

raodmap

In previous years I posted my trip itineraries one at a time, but this season I’m going to put it all down at once.  But before I do, there are a few things I’d like to note:

– This is a work in progress, as in addition to the three trips listed below I hope to sprinkle in a few visits to ballparks  that are more local to my NYC homebase. The new-look Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are certainly on the agenda, as are the Hudson Valley Renegades and Connecticut Tigers (how have I never visited either of these NYPL entities?).

– Due to the vagaries of home and away schedules, it can be very difficult to assemble these itineraries. I apologize to teams that were skipped over, and please know that I am a very sensitive man who doesn’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m already bracing myself for the inevitable slew of “You were in (X) ballpark yet didn’t visit (Y) ballpark?” emails and tweets, as well as front office comments like “It’s really too bad you’re here on a Wednesday. The weekend’s gonna be awesome.” I do my best!

Also, while there are MANY places that I’d love to return to, priority will always go to places I have yet to visit.

– As many of you know, I was diagnosed with celiac disease last year and had to switch to a gluten-free diet. This makes it hard for me to sample ballpark delicacies with the reckless abandon to which I had been accustomed, but there is a solution: THE DESIGNATED EATER (feel free to use this as a name for your new band).

At every ballpark I visit, I am looking for a fan (ideally) or team employee who will sample the concessions that I cannot. I will document your eating experiences in words and pictures, so that those reading can still enjoy the comprehensive ballpark food coverage they have come to expect — nay — demand.

If YOU are interested in being a designated eater at one of the ballparks listed in the itineraries below, then get in touch benjamin.hill@mlb.com 

(Note to teams: if you are planning on staging a contest of some sort to find the designated eater, then let me know so that I do not accept someone on my own accord).

This could be you!

kielbasa

And, teams — my presence at the ballpark will give you a chance to highlight any and all of your gluten-free options. Don’t leave me hanging, as I am a (sadly out of shape pseudo) celebrity and need to be catered to.

– As always, my time at each location will be limited. But, as always, I am interested in your recommendations regarding what else there is to do, see and consume in the area. If you have any cultural or culinary expertise regarding any of the locations listed, THEN GET IN TOUCH. Many of these recommendations make their way into my “Return to the Road” content, in which I write about my experiences outside of the ballpark.

– I will be getting in touch with all of the teams included, but if you’re a member of the front office feel free to jump the gun and get in touch with me regarding  recommended hotels, story suggestions, designated eater leads, etc.

Okay, that’s enough of the fine print. On to the itineraries!

Daytona, 2012

Daytona, 2012

Trip #1 — SOUTHERN SOJOURN

The Birmingham Barons’ new downtown ballpark was the motivating factor behind this trip, and in Birmingham is where it concludes. But before arriving in the Magic City I’ll be making stops in ballparks old and new in cities large and small, from Kentucky to Tennessee to North Carolina to Georgia to, finally, Alabama.

May 8 – Bowling Green Hot Rods

Designated Eater: Team to recruit via social media.

Things to check out: Corvette Museum

May 9 – Nashville Sounds

Designated Eater: Heather Beshore

Things to check out: Gabby’s Burgers, Santa’s Pub,

May 10 – Tennessee Smokies

Designated Eater: Frederick Love

May 11 — Asheville Tourists

Designated Eater:

May 12 – Savannah Sand Gnats

Designated Eater: (Team to hold a Facebook contest)

May 13 – Augusta GreenJackets

Designated Eater: Chad Walters

Things to check out: James Brown statue?

May 14 and 15  – Birmingham Barons

Designated Eater:

Tulsa, 2012

Tulsa, 2012

Trip #2 — LAKE MICHIGAN EXCURSIONS

I have found it ridiculously difficult to put together a coherent itinerary for this region, which is why this one includes a travel day and a pair of two-night stands. Perhaps in other regions such scheduling hassles would cause me to look elsewhere, but I persevered because I have been promising the Timber Rattlers that I would visit for years now and wanted to be a man of my word (also, their mascot is a snake and for all I know that snake is poisonous and the last thing I want is for a poisonous snake to be mad at me).

Also, the triumvirate of franchises to be found in Michigan are very intriguing — whoever signs up for designated eating duties in West Michigan better bring their A-game!

June 21 and 22 – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Designated Eater: “We got this,” said the Timber Rattlers. Stay tuned…

June 23 – Beloit Snappers

Designated Eater:

June 24  – Travel

Designated Eater:

June 25 – Great Lakes Loons 

Designated Eater:

June 26 – Lansing Lugnuts

Designated Eater: Keirsh Cochran

June 27 – West Michigan Whitecaps

Designated Eater: Flounder and Marty, morning show DJs on West Michigan’s Thunder 94.5

June 28 – South Bend Silver Hawks

Designated Eater:

Vancouver 2012

Vancouver 2012

Trip #3 — HILLSBORO OR BUST

I ended last season’s travels in the Pacific Northwest, but nonetheless it seemed imperative that I visit the Hillsboro Hops in this, their inaugural season. But rather than re-trace the steps I took last year, this trip starts in central California and works its way toward the promised land of Hillsboro. There’s even a detour in the biggest little city!

August 3 – Bakersfield Blaze

Designated Eater:

August 4 — Visalia Rawhide

Designated Eater:

August 5 – Fresno Grizzlies

Designated Eater:

August 6 – Modesto Nuts

Designated Eater:

August 7 – Stockton Ports

Designated Eater: Lee McEachern

August 8 – Reno Aces

Designated Eater:

August 9 — Travel — (visit Crater Lake?)

August 10 and 11 — Hillsboro Hops

Designated Eater (and beer drinker):

akron_41pie

Akron, 2011. (Still my favorite road trip photo)

I’ll be updating and linking back to this post throughout the season; consider it your one-stop shop for all of the road trip content that I produce (in typical making it up as I go along fashion).

Your feedback: I look forward to it. And, please, if you think your friends, family, co-workers or casual acquaintances might like what it is I do then please inform them of my existence.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

13 Comments

Argh, I’ll be in San Francisco while you’re in NC & in NC while you’re in California! I will be watching the Braves & Giants from a boat in McCovey Cove on Mother’s Day weekend, though, so designate me for awesome seats if I can’t eat. :D Have fun, man, those are some good stops.

Also, that is some serious driving from Asheville to Savannah to Augusta to Birmingham leg. Your mountainous stops are two of my favorites.

Dibs on taking the Designated Eater’s role when you get the chance to come to Pawtucket (home of the longest game in professional baseball)!

Hey Ben If you are looking for a Designated Eater on May 10th in Knoxville let me know how or where to sign up…

Hi Frederick –

Send me an email to confirm, but I now have you signed up for the May 10 game. Thanks!

Interested to hear where you find GF in your travels. It’s getting easier at MLB level with at least Cleveland and Pittsburgh having GF concession stands.

you should come to lake county after south bend. we got some good eats here in the cleveland area

i cannot believe you are passing on one of the best of the best, riverwalk stadium in montgomery. only 90 min from b’ham. and montgomery has the best downtown entertainment district in the sl…………………darn

Nashville? Other than the scoreboard, there’s not much to see. The city refuses to build a ballpark after going all in for the NFL and NHL so you’re left with a AAA team that plays in one of the worst minor league stadiums left in MiLB. I know they try their best to dress it up but there is only so much you can do to dress up ugly.

true enough about nashville. and just a little bit south of music city is the rocket city……huntsville. and the stars play in a ballpark just as bad if not worse. and both teams are brewers teams playing at triple and double a, the two highest levels of affiliated minor league baseball. looks like the brewers would say to both cities, “enough is enough.” build a decent venue or we’ll go somewhere else.
2

Pingback: Golden Stadium Chair for 10 Millionth Fan |

Ben, if you are going from Reno to Hillsboro via automobile and have not done so, you really should visit Crater Lake. We did that last August while seeing the Aces and Eugene.

Pingback: 8/6/13 at John Thurman Field « 7000 Coliseum Way

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 393 other followers

%d bloggers like this: