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.

Alabama Memorial Day weekend road trip preview

As the summer travel season is almost upon us, my wife Katie and I will be making our first extended trip of the year over the Memorial Day weekend.  The inspiration for our upcoming trip is baseball and craft beer, as we are setting out to see every Minor League Baseball team that plays in Alabama while also visiting more of the state’s craft breweries.

Our schedule is built around attending MiLB games, but we will assuredly be visiting craft breweries and seeing other local sights.  Here is our schedule…

Saturday, May 26:Biloxi Shuckers at Mobile BayBears, 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, May 29:Jackson Generals at Montgomery Biscuits, 6:35 p.m.

Wednesday, May 30:Chattanooga Lookouts at Birmingham Barons, 12:30 p.m. (Rickwood Classic)

In addition to seeing games at every Minor League ballpark in the state, Katie will get to attend the Rickwood Classic.  We regularly attend Barons games at Regions Field in the Southside District, but she has never been to the annual game at Rickwood Field.  So this year, we are making it happen.

In addition to the baseball games, we plan on visiting the following breweries…

Fairhope Brewing Co. in Fairhope

Serda Brewing in Mobile

Big Beach Brewing Co. in Gulf Shores

For good measure, we’ll also be exploring some Civil Rights sights in Montgomery and Selma, too.

To see everything together, you can check out the Google Map I created that combines two of my favorite interests and some of the other sights we plan to visit during our trip.

You can follow along with our trip on the usual social media accounts.  I’ll be posting regularly on Twitter (@StevenOnTheMove) and Instagram (@StevenOnTheMove).  If you enjoy craft beer, you can follow my check-ins on Untappd (StevenOnTheMove) by sending me a friend request.

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.

My day with the Birmingham Barons – May 27, 2015

In 1996, a tradition was born that returned baseball to downtown Birmingham, Ala.  The Friends of Rickwood and Birmingham Barons staged the first Rickwood Classic, which brought the team from its suburban home at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (read about my visit here) to downtown for a single game.  Since 2013, the Barons have played in downtown at Regions Field (read about my visit here), but have continued to play the Rickwood Classic.

This year marks the 20th Rickwood Classic, but my first time attending the game.  Each classic commemorates a different era of Barons history with this year’s event commemorating the 1948 Barons, who won the Southern Association title and their fourth Dixie Series crown.

Main entrance to Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field opened in 1910 after Barons owner Rick Woodward built a concrete and steel structure to mimic the grandeur of Philadelphia’s Shibe Park, and incorporated elements of Pittsburgh Forbes Field.  The stadium was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1991, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

A historic marker outside the ballpark details the history of Rickwood Field.

After getting some photos of the exterior I entered the gate with my friend to see this scene…

Fan entering the ballpark through turnstiles.

Once fans are through the turnstiles they quickly encounter the starting lineups, which you can see a glimpse of in the preceding picture.  The complete lineups are below.

Starting lineups for the Jacksonville Suns and Birmingham Barons for the 20th Rickwood Classic on May 27, 2015.

In addition to hosting the Rickwood Classic, the Friends of Rickwood maintain the field as a “living museum” that is open during the weekdays for fans to explore.  To aid fans on their self-guided tour on weekdays there are pamphlets at the ballpark.

A sign along the first base side with information on self-guided tours of Rickwood Field.

So after grabbing a brochure with about 45 minutes before the game was to start, I explored the ballpark and took some photos.

One of the best features of the Rickwood Classic is seeing the Barons, and usually the visiting team, dress in period uniforms matching that year’s theme.  For the 20th Rickwood Classic, the Barons wore replica uniforms from 1948, which was also the theme of the 1st Rickwood Classic in 1996.

Birmingham Barons players finish warm-ups in their 1948 replica uniforms.

After exploring for a bit, my friend and I took our seats and I got in position to get a shot of the first pitch.

Birmingham Barons right-handed pitcher Myles Jaye prepares to deliver the first pitch to Jacksonville Suns center fielder Kenny Wilson.

In addition to the period uniforms the outfield walls are adorned with retro advertisements, which adds a unique touch to the setting.

The right field wall with retro advertisements and a section honoring the history of the Barons and Black Barons at Rickwood Field.

After watching the first inning from behind home plate, my friend and I moved to a spot down the first base line.  It was a great spot that provided some great angles for pictures of the pitchers and batters.

I explored down the third base line and got some pictures of the grandstand and the outfield walls, too.

Finally my friend and I decided to get something to eat, just as the 7th inning began.  One plus and minus of the Rickwood Classic is the limited concession items.  It’s nice that you have much simpler options that many newer ballparks, even the Barons’ regular home – Regions Field.  However, it means some people’s taste buds don’t get to explore quite as much.  Down the first base line there was a large grill featuring hot dogs, Polish sausage, and Italian sausage.  So my friend and I opted to head there when our hunger finally forced us to eat.

Polish sausage with grilled peppers and grilled onions topped with yellow mustard.

Despite thoroughly enjoy the stadium, the atmosphere, and the experience the Barons were not able to deliver with a win.  The Suns prevailed 8-2 as first baseman David Adams went 5-for-5 with three runs scored while second baseman Danny Black went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Manually-operated vintage scoreboard with the final score.

After the game fans are allowed onto the field, which is not something that usually happens at any baseball stadium.  Yes, many Minor League teams allows kids to run the bases, but that is usually controlled and often limited to one day a week.  At the Rickwood Classic, all fans are invited down to the field.

A father and son play catch on the field after the game.

As my friend and I were leaving the stadium we saw the home team locker room was open, and were invited in to check it out.  The team had already left, which allowed us to explore the entire space and see the manager’s office recreated from 1948.

Fred Walters’s office as it would have looked in 1948.

Without a doubt, the Rickwood Classic and Rickwood Field itself definitely deserve all the praise they receive.  It’s a well-preserved historic field, and the game recreates that nostalgic experience.  Attending the Rickwood Classic has been on my baseball bucket list for a few years, and I’m extremely thankful that I was able to experience it.  Whether you live near Birmingham or not, it’s definitely worth the trek to the West End neighborhood to explore the ballpark.

Final: Jacksonville 8, Birmingham 2
Box Score