JD’s Ballpark Tour, Bottom of the Fourteenth Inning (San Bernardino, CA)

(AKA: Cal League Playoffs with Daisy)

The week after that minor league game in Rancho Cucamonga, it was a tumultuous week as I sustained a bad injury. As they say in hockey, I suffered a “lower body injury.” With my mobility dramatically reduced, I spent time writing, doing a baseball podcast, reading some math and/or baseball books, and looking up possible Angels games to attend. In addition, I was trying to find a good time to make a trip to the Bay Area to see two more ballparks, which would make fifteen stadiums in one season. Finally, I was also keeping track of my local minor league teams in the Cal League playoffs. While the previously featured Quakes did not make the playoffs, the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) not only made the playoffs, but they won their first-round series. This would set up a South Division championship series against the Lancaster JetHawks (Astros). Game three of that series fell on a Monday, which is their usual “Man’s Best Friend Monday” promotion. I thought about going to that game anyway since it was a big Cal League playoff game, and a friend of mine was working at that game. With the added bonus of being able to bring my dog, I thought, “why not?”

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The ballpark: San Manuel Stadium, elevation about 1020 feet.

The game: JetHawks @ 66ers on September 8, 2014

This is one of my favorite minor league ballparks, and this is easily Daisy’s favorite park. The 66ers are known for their dog-friendly promotions, and they usually get a good amount of dogs to come out for games, but I’ll get to that shortly. The Inland Empire 66ers are named because Route 66 runs through San Bernardino, which is where the team is located. Their home stadium is less than a mile from the famous road, and features an awesome view of the San Bernardino mountains. The 66ers are currently affiliated with the Angels and frequently see MLB players making a rehab assignment start through the season. The last player I saw make such a start was Dan Haren two years ago… he got roughed up that night.

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Post Season Baseball, Pod Casts, and Predictions (Fourteenth Inning Stretch)

The funny thing about writing a traveling baseball blog during the summer is the drama that can unfold over the course of a season. When I first began this journey, I didn’t expect to see the large amount of traveling Royals fans as I did in Arlington, Texas. I also didn’t expect to see some of the crazy baseball I saw in the month of September (and October), but more on that later!

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JD’s Ballpark Tour, Top of the Fourteenth Inning (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

(AKA: Dog Days in the Minors)

After that sad game at Houston, I said goodbye to my good friend near Houston and finally flew back to my home home in SoCal. Right when I arrived back home, I was not only looking ahead to Angels and Dodgers games, but also checking out the Cal League (High-A minors) standings. On the calendar, I saw it was “Bark in the Ballpark” day at Rancho Cucamonga. I decided to take my puppy to her first game of the season and include her on this “BallBARK Tour” Hehe, you see what I did there? Heh, yeah…

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The ballpark: LoanMart Field, elevation 1190 feet.

The game: 66ers @ Quakes on August 27, 2014.

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are a high-A minor league team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Earlier this season, Clayton Kershaw pitched a rehab game there, and all six thousand seats were filled. On this game, they were on the brink of being eliminated from the Cal League playoffs, and there was a decent crowd there. When this park was built in the early 1990s, the Quakes became the new team name. Because of that, the ballpark had one of the coolest names in the minor leagues: The Epicenter. Many folks around the ballpark still call it The Epicenter.

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The Case for Clayton Kershaw Winning the NL MVP

Yes, this is a departure from my posts about my ballpark tour, but with the regular season ending yesterday, I thought I would put up this post regarding a hot topic in baseball right now.

There have only been three pitchers to win the National League Most Valuable Player award since 1955. Why did I choose that year? That’s the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first championship, and their only title while still playing in Brooklyn. The last player to do it was Bob Gibson (St. Louis) in 1968. Before that, two dominant Dodger pitchers won the MVP: Sandy Koufax (1963) and Don Newcombe (1956).

Many former players didn’t like facing those three previously mentioned pitchers. In fact, even HoF’ers like Maury Wills even said that they hated facing Bob Gibson because of the intimidation factor he presents. Fast forward to 2014, and we are hearing about several players saying the same thing about Clayton Kershaw. His twelve-to-six curveball – or “public enemy number one” according to Vin Scully – is a plus pitch in his arsenal that fools countless batters every game.

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Continue Reading Why Kershaw Should Win the NL MVP…

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Thirteenth Inning (Houston, TX)

Part XIII: Minute Maid Park

(AKA: Not Ending My Tour Like This)

(AKA: Squeezing the Life Out of Me)

(AKA: Unlucky Part Thirteen)

(AKA: Finally Getting Homesick)

Brace yourself, folks. I’m going to come out and say this right now, this was probably one of the worst ballpark experiences I’ve ever had, and the only way I would come back here is if I was given free tickets and parking again. If you love this ballpark, I’m sorry… I kept an open mind about this place and was actually very excited to return to Texas. However, this particular visit highly disappointed me.

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JD’s Ballpark Tour, Twelfth Inning (Arlington, TX)

Part XII: Globe Life Park in Arlington

(AKA: The Start of the “Texas Two Step”)

Before leaving to Colorado, I received something in the mail I didn’t expect to get so quickly, or even to the extent. I got a big envelope containing two tickets to an Astros game, and also a free parking pass! These were down on the field level, too, so they were very tough to pass up. At that point, I decided that a trip to Texas was in order, but then I thought, “What if I can get to both stadiums in Texas in a matter of a few days?” After a couple days of serious planning, I had places to stay at both stops, and would get to visit some wonderful friends and family. All of a sudden, this trip was becoming very possible. Then, I found a very cheap rental car in Houston, and stumbled upon a very affordable flight to the Dallas/Fort Worth area… both costing me under $200. So far, this entire tour had gone way under budget, and I knew I had some extra money. So I bit the bullet and decided to do the “Texas Two-Step!”

Yeah, I did it.

Ballpark 10: Globe Life Park in Arlington, elevation 550 feet

The game: Royals @ Rangers on August 23, 2014

I have family that live near the Arlington area, so they were more than happy to have me come and visit for a few days. My aunt and uncle have some farm land about an hour away, so it was great to see what that property was like. Plus, I hadn’t seen my favorite cousin since he was visiting my place a couple years ago. He took me to my first Rangers game over a decade ago, so I already had my hat from there. He has coached high school baseball and high school football, but is now an assistant principal. Since the school year was starting soon, he had Saturday as his day off. Thus, we began looking for tickets online, and StubHub really came through in the clutch…. but more on that later.

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The Hat Collection… and Their Costs (Between the Innings)

“I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky, I could be hurtful, I could be purple, I could be anything you like.”

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After the last post, I thought I would bring up something that a couple people have asked me about. In every post at the end, I’ve shown a picture of me with the home team’s hat. Yes, while I do have a favorite team (the Los Angeles Dodgers), that doesn’t mean I can’t support each team and every stadium I’ve been. In a sense, this is a way of showing my gratitude to each place I’ve been and a tribute to each fan base that I’ve come across… some better than others. I take each place I travel to at face value and try to remain as impartial as possible. This has come from years of being an off-ice official for the ECHL and traveling to different arenas in that regard. I will admit that growing up, I would very openly root against any team that wasn’t the Dodgers (or the Angels sometimes). In fact, there is one ballpark I went to where I didn’t buy a hat, and still don’t have a team hat from there. If you guessed the San Francisco Giants, a thousand points* for you.

Continue Reading Between the Innings

JD’s Baseball Tour, Eleventh Inning (Denver, CO)

Part XI: Coors Field

It was a wonderful break from baseball… for about a week and a half. I ended up watching a Broadway musical in the front row, got to swing dance at one of the best venues NYC has to offer, and hosted a game show event at the Trivia Championships of North America. It was here that I started telling people about my journey, and how much fun it was. It was here I met another huge baseball fan, Sam Medley (Melting Blue Research), who has actually been to more ballparks than me and got to visit some now-demolished old stadiums like Tiger Stadium. He loved my passion for doing this trip, and wanted to help me out on my quest of someday visiting all the ballparks. He mentioned that he would be going on vacation and would not be using his Rockies tickets for the game. He then asked if I would like to use them!

 
Ballpark 9: Coors Field, elevation ~5200 feet

The game: Reds @ Rockies on August 15, 2014

After thinking about this for a second, I took him up on his offer and now had to think about how to get there and where to stay. Luckily, I have another game show friend, Bill Schantz, just outside Denver who is also a big Rockies fan. Not only would he get the extra ticket, but offered up his place to stay for a couple nights. How awesome! I then decided to drive there since gas prices began going down, and plane tickets on short notice were not cheap. Simply put, this was a very long drive, but I saved a ton of money on this one. Since I received these tickets (and the next few games) for free, I won’t have an extensive section on ticket prices like I have in the past. However, for this park, I heard the Rockpile tickets (albeit far away) are still one of the best deals to watch a game for only $4 normally!

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The drive to Coors Field was a very tough one because of quick-moving storms that had entered the area. It was a spectacular lightning show going to downtown Denver, but that meant batting practice would be rained out. That made me a little sad because I’ve never seen it there, and the ball jumps in that thin mountain air. However, I couldn’t let myself be sad for this one…

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Certificates, Schedules, Freebies, and Continuing the Trip (Between the Innings)

    First off, I wanted to extend a very special thanks to everyone reading this blog, and to the friends and family who have supported me on this journey. Thanks to some of those people, I have been able to extend this trip into something I didn’t think was possible. Originally, I only had the intent of exploring the northeast United States and seeing what those ballparks had to offer. Now this has become a quest to do something that not many people have done in a short period, and that’s to visit all thirty ballparks in the major leagues. Secondly, I’d like to extend my thanks to another enthusiastic baseball fan also in the game show circle. Because of him, I was able to watch a game in another stadium for free. Also, to another reader who wanted me to come out and visit for another game. Finally, thanks to some of my family in north Texas for a great family outing in a great ballpark that I hadn’t visited in over a decade.

    As I previously mentioned, those games took place in Colorado, and in a “Texas Two Step” through the two parks in that state. That would make eleven in this “ballpark tour” alone. If I include Boston earlier this year for Boston Marathon weekend, that would make twelve this season. I do plan on a trip back home to Anaheim, and that would make thirteen. More on the rest of my plans at the end of this blog post.

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JD’s Baseball Tour, Tenth Inning (Bronx, NY)

Part X: Yankee Stadium (Revisited)

(AKA: Extra Innings in the Bronx)

    Yes, this blog has now reached extra innings!

    After finally getting a good night’s rest after two baseball games in one day, I was able to look at my plans for later that night. As I mentioned on the last post, I was the lucky recipient of a MasterCard “Priceless Surprise” from Yankee Stadium. Thus, I had a second chance to check out more of this wonderful stadium during a game. Since I already talked about the atmosphere of the stadium last time, I will write more about the experience I had this time… and what an amazing experience it was.

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Ballpark 8: Yankee Stadium, elevation 24 feet

The game: Tigers @ Yankees on August 5, 2014

    Since this included two tickets to the Yankees game, I thought I would bring one of my old game show friends, Jason Block, along with me. He’s actually appeared on multiple game shows including “Jeopardy!” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He is also a huge New York Yankees fan and grew up with the team in the old stadium. He was more than ecstatic to join me at Yankee Stadium, mention some of his favorite memories at both stadiums, and provide a deeper appreciation for Yankee Stadium.

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