On the Road: Oils Well That Ends Well in Midland

On this trip, my travel schedule was pretty grueling: ballpark, write, sleep, drive, repeat. Texas-sized travel itineraries didn’t leave any time for idle explorations.

Therefore, upon arriving at Midland’s Sleep Inn, I was relieved to see that the RockHounds’ home — Security Bank Ballpark —  was right across the street. No more driving for me that evening, from there on out I was gonna be a walking man!

So walk I did. Over the course of this arduous five-minute journey, I noticed that Security Bank Ballpark is located adjacent to another facility.

In true Texas fashion, this is a high school football stadium (the town of Odessa, where Friday Night Lights took place, is next to Midland). It hosts two local teams, and was built at the same time as the RockHounds stadium.

But on this overcast and windy evening,  the only game in town was Minor League Baseball.

Midland RockHounds Minor League Baseball.

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Built in 2002, Security Bank Ballpark is a pleasant and serviceable albeit rather generic facility. A bit later in the evening I posted the following tweet, and responses ranged from Arizona Spring Training facilities to Gwinnett County, Georgia to Colorado Springs. Given its lack of distinctive design elements and its location in a rather barren (but growing) part of town, this is one of the more anonymous facilities in Minor League Baseball.

But Security Bank Ballpark has accomplished everything it needed to and then some. It easily meets professional standards, provides the front office with plenty of room in which to create new entertainment features and group areas, and is on the verge of being paid off some 14 years ahead of schedule (more on that, and Midland’s currently booming oil-based economy in general, can be found in this MiLB.com piece).

And did you know that a “RockHound” is a slang word for a geologist (usually of the amateur variety)?  Since they’re the RockHounds and all, the team has its own lucky rock located outside of the stadium.

(Did you hear the one about the foul-smelling RockHound? He ran out of geoderant.)

I touched the rock on the way in, and, for the record, I have had nothing but fun and good times since then. I water-skied to work this morning.

Soon after arriving at the stadium I met with RockHounds assistant general manager Greg Berman, and we took a lap of the facility. This batting cage just opened this season, and, in addition to being used by the players for their batting cage needs, it is also used for ballpark events such as autograph sessions.

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Beyond that is the weight room, which I would deem fair to Midland.

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At one point during our wanderings I was able to snap this candid shot of Rocky RockHound in conversation with Juice the Moose. Is it just me, or does Rocky look like he has a face on the back of his head? I was told that they were simply spots.

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Here we are at the ProPetro Diamond Club, open to season ticket and suite holders. No hoi polloi allowed.

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If you don’t have a season ticket or a suite, you can walk up to these friendly folks and buy a ticket.

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And if it’s a Thursday, the first order of business is for of-age fans to prove that they are of age. You can’t quench your booze thirst without a wristband!

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At this point Bergman had left in order to perform his actual job duties, and I commenced to solo wandering.

The Coors Light Playground?

America, Texas, and the Midland RockHounds

1627 An action shot from the youth field, located in an area of the ballpark which may soon be converted to a water park.

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(In)Action Shots

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If you are walking on the concourse, you should, oh, I don’t know: WATCH FOR FOUL BALLS.

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A new addition to the stadium this season is this concourse train.

This ain’t no sedentary train, either.

If you want sedentary, then head on over to the Rocky Town Tavern.

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I don’t drink on the job (much), but I was definitely planning on eating a meal. I didn’t have a designated eater at this particular stop (as in, an individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits), so I just wandered around and pondered my options.

This stand had walking tacos and Frito pie, among other delicacies that I can no longer discern.

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And this place had a whole bunch of stuff. If only I had written down what!

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Eating gluten-free at a ballpark can be tough. I had a craving for some nachos, which are sometimes gluten-free and sometimes not. I therefore commenced to crack the case of “Are the Midland RockHounds nachos gluten free?”

A cardboard box on a cart next to the concession kiosk listed the ingredients of the chips, which did turn out to be gluten-free. Then I noticed the cheese was from Ortega, and internet research revealed that their nacho cheese is gluten-free.

So I took the plunge and ordered up some chicken macho na–

TRAIN COMING THROUGH

1638Whoa, close call. Anyhow, I got some chicken macho nachos. They were good.

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Here’s something you don’t see every day, a trio of Tabasco dispensers.

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I ate my nachos as the sun went down on Midland. That’s not just the name of an iconic country song; for a couple of minutes it was my reality.

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Still visible, to my immediate left, was the gargantuan high school football stadium mentinoed before. This facility is run by the RockHounds staff and also hosts the Midland/Odessa Sockers of the USL Premier Development League.

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I don’t have a video clip, but let it be known that RockHounds third baseman Miles Head uses Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” as his walk-up song. That’s a rather fatalistic outlook for a 23-year-old, but also an apt metaphor for life in the Minors (in which “God” = “Baseball”). That song applies to all of us, really. We’re all gonna get knocked down, hoi polloi and former presidents alike.

Speaking of which: While 21 of the RockHounds’ 22 suites are named after baseball players, this one is named after prez-turned-painter George W. Bush.

1644My wanderings, they bring me everywhere, and in this particular instance they brought me to the concourse area near the right field foul pole. One dude with a fake beard and a bazooka and one kid attempting to don a fake beard were on their way to shoot hot dogs at the crowd with said bazooka.

1645 Good luck out there, guys.

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Next, I visited RockHounds groundskeeper Eric Campbell in his groundskeeping lair. Our resulting conversation became the basis of an entertaining MiLB.com article that touched on dust, fire, tarantulas, and owl vomit.

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After bidding adieu to Campbell and crew, I came upon Rocky and Juice riding a bicycle together. Juice fell off.

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Throughout the evening, I had tried to capture the frightening sound effects that are played over the loudspeaker every time a visiting batter strikes out. Finally, in the ninth inning, I nailed it. The more you listen to this Vine, the better it gets.

And, hey, look, the home team won! (The visiting team was Corpus Christi, for the record.)

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I haven’t been doing #cupdates much on this trip, but I came across this collectible item among the post-game detritus.

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Post-game launch-a-ball! Every team does it a little bit differently; in Midland the primary target is a car on the pitcher’s mound.

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And that’ll do it from Midland. I hope that RockHounds were satisfied with my reportage, both here and on MiLB.com. If not, I’m sure I’ll hear about it via the issuance of a scathing press release.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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