Jan 122011
 

Originally Posted on January 5, 2010, with some, um, minor edits

One of the joys of following minor-league baseball is going to see your favorite team on the road. As a fan of the Potomac Nationals, I’ve been to the stadiums of all seven opposing teams in the Carolina League over the past five seasons (that’s Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC above), and have visited Nationals affiliates in Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and Vermont.

With the recent snowfall in the D.C. area, I thought I’d share some of my tips for taking and making the most of a baseball road trip, to help ease the time until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Take The Interstate
There’s nothing wrong with taking the secondary route to get there, especially if you want to see the countryside. But the Interstates are your best bet because they’re faster, there are more places to stop for food and fuel, and should you have car trouble, you’re a better position to get the help you need quickly. Also, quite a few teams are situated close to the freeway anyway (e.g. The Frederick Keys).

Consider The Dominant Travel Pattern
My favorite night to shoot for is a Saturday night. People that are going to the beach or the mountains are likely already there, so you’re not fighting them. If you must travel on a Friday, try to leave either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, i.e. after rush hour or after lunch. Likewise for Sundays, watch out for afternoon games that will have you on the road between 5 and 8pm, a.k.a. when the weekend throngs are coming back. This is why some teams have opted for a start time of 4 or 5 pm — it’s not quite as harsh on the players, and enables the opposing team to leave with some daylight.

Parking
It’s an overlooked detail, so do your homework — especially with clubs in older ballparks or teams that are very popular. If you’re able to walk, think about the money you’ll save if you park a few blocks away or more importantly, the time you’ll save as you walk past the folks jockeying to get out. I like to look for libraries and schools for this strategy. One notable exception is…

Promotions
…Fireworks night. They’re great for packing them in, and most people stay. Translation: While the masses ooh and ahh, you can make a break for your car and get out ahead of them. You can use the promotions calendar two ways: To get the freebies you want, or avoid the folks that care more about the giveaway than the game (e.g. bobbleheads).

Midweek Day Games
These are big moneymakers for minor-league clubs. They’re often dominated by schools and/or daycares, but they almost always sit in the cheap seats. Despite the crowds, it seems that most venues are shorthanded, relying on the groups’ chaperones for crowd control. This also makes it harder to get concessions and nearly guarantees long lines. But if you don’t mind eating before or after the game, you can generally get great seats up close.

Don’t Forget To Wear Sunscreen…
…and drink plenty of fluids, by which I mean water and soda. One of the unfortunate things I’ve noticed is that minor-league stadiums with a roof aren’t being built anymore. To me, that’s penny-wise and pound-foolish because a roof provides cover from both the sun and the rain. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love the WPA-era parks (see above) so much, but I can’t help but notice that in the places where there is a roof, people tend to stick around when the elements aren’t favorable. For everywhere else, it’s a good idea to notice where the shadows fall and try to get those seats when the weather will be a factor.

  14 Responses to “Rerun: Hitting The Road…”

  1. Thanks, Sue, this is the type of thing to print out & read again in a few months.
    You’re relly taxing our brains by running 2 simultaneous threads between this and the watchlist thread. :)

  2. I found out my chiropractor she’s from Auburn, NY. She says go on Tuesdays to see the DoubleDays…$1 draft and hotdog night… just saying… Great work again Sue.

  3. Tips for Hagerstown:
    1. parking is scarce – come stupid early, especially on bobblehead and firework nights. if you see a spot real close to the entrance, don’t succumb to temptation and park there. They are empty for a reason…..foul!!
    2. college frat Thursdays – thristy thursday ($1.25 beer and “free” food) is mainly full of college kids (and younger) getting their drunk on. Now us adults can still have fun, but get a box seat so you can stand in the long beer lines with the teenagers and not worry about your seat!
    3. 1st base autographs – good for the home team and away team after the game, mainly home team before the game.
    4. Swing Baby – resident loud mouth that repeats the same thing over and over. Dont’cha love him??!!
    5. Tailgating – is very allowed. drink in the lot before you go into the game. it’s cheaper and more fun!

  4. TBR Fan:

    I have a feeling we know each other, just judging by the tailgaiting comment. One correction though, I believe we call the guy “Hum Baby”.

    Thursdays are horrible, Its the one day I wont come.

    Dont forget, our resident drunk whom I will call ” grab some pine, stay healthy guy” he a blast. The coach even gave him a uniform and put him on the bench for a few innings last year, during the last game.

    The people at hagerstown are great!

  5. I think people call “hum baby”, “swing baby”…..he’s an original. LOL

    Grab some pine is named Roger….last name left out to protect the innocent. LeCroy told him the only thing he couldn’t do was drink on the bench and show up drunk. What a classy team we have!! :o)

    I do love Hagerstown – I hope the new owners and staff don’t @#$^$ up the joint, we’ve had a good thing going for years.

  6. Thanks for this! My buddy and I are thinking about a trips up to both Hagerstown and Harrisburg. We will hit a couple of breweries in or near Harrisburg as well but don’t have a clue what is near Hagerstown. Any tips? (we will go mid-week as is the luxury of being old and retired).

    • I’ll weigh in that for Harrisburg, you really ought to go for the individual club seats, which I believe go for $30. That includes an all-you-can-eat buffet. You’d have to be a pimp for the Elks Club to get more bang for your buck (*rimshot!*)

    • In addition to to a great brew pub in Harrisburg, there’s also a terrific car museum in Hershey.
      Like SJM, I’m a bit of a newbie re- Hagerstown, but they will have some pretty intriguing stories this year.

    • No breweries in Hagerstown, but if you go to Bulls and Bears downtown to eat you should be happy. Nice local place in an old historic building. Or if you like “corporate” stuff, there’s a Green Turtle in the North End and a Buffalo Wild Wing by the mall. Bulls and Bears is about 5-6 blocks away from the stadium though. you can also hit the Stadium Tavern right behind the Muni, but it’s a bar – with good wings and crabs in season. It will be packed…

      If you come this far, do go to Antietam. It’s worth the trip!

  7. Information and humor, what more can a guy ask for.
    Thanks sue

    • Sould: Yes, and dougdirt did an interesting interpretation on the Sickels’ ratings. It’s nice to see the Nationals in the middle-third of somebody’s overall prospect rankings, at the least.

  8. Sue,
    The betting is officially over, folks. If you had Strasburg in your pool as the first National to say “I’m in the best shape of my life”, you are the winner.
    Announce yourself and collect your winnings!

  9. Hyde Park Coonies in SYR. Best ballpark or any other kind of hot dog.

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