On the Road: 2015 Edition

Upon learning that a key component of my job involves exploring America through Minor League Baseball, innumerable people have responded with a simple three word phrase:

Living the dream.

The 2015 season marks the sixth in which I will have the honor, privilege and anxiety of living this dream — hitting the road in order to deliver the Minor League Baseball ballpark experience to YOU, the presumably loyal reader. I have visited more than 100 stadiums thus far — some more than once — and,  when 2015 is said and done, that count should be close to 130. There are 159 ballparks in the Minors and, of course, my ultimate goal is to “collect ’em all.”

This image, taken from the indispensable (and new and improved!) MiLB.com “Tickets” page, shows just how vast the Minor League landscape is. This post is dedicated to sharing the portions of it that I plan to travel through in 2015.

(For links to all of my 2014 “On the Road” coverage, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” blog posts, click HERE. If you have trouble finding any of my “On the Road” articles and blog posts from seasons past, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.)

CaptureBefore getting to my five 2015 road trip itineraries, a word about my approach to covering the Minor League culinary scene:

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 each 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.

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.comFirst 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.)

This could be you!

064

Garbage Plate in Batavia

 

As always, my time at each location will be limited. But, also 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.

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 reach out to me regarding  lodging, 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!

180

Big time celebrity, coming through!

 

TRIP #1: The Sunshine State

April 11: Bradenton Marauders

Designated Eater: Joe Mynaugh

April 12: Tampa Yankees

Designated Eater: Brian Cochrane

April 13: Dunedin Blue Jays

Designated Eater: I know some guys

April 14: Jupiter Hammerheads

Designated Eater: Stephen Goldsmith

April 15: Jackie Robinson Celebration Game at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach (St. Lucie Mets vs. Brevard County Manatees)

April 16: St. Lucie Mets

Designated Eater: Jay Meyer

April 17: Brevard County Manatees

Designated Eater: Enrique Cortes

April 18: Jacksonville Suns

Designated Eater:

Notes: April, in general, is a tough month for Minor League travel. The weather is cold, school is still in session, and none of the short-season leagues are in operation. Florida, though, is a relatively safe bet. Here’s hoping for no game-ruining downpours.

The second annual Jackie Robinson Game will be one of the highlights of this trip, for sure. April 15 marks the 68th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1948, Dodgertown became the first integrated Spring Training site in the south.

Upon the conclusion of this trip, I will have visited every Minor League team in the state of Florida. (My first trip to the Sunshine State occurred in 2012, when I visited Clearwater, Fort Myers, Charlotte, Lakeland, Daytona and Pensacola.)

1692

TRIP #2: More Midwest Meanderings

May 23: Kane County Cougars

Designated Eaters: Jason Bohn, David Lesser

May 24: Quad Cities River Bandits

Designated Eater: Dean Birkhofer

May 25: Clinton LumberKings

Designated Eater: Amanda Cady

May 26: Peoria Chiefs

Designated Eater: Thomas Doran

May 27: Cedar Rapids Kernels

Designated Eater: Tim Mullin

May 28: Omaha Storm Chasers

Designated Eater: Paul Biler

Notes: After this trip, I will have finally visited every team in the sprawling 16-team Midwest League. Clinton, Peoria and Cedar Rapids had been the last three I needed in this regard. I visited Kane County, Quad Cities and Omaha as part of a season-ending trip in 2010, but much about my operation, and much about those teams, have changed since then. Omaha, for example, changed its name from the “Royals” to the “Storm Chasers” and moved to a new stadium.

 

033Trip #3: Virginias

June 25: Richmond Flying Squirrels

Designated Eater: Stuart Jordan

June 26: Norfolk Tides

Designated Eater: Andrew Lind (taking the “Salute to Pork Challenge“)

June 27: Lynchburg Hillcats

Designated Eater: Judi Muir/David Freier

June 28: Salem Red Sox

Designated Eater: Jennifer Frye

June 29: Potomac Nationals

Designated Eater: Tony Jaeger

June 30: West Virginia Black Bears

Notes: The impetus for this trip was to see the West Virginia Black Bears in their first season of existence. Morgantown, where the team is based, is not particularly close to any of the other cities in this itinerary. But, still, the idea of a “Virginia” trip appealed to me as it is not a state that I have visited before in a Minor League context.

074

*  *  *

Bonus!

July 11: Vermont Lake Monsters

Designated Eater: “Weird Al” Yankovic, until I hear otherwise

Note: On July 12th, my cousin and I are seeing a “Weird Al” Yankovic concert in Burlington, Vermont. With that on the calendar already, then why not stop in and see Burlington’s Minor League Baseball team? I attended a Lake Monsters game in 2009, before these road trips were really a “thing.” so I’m glad to be able to visit again and (hopefully) do it up right.

*  *  *

Trip #4: Deep South in the Deep Summer

July 28: New Orleans Zephyrs

Designated Eater: [Name Withheld]

July 29, 30: Biloxi Shuckers

Designated Eater: Cale Merrill

July 31: Mobile BayBears

Designated Eater:

August 1: Montgomery Biscuits

Designated Eater: Joe Marcus

August 2: Mississippi Braves 

Designated Eater: Steven Ericson

August 3: Jackson Generals

Designated Eater: Bob Sanders (Bob, my email reply to you keeps bouncing back)

August 4: Off (drive to Nashville)

August 5: Nashville Sounds

Designated Eater: Tyler Glaser

This is a big one. The Biloxi Shuckers (formerly the Huntsville Stars) are a new team in a new stadium. However, due to construction delays, this stadium will not be ready until at least June. Fingers crossed that everything will be good to go this late in the season. I’ve already visited Mobile (2010), Jackson (2012) and Nashville (2013), but since the Sounds are playing in a new stadium this season, it became imperative to visit the Music City once again.

066Trip #5: New England Nights

August 29: Connecticut Tigers

Designated Eater: Paul Woodin

August 30: New Britain Rock Cats

Designated Eater: Ryan Drzewianowski

August 31: Lowell Spinners

Designated Eater: Joe Beauregard

September 1: Pawtucket Red Sox

Designated Eater: Brian O’Connell

September 2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

September 3: “Off”

September 4: Portland Sea Dogs

Designated Eater: Isaac Stephenson

Notes: This is an awkward itinerary. But, similar to how I ended the season in New York State in 2014, I really liked the idea of being in New England as summer begins to give way to fall. The only one of these teams that I have visited previously is the New Britain Rock Cats, but that game on August 30 is significant as it is the last-ever Rock Cats game. In 2016, the team will move to nearby Hartford and begin existence as the “Yard Goats.” Pawtucket should be intriguing as well, as the team is nearing the end of the line at McCoy Stadium (the new ownership group plans to build a new stadium in Providence).

Finally, upon the conclusion of this trip I will have visited all of the teams in the New York-Penn, Eastern and International Leagues.

063

So there you have it: my 2015 road trip itineraries. Complaints, critiques, commendations and criticisms always encouraged; feel free to get in touch any time.

And apologies once again to the teams in the Appalachian and Pioneer Leagues. Here’s hoping that I can make 2016 my “Rookie” season on the road, as I very much want to visit both of these circuits in their entirety.

road_trip_ben_reveal

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

10 Comments

Awesome! After finishing the MLB stadium tour in 2013, I’ve turned to seeing more of the country via MiLB visits too. Last year, I did a trip from Oklahoma City to Davenport Iowa, covering 5 parks, including some it looks like you’ll be seeing on your Trip 2 this year. In June, I’ll be doing one through the deep south, seeing parks you’ll be seeing on your Trip 4. If interested, http://tthrash.blogspot.com/search/label/ballparks
Have some great trips–look forward to following along.

My sons and I are finishing our NYPL Tour this year. Living in CT we’ve hit all the local ones. July 9 (VT & Lowell). Then the “Pinckney Plunge” Starting with the All-Star game in Aberdeen, we’re going to hit 7 stadiums in 6 days. Aberdeen-WV-SC-Wpt-MValley and Batavia/Auburn doubleheader. Hopefully the weather will cooperate

What no Tortugas !!

Hope to see you in Pensacola this year.

Sent from my iPhone

NO North Carolina ?

I will gladly volunteer to be designated eater in EVERY stadium.🙂
I am really looking forward to your blog post about the Montgomery Biscuits, my favorite MiLB team.

Good luck to you on your travels! My wife and I will be seeing the 4 teams in Montana, 2 in Washington, and catch a game in Vancouver the end of June. This is driving from northeast TN. I have been blessed with a wife who has been traveling with me for 18 years to 114 MiLB and 17 MLB parks. I love it!

My wife and I have been traveling since 1997 and have 114 MiLB parks and 17 MLB parks under our belt. We live in the heart of the Appy League and I love our trips! Plans to hit Montana-Washington-Vancouver this June and if work allows hitting Delmarva and Wilmington in May! Have a great time and be safe!

I look forward to reading your blogs this season. I’ve loved minor league baseball since 1972, when I was seven. Growing up in Milwaukee, we knew that it would take a while for the Brewers to be competitive, so I was made aware of exactly where the Brewers of the future played. Because my dad is from Midwest League Clinton, Iowa, I saw several minor league games there, and a few around the midwest. I work a full and part-time job, and don’t have much time to travel these days, and am booked for Memorial Day weekend (when you’ll be along the Mississippi River on the Iowa side), so I definitely will be checking in on your blogs this summer.

Enjoy your summer!

I plan to visit Biloxi the same day as you, July 29. We don’t overlap otherwise, though. I’m in Nashville Monday, then Montgomery, Biloxi, and on up to North Little Rock.

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

%d bloggers like this: