Friday, June 19, 2015

PCL Travel: Cheney Stadium -- Tacoma, Wash. (Part Two)

This was our second trip to Cheney Stadium and I don't want to repeat the first posting on the ballpark. For a review, you can find it here.

Instead, I'll just post a bunch of photos of Mt. Rainier, since the team is called the Rainiers. The locals simply call it "The Mountain" and it remains impressive. I find it interesting how often you forget that it's there, then all of a sudden you see it in the distance, and it again draws awe for its size and majestic beauty.

It caught me by surprise, waiting for a light to turn red.

And above an apartment complex.

PCL Travel: Smith's Ballpark -- Salt Lake City, Utah

The two best parts of going to Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City are the stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains ... and the massive fruit tray for the press that I annihilate every day.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

PCL Day Trips: LSU campus -- Baton Rouge, Louis.

One day after heading east to Biloxi, it was time to head west to Baton Rouge to visit the Louisiana State University campus.

College campuses are among my favorite places to spend an afternoon before a night game. The architecture of the buildings are impressive, steeped with history and tradition, there's always locally owned mom-and-pop good cheap food around the campus, and sneaking inside football stadiums is usually pretty darn easy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PCL Day Trips: MGM Park -- Biloxi, Miss.

View from the home radio booth at the MGM Park.
One of my favorite minor league teams as a child was the Huntsville Stars. They were the double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics and all the great young players developed came through Huntsville. One of the first minor league team sets I ever purchased was the 1985 Huntsville Stars, with Jose Canseco, Stan Javier, Luis Polonia, Eric Plunk, Tim Belcher and Terry Steinbach.

Joe W. Davis Stadium (named after the city's former mayor) was considered "the crown jewel of the Southern League" when it opened in 1985. The ballpark grew old, renovations only helped a little, and eventually it became an old relic. The A's left Huntsville after the 1998 season and the Milwaukee Brewers were there ever since.

An ownership group led by Ken Young, who also owns the Albuquerque Isotopes, bought the Huntsville franchise and moved it to the oceanside city of Biloxi, Miss. Construction of the new ballpark was not ready by the start of the 2015 season, so the Biloxi Shuckers played 54 straight road games to begin the season, including games at their old stadium in Huntsville, which will reportedly be demolished sometime soon.

Isotopes general manager John Traub has assisted with the new franchise getting started, taking countless trips to Biloxi. With the Isotopes in New Orleans, Traub invited me to get a tour of MGM Park just before it opened.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PCL Travel: Zephyrs Field -- New Orleans, LA

Well, it's not really in New Orleans. It's technically in Metairie, which is 12 miles east of the famed French Quarter, 7.6 miles from the Superdome, and four miles from the New Orleans Airport. It's right next to the practice facilities of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.

Wherever the boundaries lie, it's the home of the New Orleans Zephyrs, the triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins since 2009 (after the Marlins had to leave Albuquerque when the Isotopes hooked up with the Dodgers).

The newest elements of Zephyr Field are the most distinguishable. Over the right-field fence, there's a swimming pool and two hot tubs. There's also a picnic area in foul territory down the first-base line and a Home Run Porch just beyond the fence. These amenities were part of the $26 million recover efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Monday, May 25, 2015

PCL Travel: Dell Diamond -- Round Rock, Texas

In minor league baseball, players get "promoted" to a higher level on a regular basis. It's very unusual for a franchise to get "promoted" to a high level, but that's what happened to the Round Rock Express.

The franchise began as a member of the double-A Texas League in 2000, a Houston Astros affiliate. They set a Texas League attendance record the first season, then broke it each of the next four years as well. Still, you don't just "promote" a franchise from double-A to triple-A, without a lot of help.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

PCL Day Trips: The Alamo & River Walk -- San Antonio, Texas

About 10 years ago, I was at the Playboy Mansion and ... yes, I'm blatantly bragging about the night I was at the Playboy Mansion ... because I can.

Anyway, so I was at the Playboy Mansion for some charity event and I started talking to a playmate by the name of Pylar Lastra. Besides being stunningly gorgeous, Pylar is incredible sweet, full of personality, and we actually spent almost an hour talking that night. [Side story: yes, I gave her my business card and actually thought for a minute she might call. Wishful thinking.]

We spent considerable time discussing her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. She was very proud of San Antonio, gave it considerable hype, and should probably be employed by the city's tourism board. I'm pretty sure we pinky-swore that I would one day visit her hometown. [I figured that my visit would be to meet her family before our wedding or something.]

Alas, instead of meeting the Lastra family, I finally visited San Antonio with friends Gabriel Elizondo (waving in the back), Ben Saxe (hat and sunglasses) and Ferris Shahrestani (bald head and sunglasses) on a day trip from Round Rock.