With minor league baseball regular seasons wrapping up over Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d look back on my year in minor league baseball. This was the year of the minors for me. I got to 11 games, from short-season single-A to triple-A, and every one of them was great in its own way. Here they are in chronological order.
April 3: Burlington Bees at Beloit Snappers Beloit, Wisconsin Single-A, Oakland A’s
Great Smalltown, USA, experience. It was opening day, and the coldest I’ve ever been at a baseball game, but the fact that they let me lead the crowd in Take Me Out to the Ballgame made it a lifelong memory. (I wrote about it here.)
April 13: Winston-Salem Dash at Wilmington Blue Rocks
Single-A, Kansas City Royals
We did not see Mr. Celery “CEL-ebrate” any runs because the Blue Rocks were shut out, but it’s a great stadium, and the crab fries were awesome. (I wrote about it here.)
May 24: Visalia Rawhide at San Jose Giants
San Jose, California
Single-A, San Francisco Giants
My friend Phil got to golf for between-inning prizes at a classic minor league park. (I wrote about it here.)
The plan was hatched months ago: The trip would span almost 100 hours, covering nearly 700 miles of Southern California’s inland desert in Blogger Jeremy’s unicorn mobile Prius, attending four single-A California League baseball games in four days, and subsisting on nothing but In N Out Burger and minor league baseball stadium food the entire time. And guess what? It was the greatest four days of our lives.
Day 1: August 21, Lake Elsinore Storm
Just about 70 miles—or four hours, if you’re in a car on southern California’s highways—east of Los Angeles is the town of Lake Elsinore, noted for its motocross, skydiving, and, of course, the local San Diego Padres affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm. On this night, the Storm would drop a clunker to the Stockton Ports, but we had the honor of watching Minor League Baseball’s steals leader Mallex Smith, who is crazy fast and also, according to my wife, very good looking. See our interview with Mallex here.
The Lake Elsinore Diamond features an open concourse, meaning that you can still watch the game (and get hit with foul balls) as you make concession runs. It was the only stadium on our road trip situated that way—a shame because that’s really the best way to do it. The Diamond is 20 years old and features a capacity just under 8,000. With mountains in the background and cool desert temperatures in the evening, it was a great place to watch a ballgame, except for one thing…
Kyle Farmer is quick with a smile and loves talking about the thing people probably ask him about most—his cameo in the hit football movie The Blind Side. But Farmer’s current dreams have nothing to do with the bright lights of hollywood—unless you count Dodger Stadium. Currently with the high-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, a Dodgers affiliate in the California League, Farmer is adjusting to his new role as a catcher instead of a shortstop. He took a moment to talk with us about baseball and his shot at Hollywood stardom.
Brent Peterson grew up in Bakersfield, California, and has advanced in his minor league career to play for the Bakersfield Blaze, the high-A Reds affiliate in the California League. We talked to him before a game about the unique set-up of the team’s ballpark (it faces west instead of east), the next steps in his career, and playing baseball for a living.
People who have sent us helmets out of the kindness of their hearts: Howard Aprill, Lacy Bauer, Ira Bletz, Barb Buse Breen (and her aunt Ellen), Phil Broder, Chris Brown, Jamie Cabral, Matthew Caputo, Scott Castiglia, AJ Chlebnik, Jason D'Agostino, Kelly Farrell (and her sister Camille), Alan Filipczak, Seth Gallagher, John Johnson, Kelly Grimm Joslin, Melissa Kaspern, Sarah Keating, Tom Lappas, Scott & Susan Mealey, Art & Anita Pena, Katie Caputo Roberts, Phil Sexton, Don Simme
Minor League teams that have generoulsy donated helmets to the collection: Albuquerque Isotopes, Altoona Curve, Bowie Baysox, Dayton Dragons, Gwinnett Braves, Lancaster Barnstormers, Lexington Legends, Louisville Bats, New Britain Rock Cats, Oklahoma City Redhawks, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Toledo Mud Hens, Wilmington Blue Rocks