M's, Major Leagues, Minor Leagues, Rants

Names

Today’s New York Times got me going.  First, there’s the article about the Hartford Yard Goats (read it Here), which has one of the best names in all of baseball.  Their stadium didn’t get finished, so they’ve played all their games on the road.  I hope it gets done because I want to take in one of their games next season.  I fear that it may not and they’ll move and have to choose a much less colorful name.

Then there was the story on Friday that the White Sox home field will change its name from U.S. Cellular Field (among the worst names in the Bigs) to, wait for it. . .Guaranteed Rate Field.  Now the logo of that company is a downward pointing red arrow, so you can just imagine what the fans and opposing teams will come up with.  Isn’t there a beer company they could sell to?  What are they thinking???

Finally, another NYT article by Benjamin Hoffman got me riled up.  He discusses the playoff prospects in both the American and National Leagues and manages to not mention the Mariners.  Reminds me that many people in the East don’t yet know about the Louisana Purchase.

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Home

So it ends as it began, with a picture of beautiful Mt. Hood.  There are differences, though.  This one, as you can tell, was taken on the move (no doubt a dangerous driving maneuver) because I was anxiously approaching home.  It was taken headed west, whereas the beginning one was taken going the opposite direction.

It was quite simply a great trip.  I covered a total of 7,683 miles through 16 states (including, unexpectedly, Texas and Oklahoma) in 23 days.  Given how far south I went (Albuqurque) on the way to Cooperstown, it is surprising that the eastbound half was 3,855 miles and the return was 3,828.  I saw 14 games and went to 15 stadiums (I’m still bitter that the Cards game was rained out at Busch!), including minor league venues.

A big part of the fun was meeting lots of wonderful folks.  Everyone to whom I described the trip seemed genuinely pleased to hear about it.  Some expressed envy, and all seemed to think it was “cool.”  As I’ve tried to convey in these posts, there were interesting, quirky and entertaining aspects to the players, games, parks, food, ads and other sights and sounds along the way.

My planning was not great.  I did not calibrate carefully enough the distance between games (for a couple I simply forgot to look at it).  I didn’t leave time for non-baseball travel attractions.  So I’m certain there are many things I missed, such as the world’s largest ball of twine or the deepest hand-dug well, and so on.  I also suffer from the “just want to get there” syndrome – once I started driving, I’d spend way too much time calculating how many miles or hours remained until I got to the next park.  But if I’d done the trip taking all that into account, I’d still be traveling, so maybe it’s just as well that I have these flaws.

Thanks to all who suggested a blog.  Sometimes I felt pressed to write a post, but knowing that you were following along forced me to pay closer attention and, as a consequence, I got a lot more out of the trip than I otherwise would have.  Thanks also to all who posted comments or sent me emails of encouragement or correction.  It was nice to know I wasn’t really alone.  And speaking of that, thanks as well to friends and family who joined me along the way.  That enhanced the experience tremendously.

If you want to discuss the trip or any aspect of it personally, call me.  If you entertain thoughts of a similar trip, just do it.

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Eats, Major Leagues, Travel

Denver

It’s good to be back in the West. The short jaunt north from Colorado Springs to Denver, with the Rockies looming to the left reminded me that the flat Midwest and the modest (typographically speaking) East are, for the time being, in the past.
Like the Brewers, the Colorado Rockies play in a stadium named after a beer company – Coors Field. It is the highest (elevation) park in the majors, but is a come down from the Sky Sox home. It is the biggest on my itinerary as well, with a seating capacity over 50,000. It also has a feature I saw in no other park – a large mural in the outfield concourse depicting scenes of Colorado.



The Rockies took on the Dodgers, and I was fortunate to get a seat just above the Dodgers dugout and thus was able to get some looks at batters after they struck out. Adrian Gonzalez was typical, though rookie phenom Corey Seager (Kyle’s all-star brother) managed the feat three times – a golden sombrero as it is known.



But all that happened (well, most of it) after a 45 minute rain delay beginning in the bottom of the first. It had rained briefly about an hour before game time and there were fears that this second shower would finish the game. It didn’t and the groundskeepers once again worked their magic, rolling out and then rolling up the tarp.



A rainbow is not a sight you generally want to see at a ball game, 



though it can lead to spectacular vistas as the clouds recede.



There was some good, strategic pitching in this game and fewer home runs (only one) than in most I’ve seen. The Rockies won, 7-3 to wrap up my baseball adventure.

Then there’s the food. Coors Field seems to have greater variety than any park I’ve visited, though there is less novelty. There’s a salad bar, one selling a selection of roasted nuts, deli sandwiches, gelato, frozen yogurt and gluten free offerings. My polish dog was ordinary and I frankly look forward to at least a few weeks without a hot dog in my diet.

I have two days of hard driving ahead of me, so I won’t be posting until I can do a wrap up sometime this weekend. Thank you for your support through your generous comments and emails.  I hope you have enjoyed the trip – I certainly have.

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Eats, Minor Leagues, Outfield Ads, Travel

Colorado Springs

I am clearly insane.

When it became clear that an early game in Omaha was not going to happen, I ran out of steam and stopped in Fort Dodge, Iowa for the night.  After getting settled there, the insanity descended and I somehow concluded that it would make sense to go to Colorado the next day, since Omaha was not far enough along to make for an easy following day’s drive and there wasn’t any baseball between there and Colorado.  Besides, that would give me the day in the Denver area to goof off, get ready for the Rockies game and mentally prepare for the long two-day drive home.

Good plan, right?  What I failed to consider was the distance between Fort Dodge and Colorado Springs, which I discovered – the hard way – is about 720 miles.  And that’s taking several diagonal “short cuts” (one of which was closed for construction  – I either didn’t see or ignored signs, but it was interesting to be the only non-construction vehicle on new pavement for several miles) that shaved some miles off the more common right angle roads in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.  The early part of that drive was through a frightening thunderstorm with rain, the likes of which I have never seen.

But, thanks to gaining an hour going from Central to Mountain time, I made it, just in time for the first pitch at Security Service Stadium, on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.  This stadium is interesting because it is located high above the city (though not with any view of the mountains) at 6531 feet, making it the highest baseball stadium in the country.  Unlike any others on this trip, it is named after a local credit union, a long-time sponsor.  And it isn’t very big.  The seats don’t go much beyond the bases and the outfield wall (based on the sound of several hits bouncing off it) are insubstantial plywood. Unlike other minor league parks, the screen didn’t even reach the dugouts, covering only a small area right behind home plate.  Oh yes, and the crowd was small, not more than 300-400.

The Colorado Sky Sox (Milwaukee Brewers affiliate) took on the visiting Oklahoma City Dodgers (I’ll let you guess the affiliation) in this Pacific Coast League (AAA) matchup.  The thin air and less than stellar pitching made for lots of long fly balls, including several home runs.  The Sox won 9-4 after falling behind early, slowly chipping away until a big rally in the 8th, but, despite all that offense and several pitching changes, the game took just over 2 1/2 hours.  Apparently because both teams are National League affiliates, there was no DH.

The picture below shows several items of note: 1) the sparse crowd; 2) seats ending just past third base; 3) grassy slope in place of left field bleachers; 4) 20 second pitcher clock.  Once again, as in Albuqurque, there was no obvious enforcement of the pitcher clock, but the game did move quickly.

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At long last, another outfield ad.  This one was so good (when you think about it) that I had to take a picture.  Would you want to bat against a pitcher who needed an eye doctor?

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And then there’s food.  Or not.  Very limited menu (I chose nachos and got out-of-the-bag chips slathered with liquid velveeta and some other allegedly “Mexican” pre-processed condiments) and of course, Coors beer.  Not exciting, except for the fact that I paid big league prices.

And another thing.  John Nebel pointed out that I failed to mention the most distinctive offering in Detroit.  Apparently, the thought of it with the certain ensuing midnight heartburn so traumatized me that I completely blocked it from my mind – fried baloney sandwich!

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History, Major Leagues, Travel

Iowa

The schedule just didn’t quite work.  A little too late a start from Milwaukee, a couple of wrong turns on secondary roads and not enough caffeine meant that I didn’t cover the too-many miles necessary to get to Omaha for an early Storm Chasers game.   That was the only option since there was only one professional baseball game in the entire state of Iowa on Sunday and it was another early one in Sioux City, which is a bit out of the way.  So we’ll just see what tomorrow brings.

The drive west from Milwaukee through Madison and southwest to Dubuque goes through rolling farm land that, this time of year, is very picturesque.  Did I mention corn?  Crossing the mighty Mississippi at Dubuque, the land begins to flatten out a bit, but the farming continues unabated.

The Mighty Mississippi at Dubuque

OK, back to baseball.  Just a word on dugouts.  Look at the pictures of the near-cellar Brewers and of the first place Tigers in their respective dugouts.  Who looks more excited, more into the game, more supportive of their teammates?  The position and posture of the players in the dugout doesn’t seem to correlate with division standings.

Brewers

Tigers

And another thing.  I always thought the home team occupied the first base dugout and the visitors were relegated to the the third base side.  Apparently not.  When we first noticed a home team on the third base side, we looked into it and found that, while it used to be that teams east of the Mississippi (see above) were on the first base side and those in the west on the third base side.  Not true any longer.  In an almost but not quite even split, 13 big league teams have the third base dugout at home and 17 use the first base dugout.

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