When all's said and done, MiLB.com's Benjamin Hill will have visited 30 Minor League ballparks during the 2014 season, traveling thousands of miles in the process. His meanderings resulted in dozens of articles and blog posts, always written with the intent of highlighting what makes each ballpark experience and Minor League city unique. What follows is an at-a-glance compendium of Hill's 2014 adventures -- perhaps this will serve as inspiration to plan your own Minor League Baseball road trip.
New York State of Mind
Despite being based in New York City, Ben had never ventured beyond the Big Apple for an Empire State-centric road trip. Until now! On this, his final trip of the 2014 season, Ben collected autographs in Batavia, talked to a franchise icon in Rochester, witnessed one of the last games in Jamestown history, viewed the literal baseball artwork of a veteran Erie southpaw, learned from a costumed vendor in Buffalo, spoke with a league historian in Auburn, got an international perspective in Scranton, witnessed true fandom in action in Syracuse and Hudson Valley and pretty much did it all in Tri-City. Stay tuned…
America's heartland is fertile ground for Minor League Baseball, and on this trip Ben saw teams in three states and three different leagues. He participated in a world record attempt in Akron, met the Toastman in West Virginia, learned about baseball history in Columbus, marveled at the rooftop view in Indianapolis, kept score in Louisville, met Ty Cobb in Lexington and sat with a sellout crowd in Dayton. Along the way he visited several record stores, as part of his ongoing attempt to show that vinyl culture is alive and well all across the United States.
Ben's attempt to see the Huntsville Stars in this, their final season, was thwarted by a torrential downpour. But the weather cooperated the rest of the way, more or less, as Ben visited historic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, witnessed a wedding ceremony in Rome, experienced on-field mascot mayhem in Gwinnett, marveled at a "Clawlossal" culinary concoction in Hickory and tracked down the Uh-Huh Guy in Kannapolis. And, of course, he visited the Charlotte Knights' brand-new home of BB&T Ballpark. It's a beautiful place.
(Just) North of the Border
Ben missed the El Paso Chihuahuas' home opener, but he was in attendance for still-historic game No. 2. That was the highlight of a trip full of them, as Ben learned about Simpsons history in Albuquerque, looked for tarp tarantulas in Midland, met mascot legends in San Antonio, lost a tricycle race in Corpus Christi and went into a food coma in Round Rock. When he wasn't at the ballpark, he was driving. Everything is bigger in Texas -- including the distance between stadiums.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.