My night with the Lexington Legends – June 12, 2018

The second stop on my trip through the Bluegrass State for baseball and beer was Lexington, Ky.  It is a city that I used to know really well because I attended the University of Kentucky for two years as an undergraduate, but it has been nearly two decades since I was last a student at UK.  So returning to Lexington to explore its budding craft beer scene (yes, BEER not bourbon) while also visiting another Minor League Baseball stadium has been on my “to-do” list for quite a few years.  Finally this summer, I got to make it happen.

So on a Tuesday afternoon following some visits to the city’s local craft breweries, my wife Katie and I made it to Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends.  When I was a student at UK in the mid-1990s there was regularly talk of Lexington seeking a MiLB team, but none of it came to fruition until 2001.  Unlike many other ballparks built during the early-2000s, the Legends’ stadium is not in downtown, but instead northeast of downtown off a ring road (New Circle Road) across from a strip mall.

I didn’t know it at the time we planned our visit, but it was a mystery giveaway night.  It turned out that the Legends were giving away a bobblehead of University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops.  So I neglected to capture my customary stadium entrance photo, as we hurriedly entered to secure out bobblehead.  However, I went back outside to capture the view the typically greets fans arriving at the ballpark.

The main entrance to the ballpark.

There was a LOT going on after entering the ballpark, but in a good way.  Fans see a lot of branding in multiple places, so you have to be oblivious to the environment to be unaware that you are attending a Lexington Legends baseball game.

For fans interesting in scoring the game, you find the home team’s lineup and the South Atlantic League standings.

Although Katie and I hurried through the gate, we had plenty of time before the game started so we wandered the concourse checking out the food options with a brief pit stop at the team gift store.

We didn’t get any food before the game because I wanted to get a picture of the night’s bobblehead honoree, UK head football coach Mark Stoops throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.  So we headed to our seats that were just to the right of home plate.

Following Stoops’s ceremonial first pitch we watched the beginning of the game, which pitted the Columbia Fireflies against the host Legends.

Lexington Legends starting pitcher Janser Lara delivers the first pitch to Columbia Fireflies left fielder Raphael Gladu.

With seats almost immediately behind home plate, we also had easy access to the Kentucky Ale Taproom.  It has a full-service bar and kitchen with many ballpark staples, but also some of the signature food items available at the ballpark like the Larry Mac Burger (more on that later).

After watching some of the action, I went exploring the concourse again.  Along the way I found something most Minor League teams incorporate into their ballpark, and something I had never seen before at a baseball stadium.  Near a display case showing off the team’s current uniform set, I found plaques commemorating all of the players who played for the Legends and made it to the Majors.  The unique item I found was artwork created to commemorate the team’s 15th season in 2015, which was made from signed mini baseball bats.

Speaking of unique items at the ballpark, the Legends feature a collection of wall decals featuring two prominent groups of people: former Legends who made it to the Majors and former University of Kentucky basketball players throwing out ceremonial first pitches.

I’ve seen all sorts of ways Minor League teams commemorate their former players who reach “The Show,” so seeing a collection of generic Fathead decals wasn’t surprising.  It was different, but certainly not surprising.  However, it was very surprising to see wall decals of former UK basketball stars (Patrick Patterson, Willie Cauley-Stein, and others) throwing out ceremonial first pitches.  Wildcat basketball may make the world go ’round in Kentucky, but it was not something I expected to see incorporated into a Minor League stadium in Lexington, even if it is the university’s home city.

The concourse does not wrap around the ballpark, but I was easily able to photograph the bleachers in left field and the Pepsi Party Deck in right field.

There are also multiple spots around the stadium to keep kids entertained.  Down the right field line is a basketball court, which seems unusual at a baseball stadium but also seems completely natural in Kentucky.

An overview of the basketball court and the entrance to the part deck.

Down the left field line is the more traditional kid zone.  The team’s kids club is sponsored by Jif peanut butter, which is produced in Lexington at the world’s largest peanut butter production facility.

At Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the bullpens of both teams are in play.  The home team’s bullpen is down the right field line and the visiting team’s bullpen is down the left field line.  While exploring I was able to capture photos of both bullpens and some other scenes of the ballpark.

Although I walked around the entire stadium to capture the surroundings, I did manage to watch some of the baseball game.  Katie and I literally had front row seats, so there was no shortage of baseball watching this night.  In fact, the Legends starting pitcher Janser Lara, first baseman Nick Pratto, right fielder Seuly Matias, and catcher MJ Melendez are among the Kansas City Royals’ top-30 prospects.

Eventually watching all of these top prospects made Katie and I hungry, so we settled upon the aforementioned Larry Mac Burger, which we found at the Ballpark Favorites concession stand along the third base line.  The burger is a third-pound Kentucky Proud burger topped with either original or jalapeño Larry Mac’s beer cheese, Applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion.

My dinner for the night was the Larry Mac Burger.

The version I received was a two quarter-pound beef patties smothered in jalapeño beer cheese.  Unfortunately there was no lettuce, tomato, or onion in sight.  It was a deliciously, gooey, and messy meal though.  In hindsight, I might have opted for the original beer cheese, as the jalapeño-version remained with me throughout the night.

I did not have any beers at the ballpark, but that was not because of any shortage of craft beer options.  The Kentucky Ale Taproom is sponsored by Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., which produces the Kentucky Ale line of beers and the Town Branch Distillery spirits.  Craft beer choices are available throughout the stadium, but The Handle Bar (along the first base line) has the largest selection of beer.

The biggest deterrent to having a beer at the ballpark to compliment my Larry Mac Burger was that shortly after ordering my food the skies opened and the tarp came out to cover the field.  Following a 37-minute delay with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning the game was called.  When the game was called the skies had started to clear, but apparently the field was too wet to continue the game and it had progressed far enough to be an official game.

The cloud appear to part after a heavy downpour led to the cancellation of the game after five innings.

Despite an abbreviated game, I had a great experience at Whitaker Bank Ballpark watching a Lexington Legends game.  There is plenty of parking at the stadium, which is a benefit of its outside of downtown location.  The stadium has been well maintained and updated since its opening in 2001.

Most importantly the experience at the ballpark checked off all of the boxes I expect when visiting a Minor League ballpark.  The stadium had a pleasant setting and was well-maintained.  The food and beverage choices were unique and included locally-produced products.  The team offered unique promotions during the game.  The staff was friendly and helpful.  I wish the game had resumed so I could’ve enjoyed the atmosphere at the ballpark more, but it was an enjoyable experience and definitely a family and fan-friendly place.

Final: Columbia 1, Lexington 2 (Five innings)
Box Score

Disclosure: My admission to the Lexington Legends baseball game was provided by the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (VisitLEX).  I received a media rate for my two-night stay at the Lexington Hilton/Downtown.  Be assured that all words and opinions contained here are 100% my own.

My night with the Louisville Bats – June 11, 2018

There is something to be said for returning to places you have visited before.  If you haven’t been to that place in a number of years you may get to see how it has changed since your last visit.  Sometimes the more you visit a place the more you notice different characteristics.  That was the case this summer when I returned to Louisville, Ky., to attend a Louisville Bats baseball game.

I had previously attends a Bats game in 2005.  So some things had changed and some things had relatively remained the same since my last visit 13 years ago.  The Bats still play at Louisville Slugger Field just east of downtown Louisville.  However, the team’s color scheme changed dramatically ahead of the 2016 season.  The team switched from a purple and black color scheme to a red and blue color scheme, and overhauled their logos.  However, the exterior of the facility appears the same as it did when I visited several years ago.

A view of the ballpark at the intersection of Main and Preston streets with the former Brinly-Hardy Company warehouse being incorporated into the stadium.

Fans walking from downtown will see the former Brinly-Hardy warehouse first, but the “real” entrance to the ballpark is adorned by one of Louisville’s favorite sons: Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese.

The main entrance to Louisville Slugger Field with a statue of Louisville-native and National Baseball Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.

Although the statue of Pee Wee Reese serves as the welcome to fans attending a Bats baseball game, but it is really a facade before fans get to enter the seating bowl.  The stadium’s incorporation of the Brinly-Hardy warehouse allowed the stadium to enclose all the entrance ways on Main Street, and create a restaurant at the end of the building that is now occupied by Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse.  The space between the building and seating bowl also allows the team to decorate with pieces of the franchise’s history.

Fans walking into Louisville Slugger Field will find that they enter the stadium concourse and walk down to their seats unless they’re in the more posh luxury suites upstairs.  As my wife Katie and I arrived at the ballpark just a bit before the first pitch, we took a moment to hang out behind home plate so I could capture the official start of the game.

Louisville Bats starting pitcher Homer Bailey delivers a pitch to Columbus Clippers center fielder Todd Hanks.

With the seating bowl below the concourse there are numerous concession stands around the level, which wraps around the entire field.  As is my habit, I walked around the entire concourse to peruse the food and beverage options and get a feel for the stadium.

In addition to the concession stands and portable stands between the first and third base bags, Katie and I saw some food options down the left field line and on the outfield concourse.  However, it was just beyond the gate in left field that struck my attention during our stroll around the concourse.  So I investigated and found something I did not know existed at the stadium.

A statue of Louisville-native and famed football star Paul Hornung stands at the northwest gate to the stadium.

A statue of famed Green Bay Packer and Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Paul Hornung.  I was stunned to see this statue outside the stadium because it featured a football star outside a baseball field, but also because until seeing the statue and doing some research I had no clue that he grew up in Louisville.  In hindsight, it still seems a bit odd to see a statue of a famous football player outside a baseball stadium, but it is also cool to see the city commemorate its star athletes.

After capturing a photograph of the Paul Hornung statue I returned to the ballpark to snap shots of the view from the outfield concourse.  One of the first things I saw was an empty chair reserved in honor for POWs.

“One empty seat” as part of the POW-MIA Chair of Honor program sits in left field.

After capturing the Chair of Honor, I turned my attention back to the stadium and the downtown area.  The stadium’s location on the eastern edge of downtown provides a lot of great views of the downtown Louisville skyline.

As Katie and I continued walking around the concourse, we were dwarfed by the scoreboards.  In fact, the primary scoreboard in right field loomed over us so much that I had to capture of photo standing beneath it.

A closeup of the scoreboard in right field.

The concession stand beneath the scoreboard is aptly named because the scoreboard overlooks everything around it, including the kid play zone nearby.

A glimpse of the carousel and kids play area in right field.

After finishing our walk around the stadium, I started to contemplate my food and beverage choices for the night.  While walking around the stadium, I saw the usual ballpark food items (hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, pizza, etc.), but nothing screamed, “You must eat this food at a Louisville Bats baseball game!”  So while continuing to think about my food choices, I remembered that the Bats had partnered with Against the Grain to create a beer specifically to be served at the ballpark.  After asking a few people working at stands serving alcohol, Katie and I ended up behind home plate at the Diamond Drinks concession stand.

A view of the Diamond Drinks stand behind home plate.

In addition to offering a variety of beers, including some craft beers, Diamond Drinks is notable because the stand serves liquor and wine.  So if you’re not a beer drinker, you can still find a quality drink at the ballpark.  We each ordered our 16-oz. cans of Bats Win! and took our seats.

The beer is a golden ale that checks in with 4.9% ABV.  It is a light, crisp, and clean beer that is great for summer and baseball.  It is among the growing trend of collaborations between Minor League Baseball teams and local craft breweries, which I wrote about in a guest piece for MiLB.com’s Ben Hill (a.k.a. Ben’s Biz).  You can read the piece here if you want to learn more about the trend.

Soon after finishing our beers, Katie and I started discussing food options.  As I try to avoid the “usual suspects” at the ballpark, I remembered that a few years prior the Bats had entered a grilled pork chop sandwich in the annual MiLB Food Fight.  We also happened upon a sign advertising the delectable treat, and decided that was the right choice to fill our bellies.  We located it at the outfield grill in center field.

The sandwich did not come with the advertised lettuce, tomato, or onion, which would have really complimented the deliciously grilled pork.  However, the sandwich was filling and definitely a unique food item that I’ve not seen or read about being served at other ballparks.

With my stomach full and my thirst quenched, I turned my focus to capturing the sights of the ballparks.  I realized that during my walk I had photographed much of the park except for a closeup of the seating bowl and the scoreboards in the outfield.

As I took pictures of the scoreboards, I got to witness one of the between-innings contests put on by the Bats.  As is common practice at baseball games, teams have people race around the bases or sometimes around the warning track.  Often times these races incorporate a local connection to make it more unique.  In Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, the team has people dress as horses and race around the bases.  It was a nice twist to a classic ballgame contest.

Although my focus was not as much on the game at hand, I did get to enjoy watching Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey make a rehabilitation start with the Bats.  Additionally, I got to watch some of the top prospects for the Cleveland Indians like catcher Eric Haase and infielder Yu-Cheng Chang and some of the top prospects for the Cincinnati Reds like infielder Nick Senzel, who is the fourth-rated prospect in all of Minor League Baseball, and reliever Tanner Rainey.

Although ogling over star prospects and rehabilitating Major Leaguers draws some people out to the ballpark, my focus is always on the experience.  I come to the stadium to eat some great food, drink some good craft beer, and enjoy the atmosphere.  Without the doubt, I got to do all of those things at Louisville Slugger Field.  The stadium does not show its age, despite opening in 2000.  Most importantly, the Bats do a great job of keeping fans involved in the game with some local twists on the between-inning contests.

Final Score: Columbus 7, Louisville 4
Box Score

Disclosure: My admission to the Louisville Bats baseball game was provided by Louisville Tourism.  I received a media rate for my two-night stay at the Aloft Louisville Downtown.  Be assured that all words and opinions contained here are 100% my own.

Revealing my 2018 ballpark resolutions

Since 2014, I have posted travel resolutions for each new year.  They typically related to traveling to see new Minor League Baseball stadiums.  As I rung in the new year, I sat down and posted my resolutions.  So here are my resolutions for the upcoming year.

My first resolution for 2018…

Over the past six years, I have managed to see all of the MiLB teams in my current home state of Alabama.  However, I have not seen them all with my now wife Katie.  Since she moved to the Yellowhammer State just over a year ago, she has stated how much she wants to see all the teams in the state.  In fact, it was a resolution I made last year, hoping to see all three teams in 2017.  We’ve seen the Birmingham Barons on multiple occasions, as Regions Field is just about an hour away from our home.  However, she wants to attend the Barons’ annual game at Rickwood Field.

So our goal for this year is to visit all three teams over Memorial Day weekend. Tentatively we’ll start our trip with a game on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, and then work our way north through Montgomery, and conclude our trip with the Rickwood Classic in Birmingham.

My second resolution for 2018…

For the past few years, I’ve been made resolutions to see all three MiLB teams in Kentucky. Specifically, I made the resolution in 2016 and 2014, and resolved to see the Lexington Legends in 2015.  I’ve fallen short each time, and so far have only seen the Bowling Green Hot Rods.  I first saw them in 2014 by myself (read about it here) and next saw them in 2016 with Katie (read about it here), and enjoyed the game from the club level.

The plan this year is to see the Legends and Bats on the way back to Cincinnati, Ohio, after the A.P. Human Geography Reading, which is the first week of June.  The game schedules line up to allow us to visit both ballparks after spending a few days in Ohio, so I’m pretty optimistic that we will get to visit these two ballparks.

My third resolution for 2018…

Last year, I learned that there was a conference/convention for people who blog about beer. It was in the fall in 2017, so I was unable to attend because of my other commitments. However, I followed closely the announcement of the dates and venue for 2018, and decided that I would attend it this year.  So while I will be going to Loudoun County, Va., primarily to network and learn more about beer blogging, I’m going to arrive a few days in advance of the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference to visit a few MiLB teams in the area.  There are a LOT of teams within a two-hour drive or so from the conference hotel.  So I am not 100% sure what teams I will see just yet, but I felt like I should visit the Potomac Nationals because of the continuous rumors about the team moving into a yet-to-be-built stadium or potentially relocating.

My fourth resolution for 2018…

Last summer, I started a new “collection” with my wife Katie.  In an effort to keep us traveling and visiting new cities, I purchased the MLB BallPark Pass-Port.  There are a variety of books you can purchase, but I opted for the “big book” that contains a set of pages for each of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.  A friend I met through participating in the A.P. Human Geography Reading has been using the passport for years to track his family’s quest to visit all 30 parks, and finally last summer I decided to join the craze.  It functions like a standard international passport that is stamped each time you enter a new country.  The idea is to “stamp in” at each stadium and journal about your visit as a way to preserve your memories of visiting a new place.  There is also a book that focuses on Minor League Baseball ballparks, which I purchased for Katie and I to chronicle our visits to MiLB stadiums since getting married.  So we now have something new to do when we visit stadiums together.

My resolution about visiting a new MLB park this year is that Katie and I have planned our summer around a variety of events, and have tried to find a time to visit a new ballpark.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to figure out a time to visit a new stadium.  So I am hoping that making this resolution will set us on a path of making the time to visit a new park together in 2018.  As much as I’d like to plan a long trip around visiting a new ballpark, I will be content to visit over a weekend for the sole purpose of getting another stamp in our “big book.”

RECAP
Do you make travel resolutions for the new year?  Are they about visiting countries, states, sports venues, or something else?  I’d love to hear what others resolve to do related to travel each year.  Share in the comments, and let’s keep each other on point to fulfill our travel resolutions for 2018.

Reviewing my 2016 ballpark resolutions

Like many people, I make New Years’ resolutions.  Unlike most people mine aren’t about losing weight, spending more time with family, getting organized, or any of the other most common resolutions that people end up breaking a few weeks into the new year.  Instead, my resolutions are about travel related to baseball teams.  Specifically, I tweet my resolutions about the baseball teams/stadiums I hope to visit during the upcoming year.

So as 2016 is nearly coming to a close, I’ve taken some time to sit down and look at my success of accomplishing my New Years’ resolutions.  Since 2014, I’ve written four resolutions on January 1st of each year.  So without further ado, I’ll review how I did accomplishing my resolutions for 2016.

Attending a Thirsty Thursday game hosted by the Asheville Tourists was easily accomplished as part of my trip to the Carolinas following my engagement.  It was the second stop of our trip through the Carolinas, and we did indeed took advantage of the beer specials that night (read about it here).

It’s tough for me to assess this resolution because I did not get to see all four South Carolina Minor League teams play at home, but I did make it to all four towns and had the intent of attending a game at all of the stadiums.  However, the Greenville Drive‘s home game was rained out on the night I was in town as part of my #SCMiLBTour.  So I ended up seeing the other three Minor League teams in the Palmetto State.  You can read about my experiences in Myrtle Beach (here), Charleston (here), and Columbia (here).

Since 2014, I’ve tried to see all three Kentucky Minor League teams in action, and have failed to accomplish that resolution.  Sadly, this past year was no different.  In early August, Katie and I attended a Bowling Green Hot Rods game (read it here), but we were unable to incorporate visits to Lexington or Louisville into our trip.

I hoped to make it to multiple Braves games at Turner Field during the 2016 season, but had to settle for just one ballgame before the club moved out.  However, in late May on the way back from the Carolinas, Katie and I watched the Milwaukee Brewers take on the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field.

As I’ve previously mentioned, trying to assess whether I accomplished all four of my resolutions is a bit difficult.  However, if I apply a black-or-white filter things become much clearer.  In a black-and-white world, I accomplished two of my four resolutions by attending a Braves game at Turner Field during their final season there and by attending an Asheville Tourists game on a Thirsty Thursday.  So overall I finished the year 2-for-4 (0.500 average).

If I break down the individual components of the resolutions my average climbs to 0.667 or 6-for-9.  As usual, my eyes are often bigger than my schedule when it comes to attending baseball games.  But now it’s time to consider my resolutions for 2017…

My night with the Bowling Green Hot Rods – Aug. 6, 2016

Coming into the baseball season I thought I was going to have the opportunity to visit all three Minor League Baseball teams in Kentucky.  Unfortunately, scheduling prevented me from making the trip.  However, in early August things started to come together that would allow fiancée Katie and I to make the trip to see the Bowling Green Hot Rods over her birthday weekend.

I started by reaching out to Alex Cohen, the team’s broadcasting and media relations manager, about securing a pair of tickets to the Club Level.  I also got assistance from Telia Butler with the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, who helped me find a great hotel in town.  I ended up staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, where Katie and I were upgraded to a king suite.  The hotel is only a year old and featured newer design elements, and has all the amenities people expect from the Fairfield Inn brand: a great breakfast, indoor swimming pool, and gym.  The next time I stay overnight in Bowling Green, I will definitely stay at this hotel.

After a trip to the Historic Railpark & Train Museum (photos can be seen on my Instagram account), Katie and I ended up exploring some of the local beer and liquor stores in town.  We ultimately ate dinner at El Mazatlan, which was good, but nothing spectacular.

The following day Katie and I went to Mammoth Cave National Park, ate lunch at a Bosnian café/grocery store, and had some beers at White Squirrel Brewery.  Then finally we got to the primary reason we made the trip from Nashville to Bowling Green: to watch the Hot Rods play ball.

Approaching the main entrance of Bowling Green Ballpark.

I previously attended a game a Hot Rods game in 2014, and blogged about that experience (read it here).  So this time I wanted to do something different, and thanks to a pair of tickets to the Club Level at Bowling Green Ballpark Katie and I got to do just that.

Main gate of the ballpark.

There’s a lot to explore at any ballpark, but my focus on this visit was on new additions to the stadium and specifically the Club Level.  The first difference between my visits that I noticed was the starting lineups and Midwest League standings alternating on a flatscreen TV.

Starting lineups for the West Michigan Whitecaps and Bowling Green Hot Rods.

 

Midwest League standings entering play on Saturday, Aug. 6.

After taking the elevator up to the Club Level, Katie and I got to enter the Stadium Club.

Entrance to the Club Level.

Upon entering the club there is a collection of home plates along the wall, which isn’t unusual considering it’s a baseball stadium.

Home plates in the Stadium Club.

However, upon further inspection it becomes apparent that the home plates are autographed.  Most of the home plates are not autographed by former players, but my notable guests or music performers who have been to the stadium.  My favorite home plate was the one autographed by former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods, who was best known for his touchdown celebration: The Ickey Shuffle (see video here).

Home plate autographed by former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods.

Past the home plates on the wall is the bar that serves the Stadium Club.  It looks like this…

Main bar at the Stadium Club.

As the photo illustrates, there is a full bar with a few beers on draft.  As the craft beer scene has grown in Kentucky, I hoped you find a few on draft, but that was not the case.  Instead the beers I found on tap were Michelob Ultra, Blue Moon, Bud Light, and other domestic macro beers.

While we mulled our beverage options, Katie and I went out to our seats and saw something you don’t see at many Minor League stadiums: both teams in uniform in the stands.  As MiLB.com’s Ben Hill previously detailed (read his story here), Bowling Green sits on limestone, which makes the area susceptible to sinkholes.  So when it rains the dugouts are prone to flooding, which was the case before tonight’s game.

Bowling Green Hot Rods hanging out in the stands while water drains out of their dugout.

While the Hot Rods hung out in the stands, the umpires had declared that the game must go on.  So while sitting high above home plate I was able to capture my usual first pitch photograph.

Bowling Green Hot Rods starting pitcher Jose Mujica delivering the first pitch to West Michigan Whitecaps center fielder Derek Hill.

We watched a bit of the action I captured some views of the seating in the upper level, too.

View down the first base line.

 

View down the third base line.

After awhile of watching the game, Katie and I decided we should order something to eat.  While we could have ordered anything from the main concourse and brought it back to our seats in the Club Level, we decided it was best to stick with the options available on that level.

There are two menus in the Stadium Club.  The Club Grill Menu is what I would call the usual ballpark items with chicken tenders, a jumbo hot dog, the wings basket, and other items you’d expect to find at a baseball stadium.  The Past Specials Menu is what it sounds like it would be.  It is a menu featuring a variety of specials that have been available at the club such as a Meatball Sub, a Taco Bowl, and a BLT Chicken Wrap among other items.

As Katie and I wanted to eat something unique we wouldn’t traditionally find at a baseball stadium, we ordered from the Past Specials Menu.  We decided to split the bacon mac-n-cheese bites and the BBQ shrimp burger.

The BBQ shrimp burger (left) and bacon mac-n-cheese bites (right).

Both items were undoubtedly unique, as I’ve never seen a BBQ shrimp burger at any baseball stadium.  The bacon mac-n-cheese bites are a food item that has gained notoriety recently as people experiment with ways to macaroni and cheese, but there was a unique twist with diced jalapenos mixed in with the mac-n-cheese.  Katie and I agree that we’d get both items again.

After letting our meal settle, we decided we needed something to “close our stomaches.”  We didn’t need to explore or debate any choices, as the Hot Rods had been promoting their funnel cake fries during the MiLB Food Fight.

After finishing up the funnel cake fries, we decided to watch the remainder of the game from the field level.  As we walked around the stadium, I felt obliged to take a photo of the grandstand from the outfield to provide an overall view of the ballpark.

A view of the grandstand from right field.

The amenities at Bowling Green Ballpark haven’t changed since my first visit in 2014, which is good because it is a park that has everything a fan needs.  I wouldn’t normally splurge on club level tickets, but can say from my first experience (thanks to Alex Cohen) that the additional expense is well worth it.  The food that is exclusively available at the Stadium Club was excellent, and the views were great.  Additionally, the staff at the stadium really is #FanDriven.

Final Score: West Michigan 3, Bowling Green 7
Box Score

Revealing my 2016 ballpark resolutions

Over the past two years I’ve made some baseball-related travel resolutions for the new year (Read 2015 resolutions here).  I’ve continued that trend into 2016, so before the semester gets away from me I wanted to sit down and recap my goals for the upcoming baseball season.

Getting right to the point, my first Minor League Baseball travel resolution is to…

I’ve previously made resolutions to see specific teams, but I have not made a resolution to attend on a specific day of the week or to attend a specific promotion. I have avoided these resolutions for two reasons:

#1, most teams do not release their complete promotional schedules until February or March at the earliest;

#2, my goal is usually to visit multiple teams on a trip, which means that in order to visit multiple teams on a trip that I may visit a specific club on a Tuesday because another team is on the road and I have to visit them on a Wednesday.

However, I have already been planning a trip through North Carolina and South Carolina, so I know that my schedule permits me to attend a game in Asheville on a Thursday. So my resolution is more about sticking to my plan than making a special effort to attend a game on a Thursday night. While many MiLB teams have a Thirsty Thursday promotion, it is unique in Asheville because the promotion originated with the Tourists. You can read about the origins of the promotion from MiLB.com writer Ben Hill here.

My second MiLB travel resolution is to…

I have previously aimed to see all the Minor League teams in a state before, and so far I’ve had mixed success in achieving the goal.  In 2014, I made separate resolutions to see all the teams in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky.  While I saw teams in each of those states, I did not come anywhere near reaching my goal.  However, last year I made only one resolution to see all the MiLB teams in a state.  I was able to meet that goal when I visited all four teams in Georgia.

My girlfriend, who thankfully enjoys baseball and many of my other interests, has not yet visited South Carolina, so she and I have been discussing taking a trip to the Palmetto State after the spring semester.  So it seemed natural to me that we try to visit all of the teams in South Carolina because each of the cities represents a different region of the state, and allows us to see the variety that the state offers visitors.

The added bonus is that I have never seen any Minor League games in South Carolina, so I would visit four new ballparks and add another state to my tally.

My third MiLB travel resolution is to…

For the second time in three years, I have set the goal to see all three Kentucky MiLB teams.  In 2014, I saw the Bowling Green Hot Rods (read it here), but did not see the Bluegrass State’s other two teams in action.  My motivation for seeing all three Kentucky teams in based primarily around proximity.  My girlfriend lives in Nashville, and wants to see Mammoth Cave National Park, which is approximately 90 minutes away.  As I have never seen the Lexington Legends in action nor have I written about visiting the Louisville Bats, I’m aiming to make a short trip to the Commonwealth to explore baseball, bourbon, and beer.

The past two years I have made four MiLB-related resolutions, one often ties into my travel to the AAG Annual Meeting.  In 2016, the conference takes place the last week of March, which is before the start of the Minor League season.  So for the first time ever, I limited my MiLB resolutions to three, and made my first MLB-related resolution.

My first MLB travel resolution is to…

I’ve written previously about growing up an Atlanta Braves fan, and the club plays its final season at Turner Field before moving to a new stadium in the suburbs for the 2017 season.  So while Turner Field is not a particularly historic venue, it holds special significance to me as a fan and as someone who worked at the stadium for many years.  So I would like to see at least one more game at the stadium before it is replaced.

With my resolutions set, now the planning and working to ensure they happen really starts.  While I upheld three of my four resolutions from 2015, we will see what 2016 holds and how many of my baseball-related travel resolutions I can uphold.

Reviewing my 2015 ballpark resolutions

Since 2014, I have posted baseball-related travel resolutions.  If you want to see how I did meeting my 2014 resolutions, read about it here.

Starting off January 1, I made four resolutions relating to visiting Minor League Baseball stadiums.

I started the year off on a good note, as I did in fact attend a Kane County Cougars game, and I got to meet Craig Wieczorkiewicz.  Craig operates The Midwest League Traveler, which covers appropriately enough, the Midwest League.  The first day I was in Chicago I got a rental car and drove from downtown Chicago to the West Suburbs (specifically Geneva).  It was a chilly evening, but I got to hang out with Craig, drink a Raging Cougar Ale, and talk about baseball.  You can read about my visit here.

In hindsight I’m not sure how you quantify the success/failure of this resolution.  I made it to First Tennessee Park for a Nashville Sounds game at their new ballpark.  That is obviously a success.  However, I did not get another photo with Ozzie because he was replaced by Booster the Hot Chicken.  Considering that I did get a photo with the mascot, I’m counting this as a win.  You can read about my visit here.

Somewhere along the way we all fall short of fulfilling our resolutions, and I can report that I did not attend a Lexington Legends game with my friend Dr. Michael Bradley.  I wasn’t swamped with writing my dissertation, but due to car repairs I did not drive to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the AP Human Geography Reading and therefore failed to drive through Kentucky on my way back south.  I’m optimistic that I will be able to attend a game in 2016.

Last year I hoped to visit all four of Georgia’s Minor League Baseball teams, but only visited one of them.  I visited the Gwinnett Braves with my Oklahoma State Grad School classmate Bill McBrayer for Back to the Future Night.  I did not blog about my visit because I had visited the G-Braves in 2014 (read about that visit here).  On the same road trip I did visit the Augusta GreenJackets and Savannah Sand Gnats, who were in their final season.  You can read about my visit to Augusta here and my visit to Savannah here.  I made a daytrip to watch the Rome Braves play about a week after my trip to Augusta and Savannah.  You can read about my Rome visit here.  So I can definitely mark my Georgia-related resolution as a success.

Of my four resolutions, I completed three.  From an individual component perspective I completed six of seven resolutions for a 0.857 average in baseball terms.  From an overall vantage I went 3-for-4 for a 0.750 average.  Either way you look at my baseball resolutions for 2015 I consider myself a winner.  I’d like to go 4-for-4 with my resolutions one year, but I will definitely take a 3-for-4 day at the plate.

Now to consider my baseball travel resolutions for 2016…

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Hodgenville, Ky.

In the fall of 1808, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved to a farm in LaRue County in Western Kentucky.  On Feb. 12, 1809, at the Sinking Spring Farm Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin.  The original cabin was likely dismantled prior to 1865 and used in the construction of a nearby house, which was later dismantled and used to re-create the Lincoln cabin.  The Lincoln Farm Association believed it purchased the original logs from the cabin and attempted to reconstruct the building, but soon learned they did not have the authentic logs.  Eventually, the organization built a replica cabin on the site that resides inside the Memorial Building constructed near the spring.

The Lincoln Farm Association completed the construction of the Memorial Building in 1911, and donated the site to the U.S. government in 1916.  The U.S. Department of War oversaw the site and created Abraham Lincoln National Park, which it administered until 1933 when it was transferred to the National Park Service.  In 1998, the site became responsible for the Knob Creek Farm, where Lincoln lived from two to seven years old.  In 2009, the site took on its current moniker as Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

The Lincoln cabin no longer stands, but a Memorial Building contains a replica cabin.
There are 56 steps to the Memorial Building, which represent the 56 years of Lincoln’s life, and 16 rosettes, which symbolize Lincoln being the 16th president.
The replica cabin inside the Memorial Building is smaller than the original cabin where Lincoln was born.

Revealing my 2015 ballpark resolutions

Last year I made resolutions to visit some Minor League Baseball stadiums and wrote about those resolutions on this blog (read the post here) and recapped my success-failure, too (read post here).  So I decided that I would make some resolutions for 2015, and detail them here, too.

Without further ado, my 2015 MiLB travel resolutions are…

Annually since 2010, I attend the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers.  The 2015 conference is in Chicago, and I plan to attend a White Sox game while in town.  Finding an MiLB game nearby is a bit more difficult, but the Kane County Cougars are only about an hour drive from downtown Chicago.  So I’m planning to rent a car and make the drive out there, and hopefully meet a blogger I’ve been following during the past year.

Over the past year I’ve started to read more blogs about Minor League Baseball, and now follow Craig Wieczorkiewicz.  Craig writes The Midwest League Traveler blog, and tweets extensively about former and current players with connections to the league.  I have only interacted with him via Twitter, but look forward to watching a game with him and discussing our mutual interests of attending Minor League Baseball games.

In 2014, I attended a Nashville Sounds game at Greer Stadium during its final season (read the post here).  After years of negotiations and many failed efforts, the Sounds will finally move into a new stadium this season.  I’ve never specifically trekked to a stadium during its opening season, but Nashville is one of my favorite cities so I am looking forward to planning an excursion.

Since 2010, I have traveled to Cincinnati to participate in the AP Human Geography Reading, and twice I’ve been lucky enough to get together with my friend Mike Bradley, who is a leisure studies professor at Eastern Kentucky University.  He’s invited me to spend a few days in Lexington, where he lives, so I’m aiming to spend a few days in the Bluegrass region after completing my work before I return to Alabama.  I attended the University of Kentucky for two years in the mid-90s, and rumors circled about Lexington getting a Minor League team but it did not come to fruition until the 2000s.  So I’ve never seen a Lexington Legends game.

Last year I resolved to see all four Georgia teams, and succeeded in only seeing one of them – the Gwinnett Braves.  I’m optimistic that I can accomplish this resolution because I will not be held down working on a dissertation this coming summer.  I’ll probably work on some kind of research this summer, but I’ll feel more free to travel without the weight of a dissertation hanging over my head.

Zachary Taylor Burial Place in Louisville, Ky.

Following the consumption of raw fruit and iced milk during Fourth of July festivities in Washington, D.C., Zachary Taylor became extremely ill.  He died five days later.  Historians still debate what caused his death.

Following a brief interment at the Public Vault in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Taylor’s remains were interred alongside his parents in their family cemetery in Louisville, Ky.  In 1883, the Commonwealth of Kentucky erected a 50-foot monument capped with a life-size likewise of Taylor near his grave.  After his descendants advocated for turning the family plot into a national cemetery, the U.S. government built a new mausoleum for Taylor and his immediate family members in 1926.

The original Taylor family tomb still stands in the cemetery.
In 1883, the Kentucky government erected a granite column to honor Taylor.
In 1926, the U.S. government built a limestone neoclassical mausoleum for Taylor’s remains.
The mausoleum contains the remains of Zachary and Margaret Taylor.