2019 marks my 10th season of Minor League ballpark travel, and in that time I have visited 174 stadiums. 2018 was a milestone season, as I ended the season having visited every active Minor League park. That quest continues anew in 2019, as I'll visit the three new ballparks making their debut (as well as quite a few others along the way). For links to previous road trip content - and much more - visit the Ben's Biz fans' page.
I will be embarking on four Minor League Baseball road trips in 2019, the first three of which are centered around new ballparks. Compared to previous years, I'll be spending more time at each location but visiting fewer places overall. The goal is to provide a deeper, more comprehensive overview of each ballpark, rather than the one-and-done, hope-for-the-best-approach that characterized previous seasons. It all begins in Fayetteville, home of a brand-new Carolina League team playing in a brand-new park.
Trip #1: Woodpeckers, Hillcats and Flying Squirrels
May 1: Fayetteville Woodpeckers vs. Lynchburg Hillcats, 7:00 p.m.
May 2: Fayetteville Woodpeckers vs. Lynchburg Hillcats, 7:00 p.m.
May 3: Fayetteville Woodpeckers vs. Down East Wood Ducks, 7:00 p.m.
Lynchburg City Stadium
May 4: Lynchburg Hillcats vs. Frederick Keys, 6:00 p.m.
May 5: Lynchburg Hillcats vs. Frederick Keys, 3:00 p.m.
May 6: Richmond Flying Squirrels vs. Trenton Thunder, 6:35 p.m.
May 7: Richmond Flying Squirrels vs. Trenton Thunder, 6:35 p.m.
I last visited Richmond's The Diamond in 2015. It was "Jumanji" Night.
It goes without saying that I had to get to Fayetteville this season, as Segra Park -- home of the Woodpeckers -- is one of 2019's three new Minor League parks (it will be the 175th Minor League ballpark I've visited in a professional context). The Woodpeckers previously existed as the Buies Creek Astros, a stopgap entity who played their home games on the campus of Campbell University. The Woodpeckers are the first team to play in Fayetteville since the late and at least intermittently lamented Cape Fear Crocs departed for Lakewood, New Jersey following the 2000 season.
I last visited the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2015. That game was rained out before it was official, so a return trip feels necessary. Regardless, much has changed in Lynchburg over the past four years. Chris Jones took over as team president in 2016, and the team unveiled a new look the following offseason (after flirting with the idea of changing their name entirely). May 4 is both Star Wars Night and Aloha Night, so I'm expecting some strong sci-fi/Hawaii crossover imagery at the ballpark.
I also last visited Richmond in 2015, during a game that ended prematurely due to a vicious thunderstorm. Hopefully this time around the weather will be better. I apologize in advance for being in town on a Monday and a Tuesday, but they can't all be weekends. Regardless, the Flying Squirrels are a fun and creative organization and I'm banking on fun and weird things happening while I'm in town.
What about it?
What would you like to see from my coverage of these teams? What should I know going in? I try to remain amenable to new angles and different ways of doing things, so whether you're fan or front office please get in touch if you've got something to suggest.
For the sixth consecutive season, I'll recruit Designated Eaters at most locations I visit. Their job, of course, is to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. If you want to be a Designated Eater in Fayetteville, Lynchburg or Richmond then please do the following:
- Email me -- email@example.com -- with the subject line stating "Designated Eater" as well as the team you are interested in. (I only need one Designated Eater for each location, date negotiable).
- In this email, please explain (in at least 50 but no more than 500,000 words) why you would make a good Designated Eater. I'm looking for those with a sense of humor and a passion for Minor League Baseball. A willingness to potentially embarrass one's self is a prerequisite. Another prerequisite is a willingness to eat anything that may be on that team's concession menu.
- Send this email by Wednesday, April 24th. Designated Eaters for this trip will be announced on April 25th.