Minor League Baseball means so many things to so many people. Yes, there's the game of baseball itself -- and we're all very thankful for that -- but there's also the cheap entertainment factor, the tie-ins to the community, the culinary delights you could only find in those stands below the bleachers... We could go on.
Opening Day means one thing: the start of all of it.
With so much going on, let us be your guide and show you just how the quintessential Minor League Baseball Opening Day experience should go.
11 a.m. ET · OK, you're excited for everything to get going, but that doesn't happen for three more hours. Time to get in some reading to pass the time. Start with our Prospect Primers, in which the MiLB.com staff has assembled previews for each of the 30 Major League organizations.
Are you a fan of the Twins? Read about just how good Byron Buxton could be this season. The Giants? Find out why this is a make-or-break year for Gary Brown. Maybe you want to try impressing your friends/rivals/Twitter followers? Check out our group of under-the-radar prospects and take your newfound knowledge to the Bragosphere.
11:30 a.m. ET · And, of course, make sure to check out Benjamin Hill's Ben's Biz Blog as well. The promotions-oriented yin to PROSPECTive's players-based yang, Ben's Biz Blog is frequently updated with posts relating to the strange, funny and always unpredictable world of Minor League Baseball business and game operations. Recent missives include info on culinary creations such as sushi dogs and duck floats, as well as guest posts in which fans write about why they love their hometown team. And, in advance of posting his 2014 Minor League Ballpark trip itinerary, Ben has been returning to the road to write about his final trip of the 2013 season. Make sure you're following Ben on Twitter (@BensBiz) as well as the all-encompassing MiLB handle (@MiLB).
12 p.m. ET · Now that you've got your reading in, it's time to make sure you can get your watching in as well.
If you haven't already, subscribe to MiLB.TV before the first pitch is thrown in two hours. You'll have video access to every Triple-A game as well as most of the Double-A slate plus home games for at least 16 teams from other levels. That adds up to more than 4,500 games streamed and on-demand for the season. Whether you're a fan of a Major League club and want to follow your organization's future or you're a fan of your local Minor League nine, MiLB.TV makes sure you won't miss a pitch.
And speaking of "first pitch," have you downloaded the MiLB First Pitch app for iPhone and iPod touch? This year's app includes 160 teams and enables MiLB.TV subscribers the ability to watch games live right on their phones. Get your free download now.
You don't want to hear, "Did you see that?" from somebody else. Better to be the one who sees the best plays and games before your friends do, be it on your phone or computer.
2:00 p.m. ET · The first pitch of the Minor League season comes courtesy of Syracuse's Danny Rosenbaum as his Chiefs take on the visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The old "Opening Day as metaphor for renewal" trope will be particularly poignant at NBT Stadium this afternoon, as 2014 marks the first season under new general manager Jason Smorol and his revamped front-office staff. Smorol's hiring came after the team's board of directors removed long-time general manager John Simone from his duties following years of declining attendance and corresponding monetary woes. The Chiefs drew just 354,000 fans in 2013, but Smorol has said his goal is for the Chiefs to draw 600,000 fans during his tenure. It will most likely take years to reach this lofty plateau, but signs of the team's renewed promotional vigor are manifest. Tomorrow, for example, the team is staging "Deport Justin Bieber Night."
6:05 p.m. ET · The Durham Bulls are hoping to repeat after capturing the 2013 International League crown, and they start their defense right now at home against the Gwinnett Braves. They'll also be opening a renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which underwent a 0 million facelift during the offseason. "Opening Day is always special, but this season is just so much bigger," said Bulls general manager Mike Birling. "We look forward to joining a packed house in witnessing the rebirth of the Durham Bulls." Be sure to catch your first glimpse on MiLB.TV.
7:05 p.m. ET · The Huntsville Stars are celebrating their 30th anniversary season in 2014, but that milestone is overshadowed by the fact that it will also be their last. The Stars are slated to move to Biloxi, Miss., in 2015, meaning that tonight's game against Jacksonville marks the start of a long, bittersweet goodbye. Stars standouts through the years include Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Ben Sheets and Prince Fielder. Players set to make their mark in this final campaign include 2011 first-round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann and fellow right-hander Drew Gagnon.
7:35 p.m. ET · This might be the marquee matchup of the day. The Iowa Cubs host the Memphis Redbirds in a battle not only between affiliates of the rival Cubs and Cardinals but also between two of the best hitting prospects in the game. Cubs top prospect Javier Baez smacked 37 homers last season between Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Tennessee and clubbed five in 53 at-bats this Spring Training. Oscar Taveras was limited to 46 games in 2013 due to an ankle injury, but he showed off his offensive prowess beforehand, batting .306/.341/.462 in that span. Catch the two squaring off in the Minors while you can, because both figure to be in the Majors before season's end.
8:05 p.m. ET · If you like what you read above and offense is your thing, shift your gaze to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks, who will be stepping to the plate against the Round Rock Express. George Springer, who has plenty of power (37 homers in 2013) and speed (45 steals), is definitely one of the most electric prospects currently in the Minors. The Astros' desire to delay his service-time clock means he'll take his Major talents to OKC for at least the first few months. Jon Singleton -- the top first-base prospect in the game, according to MLB.com -- and outfielder Domingo Santana, who has eclipsed the 20-homer mark in two straight seasons, will join him to make one powerful RedHawks lineup. Best of luck to the Express starter.
9:35 p.m. ET · Quick! What do Carlos Quentin, Casey Fossum and Dan Uggla all have in common? In addition to being XY-chromosome-endowed card-carrying members of the human race, all three individuals suited up for the 2004 El Paso Diablos. That Texas League squad relocated to Springfield, Mo., following that season, and El Paso went without a Minor League Baseball team until, well, now. The El Paso Chihuahuas, Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, kick off their existence with a road game against the Reno Aces, marking the start of what will hopefully be a glorious new era. The Chihuahuas, whose roster is dotted with prospects (Burch Smith, Ryan Jackson) and veterans (Kyle Blanks) alike, play their "home" opener on April 11 at their old stomping grounds of Tucson as the finishing touches are put on their new downtown stadium. They'll make their debut in El Paso proper on April 28 and who knows? Perhaps Quentin, now a Padres outfielder, will log some time in West Texas as he rehabs from a knee injury.
10:05 p.m. ET · There are only two games scheduled to start this late on the West Coast: Albuquerque-Tacoma and Fresno-Las Vegas. If you're looking for a tiebreaker, Isotopes outfielder Joc Pederson should be worth seeing. MLB.com's No. 36 prospect was the odd man -- ahem -- out in the Dodgers outfield this spring, and the Albuquerque lineup stands to gain a big sum thanks to his plus power and speed tools. Here's our Q&A with Pederson from a few weeks back.
1:30 a.m. ET · Barring any extra-inning insanity, the lights should be out on the 2014 Opening Day in Minor League Baseball. Catch up on the biggest stories right here on MiLB.com, but then head to bed. Don't worry though. Day Two starts in 10 hours in New Britain.
Enjoy the season.