Midland perfect for baseball

Perfect baseball weather, petroleum-rich town loves its 'Hounds

Midland, Texas is home to the Rockhounds as well as a prominent petro-chemical center. (Midland C.C.)

By Tim Leonard / MLB.com | March 14, 2006 5:39 PM

Not many cities can lay claim to being the hometown of a president. Midland, Texas is one of them.

According to his official White House biography, President George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Conn. and grew up in Midland and Houston. Bush lived in Midland as a child from 1948-59, when the family left West Texas for Houston. He returned to Midland after earning his master's in business administration from Harvard University's School of Business in 1975. No wonder the city refers to Bush as "Midland's Rising Son" and why he refers to Midland as his real hometown.

Bush moved back to work in the energy business and later his father's presidential campaign in 1988. He put together a group that purchased the Texas Rangers in 1989 and was elected Governor of Texas in 1994. When he was elected 43rd president of the United States in 2001, the White House became home to two Midland residents. First Lady Laura Bush was born in Midland. The couple married in 1977.

The Bush family moved to Midland when George was a toddler. He credits the city with helping to shape him as a person. It's also a big point of pride with the community in a place that is part small town and part big city.

"The values Midland holds near to its heart are the same ones I hold near to my heart," Bush said in an article on the Midland Chamber of Commerce website. "It's a town of risk takers...a town that knows the value of hard work and having an optimistic vision. The slogan 'The Sky's The Limit' was meant for everyone, not just a select few. Midlanders believed if you work hard and believe it will happen, anything can happen. That ethic of hard work and outlook of optimism has stayed with me my whole life."

Midland has been named as one of the Top 150 cities in which to live for the past 12 years by Forbes magazine. The warm climate, friendly people and central location are the main reasons for its popularity. Midland, which has a population of nearly 100,000, is located midway between Dallas/Fort Worth and El Paso.

Midland is unquestionably Texas oil country. The city serves as the administrative center for the petroleum producing region known as the Permian Basin. About 20 percent of the United States' oil and gas reserves are located in reservoirs deep beneath the surface, according to the website.

Oil is a recurring theme in various events in and around the city. One of the most popular is the MS Cactus and Crude Bike Tour which will be held in July. The two-day, 150-mile bicycle tour starts in Midland and will raise money for the MS Society. In October, the biennial Permian Basin International Oil Show will return to nearby Ector County Coliseum in nearby Odessa. It's the world's largest trade show dedicated to oil and gas technology.

Midland will play host to what is billed as "the World's Largest Christmas Party" on Nov. 30. The celebration will feature a silent auction, samples of food from a variety of local restaurants and live entertainment.

Midland is home to six museums, including the Petroleum Museum, where visitors can learn about the process to create, trap and find oil. The Girl Scouts will have an event in May at the museum where participants can earn their "Oil Up" badge.

There is also the American Airpower Heritage Museum, which is recognized for its collection of authentic World War II artifacts, memorabilia and the world's largest collection of original aviation nose art. Anywhere from 14 to 20 planes are on exhibit at a time and they are changed quarterly. The Museum of the Southwest holds its annual Septemberfest, an arts and crafts exhibit, and also displays traveling exhibits that include art, archaeology and astronomy.

The city also has the Marian Blakemore Planetarium for stargazers. Shows are done for school groups, clubs and organizations. Public shows run Friday evenings with star viewing in the adjacent park.

Sports obviously are a large part of Texas culture. The weather is made for baseball. Midland has more than 300 sunny days each year and the desert climate means low humidity with warm days and cool nights. The average temperature in July ranges from a low of 69 to a high of 94. But as the cliché goes, it's a dry heat.

The RockHounds have enjoyed an enthusiastic following over the years and rewarded their fans by winning the Texas League championship last season. Francis Gomez doubled home a run in the eighth inning of Game 4 to snap a tie and send the RockHounds to a 6-5 victory over the Arkansas Travelers in to clinch the best-of-five series.

The title was the first for the organization in 30 years. Midland had to share the crown with Lafayette in 1975 after the championship series was canceled due to rain with the teams tied at 2-2.

Midland also plays host to the Nationwide Tour when the Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic is held in October. The rodeo makes an appearance in September. The West Texas Cowboy Celebration and Rodeo includes a working cowboy ranch rodeo and a chuck wagon cookoff.

Tim Leonard is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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