Over the last 17 years or so, we have been in pursuit of seeing a game in every minor league baseball park in the US and Canada—thus, the title of our website, Minor Road Trip. We are not fanatical about it; we are not those people who spend their entire vacation going from park to park. The most we have ever done in one season is 15 and, hey, we were both on sabbatical that year. In fact, one year we only did three. But on the average we hit about eight or nine new parks a year. Some years, as a bonus treat, we’ve been able to squeeze in a short three-day trip because we had a long weekend. All these trips can be jam-packed with things to do or they can be extremely restful. Over one long weekend, we flew into Orlando, checked into a hotel, saw two Florida State League games within a short driving distance, and spent the rest of the time either sitting by the hotel swimming pool or sleeping. Okay, on the last day before catching our evening flight home we had to do the kitsch: We went to Gatorland to see the Jumping Gatoroo Show and to have our picture taken holding a live baby alligator. But on the whole, this was a very restful trip—except for the part of walking around an entertainment complex where Dan worried he was not the highest thing on the food chain.
You could, as the title states, jump in the car and take off. But our experience has been that you only leave yourself wide open for trouble if you haven’t done some planning ahead of time. Besides, without reading about the areas you’ll pass through, you may miss some of the best sites.
After deciding that the family is going to take the plunge into a baseball adventure, the big questions are how much time do we have, then where in the world are we going? This is generally followed by a series of less critical questions, such as, what are we going to do once we get there, what are we going to do along the way, where are we going to sleep, and whose car are we going to drive? This is then followed by a series of parameters that are placed upon any trip prior to any inkling of planning: “We will have hotel reservations for every night.” “No, I do not want to stop and see the birthplace of Monica Lewinsky.” And finally, “Can we please stay in at least one hotel for longer than one night!?” This last one is always both a request and a demand.
Planning a minor league baseball road trip takes some work—the amount of work depends on what you want out of it and how obsessive-compulsive you are. The simplest amount of planning for this is to have a copy of the Baseball America Directory and a roadmap. If this is your desired level of planning, you may also want to plan on sleeping in your car some, missing a few meals, and having a traveling companion who is on the cranky side. Planning out the logistics of the trip alleviates the anxiety of where you are going to sleep, whether or not you even have tickets for the game and what else you are going to see along the road. However, it may take away some of the spontaneity of doing things you just happen upon as you drive some of the back roads of America. If you plan it well enough, you can have both organization and spontaneity. You will have time to see most all the places and things you wanted to and you will also have time for those strange little sites that aren’t always in the guidebooks.
The way we plan our trips is in a little more detail than just getting the Directory, a map and jumping into the car. Actually, a lot more detail. Ginny has this thing about sleeping in a car. Dan calls it her lack of an adventurous spirit; Ginny calls it common sense. Therefore, our trips are planned out in some detail. Ginny calls the amount of detail that Dan does in planning out our trips a manifestation of his obsessive-compulsive nature. Dan does the in-depth planning because Ginny gets cranky when she doesn’t know where she is going to sleep and if Dan had to really sleep in the car, he would be even crankier than she. So we follow some simple guidelines when we go about planning a trip:
- determine approximately when we want to go and how much time we can take;
- decide where we want to go and consult the Baseball America Directory for ballparks in the general geographic area we’ve targeted and dates the teams are playing;
- lay out a tentative itinerary based on when teams are playing and a basic logical (or a close approximation to logical) geographic pattern so we aren’t backtracking too much;
- fill in with sites that we would like to see along the way, leaving enough lag time in between for serendipity—that is, those great sites found along the way;
- once the itinerary is somewhat definite, book flights, reserve a car, buy game tickets and book the motel rooms (or contact those family members off of whom we intend to mooch);
- pack lightly, leaving room for all those souvenirs and baseball kitsch and don’t forget the rain gear.
We will explain these steps further later on, but above all, we highly recommend obtaining a yearly copy of the Baseball America Directory, primarily because it lists all the necessary telephone numbers, the directions to the parks, current franchise listings of the major league teams, the affiliated teams, and the independent league teams. It can also give you leads to other things such as college level baseball and a number of places related to baseball. Most importantly, it lists the schedules for the majors, minors and independent league teams. The Baseball America Directory is the single most useful thing to have when planning out a minor road trip. It even beats out a computer and websites for quick references and can be bought online or at major bookstores. In fact, you can put in an early order right now for next year’s edition! We’ll wait…and tell you more about planning in our next post.