On the Road: 2014 Edition
After an absurd amount of dilly-dallying, second-guessing, waffling, hemming, hawing, and out-and-out procrastinating, the day has finally arrived. The day in which I unveil my 2014 road trip itineraries to you, the (presumably) loyal reader. This year I will be going on four trips — with the first one kicking off in less than two weeks — visiting some 30 teams in all. This should provide me with enough material to last somewhere into the 2016 season, but like anything else in life you’ve got to take it one step at a time.
When traveling within the world of Minor League Baseball, one has plenty of options.
Before getting to the travel itineraries, a few of my standard-issue caveats:
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. Nonetheless, I am fully prepared 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 in 2012 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.
At every ballpark I visit, I am looking for a fan (ideally) or local media member 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. First come, first served.
(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. Also, in the interest of providing an unbiased perspective, I will no longer be accepting team employees as designated eaters.)
Finally, I will not necessarily have a designated eater at each ballpark this season. If volunteers and/or team interest are non-existent, I am fine with skipping a ballpark or two. It gets kinda tedious taking pictures of people while they’re eating and then asking “So, how’s the hot dog?”
This could be you!
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, culinary or record store 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 have (or 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.
Sorry for burying the lede here, but I wanted to get all of the fine print out of the way first. And now, without further ado, the itineraries…
TRIP #1 SOUTHWESTERN SOJOURN
April 28: Albuquerque Isotopes
Designated Eater: Megan (No Last Name Given)
April 29-30: El Paso Chihuahuas
May 1: Midland RockHounds
May 2: San Antonio Missions
Designated Eater: Darren Smith
May 3-4: TBD
I originally had written that I hoped to visit teams in the Mexican League, but multiple people have advised me not to visit border towns by car. I hope to do a Mexican League trip in 2015, but, for now, these dates are open).
May 5: Corpus Christi Hooks
Designated Eater: Javi Rodriguez
May 6: Round Rock Express
Designated Eater: Phil Boyd
Notes: The motivation for this trip was, not surprisingly, the desire to visit the brand-new El Paso Chihuahuas. They actually have their home opener on the 28th, but the only way I could also work Albuquerque into the schedule was to delay my El Paso arrival until the 29th. I’m also excited to finally visit Texas (I have already been to the four Texas League stadiums NOT located in Texas), but obviously the Mexican League dates are still a big question mark. If that doesn’t work out I’ll call an audible and go from there.
TRIP #2: SAYING GOODBYE AND HELLO DOWN SOUTH
June 5: Huntsville Stars
June 6: Rome Braves
Designated Eater: Joe Webster
June 7: Gwinnett Braves
June 8: Hickory Crawdads
Designated Eater: Alex Ward
June 9: Charlotte Knights
Designated Eater: Matt Campbell
June 10: Kannapolis Intimidators
The motivation for this trip was two-fold — to see the Huntsville Stars during their last-ever season before moving to Biloxi, and to see the Charlotte Knights in their brand-new downtown stadium. With these as a focal point, it was difficult to put together an itinerary that didn’t overlap too heavily with trips that I have already taken. I’ve already been to Huntsville on a previous trip, but thought that the “last season” angle justified a return. I also visited Chattanooga on that trip, but the game was rained out. The least justifiable return visit is Gwinnett, but I’ll find a way to cover it that won’t overlap with that which has come before. Just got to get creative! Maybe we can find someone there to be “Ben’s Biz for a Day,” with the end result being a massive guest blog post covering that person’s experiences…
TRIP #3: OHIO AND THEN SOME
July 18: Akron RubberDucks
Designated Eater: Adam Ray, Joe Meadows
July 19: TBD (Update: Toledo, West Virginia, Lake County, and Mahoning Valley have all proposed visits).
July 20: Columbus Clippers
July 21: Indianapolis Indians
Designated Eater: Tim Mullin
July 22: Louisville Bats
July 23: Lexington Legends
July 24: Dayton Dragons
Designated Eater: George Coleman, Richie Devotie
I’ll be driving for the entirety of this trip, after renting a car in NYC. This one came together after I received an invitation from Akron to participate in a gala (and, of course, ridiculous) world record attempt on July 18. With that as the starting point, I crafted an itinerary that allows me to visit five teams whose ballparks I have yet to visit (in-season, at least). Not much else to say about this one, other than that it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. How’s that for some illuminating insight?
TRIP #4: KEEPING IT (RELATIVELY) LOCAL
August 22: Batavia Muckdogs
August 23: Rochester Red Wings
August 24: Jamestown Jammers
August 25: Erie SeaWolves
August 26: Buffalo Bisons
Designated Eater: Phil Walck
August 27: Syracuse Chiefs
Designated Eater: Brian Goswell
August 28: Auburn Doubledays
August 29: Tri-City ValleyCats
August 30: Hudson Valley Renegades
September 1: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Designated Eater: Matthew Vervlied
Notes: I’m a New York City resident, and for whatever reason I’ve found it difficult in the past to put together an itinerary focused on the Empire State. So I figured, why not? I’ll end the season with a New York-based blowout, which will deplete whatever remaining energy reserves I may have left at that point. I like the mix of big International League stadiums and quaint New York-Penn League parks, with the Erie SeaWolves and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders serving as PA outliers.
Let me know your thoughts on these itineraries, should you have any, and feel free to share any trip itineraries that you may be embarking on this season. Thank you for reading, and hope to see you on the road this season.
And as for 2015 — I think that’s going to have to be my “Rookie” season. Apologies to teams in those leagues, and all teams that I have yet to visit thus far. There’s just so many of you!