Reviewing my 2018 ballpark resolutions

Over the past four years I’ve made ballpark travel resolutions based primarily upon seeing Minor League Baseball games, and each year I recap the goals and assess how successful I was in accomplishing my goals.  So without further ado, here is how I did with my 2018 ballpark travel resolutions.

Resolution #1:

I had previously seen all of Alabama’s Minor League teams play at home, but never during the same season.  More importantly, setting the goal of seeing all three Alabama teams at home in one season was about my wife getting the opportunity to see each of the teams at home.  In turn, this goal was about us as a couple seeing each team play at their home ballpark.

We accomplished this goal pretty easily, as we built our Memorial Day weekend plans around this travel resolution (read about the trip here).  We made a trip down to Mobile and visited some nearby craft breweries before attending a Montgomery Biscuits game, and finished the trip with my wife’s first time at the Rickwood Classic.

Resolution #2:

It wasn’t the easiest resolution to keep, but I did get to see the Lexington Legends and Louisville Bats at home with my wife this past year.  For the past seven years I’ve participated in the AP Human Geography Reading in Cincinnati, Ohio, in early June.  As my wife had never been to Ohio, we made plans for her to fly into Cincinnati at the end of my work week, and for us to drive back through Kentucky on our way home to Alabama.

So I created an itinerary that would allow us to spend a few days in Louisville and Lexington en route to Alabama.  After a great weekend in Cincinnati, we caught a Bats games in Louisville (read about it here) and a Legends games in Lexington (read about it here) before our trek back to Tuscaloosa.

Resolution #3:

When I make my travel resolutions, I try to be fairly realistic about what I can and cannot accomplish.  I don’t always go for easily attainable goals, but I don’t go for the nearly-impossible-to-attain goals either.  When I set the goal of attending a Potomac Nationals game during the Beer Bloggers Conference, I felt like it was something I could make happen.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I moved to Japan shortly before the conference and was unable to attend.  Naturally this meant that I did not get to attend a Potomac Nationals games this past season.

So I whiffed on this resolution.

Resolution #4:

I’ve been to several Major League and Minor League ballparks before getting married last year.  So when my wife & I got married, I wanted to start something new with her as I (and ultimately we) continued to visit more ballparks.  So after being introduced to the MLB BallPark Pass-Port a few years ago, we decided to purchase the large, leather-bound book to chronicle our journey to attend games at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.

As we made plans for her to meet me in Cincinnati in early June, it was easy to get a stamp in our “big book.”  I hoped to visit at least one other MLB ballpark in 2018, but our July trip to Central Europe and move to Japan prevented us from traveling more in the U.S.  So I count this as a resolution being kept.  However, I would have preferred adding at least one more MLB park this past season.

Recapping the Resolutions
  1. See all three Minor League Baseball teams (Birmingham Barons, Mobile BayBears, and Montgomery Biscuits) in Alabama with my wife.
    Resolution kept.
  2. Attend a Lexington Legends and Louisville Bats game with my wife.  Resolution kept.
  3. Attend a Potomac Nationals game during the Beer Bloggers Conference.  Resolution not kept.
  4. Visit a new MLB ballpark with my wife and get a stamp in our passport book.  Resolution kept.

I upheld three of my four ballpark resolutions for this past year.  In hindsight, I don’t feel like my resolutions were particularly difficult to keep.  However, I am please that I accomplished most of my baseball travel goals this year.  Now to contemplate my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019.

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…

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.

Revealing my 2014 ballpark resolutions

Last year I hoped to visit a handful of Minor League Baseball stadiums, and hit the mark on a few but missed on some others.  This year I set some rather ambitious goals, but I’ve always aimed high when it comes to traveling.  To make sure I’m accountable, I want to disclose my stadium visit goals for 2014.

I’ve posted a handful of tweets breaking down my goals, and will share them here.

The first goal is close to my heart as someone who grew up in Georgia.

My first Minor League game was between the Greensboro Hornets and Macon Braves at Luther Williams Field in Macon, Ga., with my dad on Aug. 2, 1992, so it is only fitting that I attend a game at each active Minor League stadium in Georgia for my blog.  I have been to a Gwinnett Braves game at Coolray Field, but it was prior to me blogging about my gameday experiences.  I have not seen the three teams that play in the South Atlantic League – Augusta GreenJackets, Rome Braves, or Savannah Sand Gnats.

I currently teach at The University of Alabama, so my second goal is to watch a game at the four Minor League stadiums in the Yellowhammer State.

I have been to three Minor League Baseball stadiums in Alabama, but two of my visits occurred before I started blogging about my experiences and one ballpark no longer houses a team.  My first minor league game in Alabama was between the Greenville Braves and Birmingham Barons at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (later named Regions Park) in Hoover, Ala., with my dad on Aug. 1, 1993.  Not surprisingly, I did not take photos from that trip, but I visited the stadium during its final season in 2012, and documented the experience for my blog.

To complete the requirements for my master’s degree in sports administration at Georgia State University, I interned with the Huntsville Stars during the 2003 season.  I attended a Southern League playoff game as a fan, but that was long before I considered blogging about my baseball stadium visits.  With rumors swirling about the Stars being sold and moving to Biloxi, Miss., I feel that it’s critical to capture the gameday experience.

While I saw the Montgomery Biscuits play at Riverwalk Stadium in 2012, I have not been to Alabama’s Gulf Coast to see the Mobile BayBears.

My other resolutions relate to trips I typically make each year.

Since 2010, I have attended the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting.  The conference is in a different city each year, which aides my quest of visiting new ballparks.  Three of the four years I have gotten to visit a new ballpark; 2012 was the lone exception because the conference was in New York in February.  So I am hoping to visit some ballparks around Tampa, Fla.,

Last summer during MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania promotion, I became enamored with the Clearwater Threshers mascot: Phinley.  So I’d like to visit that ballpark and get my photograph taken with him.  I hope to visit a few other ballparks in the region, but have not committed to visit any beyond the Threshers’ Bright House Field.

For the past three summers, I have spent a week in Cincinnati, Ohio, working as an AP Human Geography reader, and on each trip I try to visit at least one new stadium.  This year I want to visit each of the minor league teams in Kentucky.

I have previously seen the Louisville Bats with my mom in 2005, which was well before I started writing about my ballpark travels.  I have never seen the Bowling Green Hot Rods or Lexington Legends play a game.  When I was an undergrad at the University of Kentucky in the mid-90s there was a lot of discussions about bringing a Minor League team to the city, but the Legends didn’t come to the Bluegrass until after I had left UK.

At the end of the summer, I’ll recap and see how successful I was in keeping my New Year’s resolutions.