Travel Goals and Parsing Ballpark Visits

With the Minor League baseball season wrapping up, I confidently state that I don't expect to visit any new ballparks this year. Well, there is that one ballpark down in…no, no; not this season.

Looking back over this past spring and summer, I am happy with visiting a dozen new stadiums. Some ballparks were visited as fulfillment of wish-list objectives, while others were attended to round out itineraries for day trips, overnighters or as part of my grander summer vacation out west.

As I mull over where I've been and what I still need to see, it seems that I'll most likely never visit every MiLB venue, but I'll note that my various wish lists and travel goals—ballpark, National Parks and otherwise—will allow me to eliminate some new ballparks each season from the proverbial to-do list. Perhaps I'll get to half of them, or maybe 100 of them, but all 160 seems doubtful.

Just for the sake of parsing out my ballpark travel goals a bit and sharing some of my thinking, hopes, plans and nuttiness, here's where I'm at and what I see myself working toward.
Shots from the new MiLB ballparks I saw this year.

Where I'm at now. Games were attended in nine new MiLB venues and three Independent League ones this past season. Further, I saw games in three new MiLB leagues, as well as two new Indy Leagues. I'm at 90 total ballparks right now: 43 for MLB, with the Braves' new stadium the only one I haven't seen; 42 MiLB; and five Indy. Further I've seen games in 11 of the 17 MiLB leagues and four of the seven Indy leagues. I've previously posted my MLB list. Here's my MiLB chart with the Team, League, Level and Affiliate (at the time):

Pulaski Yankees Appalachian A (Rk) Yankees
Wilmington Blue Rocks Carolina A (Adv) Royals
Altoona Curve Eastern AA Pirates
Binghamton Mets Eastern AA Mets
Bowie Baysox Eastern AA Orioles
Harrisburg Senators Eastern AA Sentators
Hartford Yard Goats Eastern AA Rockies
New Britain Rockcats* Eastern AA Rockies
New Hampshire Fisher Cats Eastern AA Blue Jays
Portland Sea Dogs Eastern AA Red Sox
Richmond Flying Squirrels Eastern AA Giants
Trenton Thunder Eastern AA Yankees
Buffalo Bisons International AAA Blue Jays
LeHigh Valley IronPigs International AAA Phillies
Louisville Bats International AAA Reds
Memphis RedBirds International AAA Cardinals
Pawtucket Red Sox International AAA Red Sox
Rochester RedWings International AAA Twins
Syracuse Chiefs International AAA Nationals
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees International AAA Yankees
QuadCity RiverBandits MidWest A Astros
Aberdeen Ironbirds NY-Penn A short Orioles
Auburn Doubledays NY-Penn A short Nationals
Batavia Muckdogs NY-Penn A short Marlins
Brooklyn Cyclones NY-Penn A short Mets
Connecticut Tigers NY-Penn A short Tigers
Hudson Valley Renegades NY-Penn A short Rays
Lowell Spinners NY-Penn A short Red Sox
Staten Island Yankees NY-Penn A short Yankees
TriCity ValleyCats NY-Penn A short Astros
Vermont Lake Monsters NY-Penn A short Athleteics
Williamsport Crosscutters NY-Penn A short Phillies
Albuquerque Isotopes Pacific Coast AAA Rockies
Iowa Cubs Pacific Coast AAA Cubs
Oklahoma City RedHawks* Pacific Coast AAA Astros
Omaha Storm Chasers Pacific Coast AAA Royals
Round Rock Express Pacific Coast AAA Rangers
Billings Mustangs Pioneer A (Rk) Reds
Lakewood BlueClaws South Atlantic A Phillies
Birmingham Barons Southern AA White Sox
Mississippi Braves Southern AA Braves
Arkansas Travelers Texas AA Angels

Rejoin the MLB all-30 club, etc. I won't get to Atlanta this year, but I will get there. I'll see if I can do a joint Braves–Falcons weekend next year and hope to make a decision accordingly to attempt boosting my MLB stadium count to 44 and all current 30. Further, if it's a good ski season into late March, I'll keep an eye out to see if the stars align for a game in the O. There's not a lot I can do about most defunct teams/stadiums I've missed, but I can shorten that list by one with a game in Montreal.

Watch a game in each MiLB league. As happy as I was to catch a game each in the Pioneer, Appalachian and SAL Leagues, I now want to see games in the NWL, California and Florida State Leagues. And, sure, who doesn't want to see a Spring Training, Gulf Coast or Fall League game? There was something mystical sounding about the Pioneer, Appy and Sally Leagues that pushed me to attempt seeing at least one game in each of them. This past season, my trip to the Northern Plains area accommodated my wish for attending a Pioneer League game, in Billings. Being relatively nearby, on the way home from a business trip and getting lots of positive reviews from those who have been there gave me the impetus to take in a BlueClaws game in Lakewood, NJ and check off the South Atlantic League (kind of feel I'm cheating there, as how does Jersey—even South Jersey—qualify as South Atlantic? Who cares; I'll take it!). Finally, the Yankees having a franchise in the Appalachian League meant I'd be getting there sooner than later if I'm going to see all of their affiliates. And what a nice ballpark they have with Calfee Stadium.

Watch a game in every state. That Appy League game in Pulaski was somehow my first in Virginia. The Pioneer League game in Billings was my first in Montana, and likewise a game I saw in Fargo was my first in North Dakota. That puts me at a game in 38 states. Will I really try going to a game in all 50 states? Not likely, but with very tentative plans for games in three new states next year and if I end up well into the 40s a few years from now, I could picture myself seeing what is practical for the remaining ones. States like Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska don't have MiLB or Indy League teams, which would mean pursuing collegiate games, which I don't see doing at this point. Alaska, however, also has that Midnight Sun game, which is a bit of a bucket list ambition. As I circle through National Park sites these coming years, it will be interesting to see how close I get. You know I'll be tabulating things...

Watch a game at every professional ballpark in NY. Getting to games in the western part of the state these last few seasons and getting to two Indy League games each within 90 minutes of me has left me at 15 of 17 New York ballparks visited, with games on Long Island and Plattsburgh still to see. (And, how have I not been to a Ducks game??) Actually, Watertown may be getting a team too, so we'll have to check that in a few weeks to see if I have three to go. With Watertown being in an area of New York I haven't seen, I'd be all for that. Regardless, for now I'm content with seeing both MLB teams, all three AAA teams, the one AA team, all seven Single A ones and two of the four or five Indy League teams.

Watch a game in all of the NY-Penn League (Single A) ballparks. I had driven down I-95 in Maryland so many times and taken note of Ripken's stadium just off to the right before finally getting there in June, aided by business travel. That was one of the outlying NY-Penn League teams I needed. Finishing the New York MiLB teams of course meant finishing off the New York NY-Penn League teams, and a late season trip to Williamsport brings me to just three of the 14 to see. Getting to a Black Bears game would serve the dual purpose of bringing me closer to this goal and also the all-50-states one, so a West Virginia jaunt draws my attention. That would leave me one in central PA and one in eastern Ohio.

Watch a game in all of the Eastern League (AA) ballparks. Like with the NY-Penn League, I have just three teams left (that is, nine of 12), with games in Pennsylvania (2) and Ohio to do. Long baseball weekends in both states may be required at some point. 🙂

Watch a game in all of the International League (AAA) ballparks. I've been to all of the relatively nearby ones and even two of the more distant ones. At eight of 14, I'm not sure about this. The Columbus Clippers stand out as they were the first MiLB team I knew (when a Yankees affiliate) and have been on my wish list for a while. There are a few others I definitely want to see, and a few others in the proximity of National Park sites that will help me rationalize—err, justify—trips to them at some point, but it will take some time either way. I say again, though, that an Ohio baseball weekend seems needed.

Interestingly to me, even with two more teams, I'm in fair shape with five of the 16 PCL (AAA) league ballparks. Again, National Park travel should help me visit a few more these next few years, if not lament never getting to Colorado Springs before their AAA team heads south. Regardless, visiting all 16 seems a challenge.

Watch a game of every Yankee affiliate. With three of their baby squads within a few hours of me and a game at any of them attended almost annually, I had been wondering about getting to the other three. Finally visiting Pulaski, however, leaves me with just the games in Charleston and Tampa. I'll definitely plan on getting to these two.

Watch a game in every AAA and/or AA venue. Combined I'm at 26 (24 active) of 60. I'd like to one day say that I've seen all 30 in either or both leagues, but that sounds awfully ambitious and would take awhile to accomplish. Still, I have a pretty good streak of attending a game each at both levels the last few years, and I may just try doing that for a few years. The AA may be a bit easier in that all teams are closer (all east of the Rockies). Then again, several western AAA teams are set up nice and close to some of the National Parks I'm planning to see. So, it's hard to say which I might expect to finish first. Either way, the challenge of completing these highest two MiLB levels is what makes me doubt getting to all 160 MiLB ballparks.

Watch a game in every Independent League. With games watched in Wichita and Fargo, I have two from the American Association under my belt. I had one Atlantic League team checked off too, but the Bluefish jumped leagues. Visiting the ballparks on Long Island and in Somerset will help me right that. I missed my best op for a Pecos League game when the schedule gods failed to comply last summer while down in those parts, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to remedy that. A game  attended in the Can-Am and Empire Leagues round out the four under my belt.

Watch a game at every Empire League venue. This was a much easier possible ballpark goal when I first started writing this. Then I started verifying some of my numbers and realized this league was expanding a bit. Whether it's two or three more teams, when I finish off New York professional ballparks, I'll only have the nearby team in Bridgeport and the one up in Orchard Beach, Maine, to finish off this league. Like HKHWR needs an excuse to go to Maine...

Watch a MiLB game at any level for all 30 teams. I'm at 24 here. Oddly, this was one of my first MiLB travel goals, but not one I've tried chipping away at. Instead, I plan my trips and periodically check my ballpark chart to see where I'm at. With Oakland having a team in Vermont and the Giants having one in Virginia, getting some of the western teams done happened without the efforts of traveling to the left coast. Still, I am close enough to this goal that it could persuade me to take one route over another when planning subsequent road trips if it means seeing an affiliate of one of the six I'm missing.

Watch a game in every Can-Am League venue. Well, I definitely want to see Yogi Berra's ballpark. Then there is the team in Ottawa and the two in Quebec. Honestly, skiing and hockey or an exhibition MLB game in Montreal would call me across the border before baseball in this league. Three of the six in this league would be good enough for me. At least, that's what I'm saying now.

What stops or slows me from pursuing these objectives? Few day games on Sunday make weekend trips hard to finagle. Often a 4:00 or 5:00 start is as early as I see. Further, for multi-game weekends, schedules always seemed set up with the closer team home Saturday and the farther team on Sunday, making travel home more challenging, especially without the benefit of that Sunday afternoon start. This past season, rainy weekends early meant only one new ballpark prior to late June, and there was even rain during that otherwise nice night in Hartford. Couple these with the usual travel expenditure concerns, time off limits and other homeowner responsibilities, and, well, I'm just grateful for any travel—ballpark or otherwise—I can muster.

So, what's next? I'm already pondering games in tandem with two National Parks I hope to visit in the Pac-NW next year. This would enable visiting another PCL ballpark and one or two in the Northwest League as attending games in Oregon and Idaho would be pursued.

Of course chipping away at any of the ballpark goals mentioned above would be sweet. In particular, I was rained out earlier this year of even booking a weekend stop in Erie, where I enjoyed some time late last year, so their ballpark is pretty high on the list. Further, the Reading and State College ballparks are two of those most within striking distance. So, yeah, that PA weekend. Then again, there are those Clippers, not to mention the ballparks I need in Akron and Mahoning Valley. So, umm, yeah, that Ohio weekend.

Also in my sights are those ballparks down south. I'd like to get to another Yankee affiliate, and the RiverDogs have been on my to-do list for awhile. With Pulaski checked-off, Charleston is next up. Coupling that with other wish-list ballparks such as those in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Savannah and Columbia could make a nice long weekend too. And, there is South Carolina's Congaree National Park on my to-do list to help me bulk up such a southern ballpark itinerary.

And of course there are those Braves.

Comments

  1. OK, I find it un-quacking-believable that you've never been to a Ducks game! I used to go to a game a year with one of our former colleagues, so this is one of the few MiLB experiences I actually have covered.

    One of the others is the Potomac Nats, Happy to catch a game with you next summer if you can make it down. FWIW, it looks like they might be relocating eventually...

    I'd be interested in reading your rankings of these stadiums, if you've captured reviews in your notes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. Had I an inkling that I'd be into anything but MLB back then, I surely would have stomped on the Ducks park...Potomac has not been home any time I'm down there. Yes, one of my trips down there for sure! As for rankings, I've thought about trying that. Most of the ones that don't jump out are often due to bad (cold, drizzly) weather more than the ballparks themselves...

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

All 50 stating

My weakly mounted NPS map: Bailed out by pins