Are you a baseball fan and still trying to decide what trips to take in 2019? With the help of some esteemed writers I have compiled a list of baseball destinations to visit in 2019. The roundup includes teams with wacky names, an exhibit at a highly-rated zoo, and an international locale that may bust your budget.
Read through to see Steven On The Move’s top baseball destinations in 2019. What other places would you add? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Colorado Springs, Colorado (Debut of Rocky Mountain Vibes)
Minor League baseball team names and logos have grown increasingly wacky over the last 20 years. The trend has recently infiltrated Colorado. This off-season, the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox moved to San Antonio to become the San Antonio Missions (while the Double-A team of the same name moved to Amarillo). The Sky Sox heritage dates to 1950, but will not live on with the new team. In place of the Sky Sox, Colorado Springs welcomes the Rookie-level Rocky Mountain Vibes.
The Vibes exemplify the trend towards the outrageous in Minor League brands. Noted design firm Brandiose created the team’s logo, an anthropomorphized flaming s’more. Brandiose also created the El Paso Chihuahuas, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, to name a few.
The Vibes, who were previously the Helena Brewers, will play at Security Service Field at an altitude of more than 6,500 feet. The stadium is 1,000 feet higher than the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field, which makes it the highest-elevation professional ballpark in the country.
The Vibes debut against the only other Minor League team in Colorado, the Grand Junction Rockies. The brand-new intrastate rivals open Pioneer League play on Friday, June 21. The regular season runs until early September.
Richmond, Virginia (Eastern League All-Star Game; July 10)
The Richmond Flying Squirrels, who celebrate their 10th season this year, will host the Eastern League All-Star festivities this season. The multi-day event includes a country music concert at Richmond Raceway, a celebrity home run contest, and an on-field cocktail party during the actual game. It is the first time since 1992 that Richmond has hosted a Minor League all-star game. In 1992, the Richmond Braves hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game between American League and National League prospects.
The game will take place at The Diamond, which opened in 1985 and has been the subject of much speculation since the Flying Squirrels arrived. Instead of relocating to an often-rumored downtown stadium, the team has invested millions of dollars in renovations.
Chicago, Illinois (Two-Day Baseball Marathon; August 22-23)
It’s not often that Chicago hosts both of its Major League clubs on the same day. However, when the stars align and there are three professional games in a two-day span, what fan would pass up the opportunity for a baseball marathon in one of America’s great cities? In one magical 36-hour period, you can see the Chicago Dogs, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox without missing a pitch.
The adventure starts on August 22 at Impact Field, when the Chicago Dogs take on the Winnipeg Goldeyes at 6:05 p.m. The stadium is immediately adjacent to O’Hare International Airport, which makes it easily accessible for out-of-town visitors. The Dogs are an unaffiliated team that plays in the American Association of Professional Baseball. The Dogs play in a very nice stadium with all the amenities you expect of a Minor League ballpark.
The next morning fans can head 13 miles east to Wrigleyville, where the Cubs play an afternoon game against the Washington Nationals. It is highly recommended to sit in the bleachers; there is no baseball experience like it. Assuming the 1:20 p.m. game does not last much more than three hours, you’ll have plenty of time to travel 10 miles south to see the White Sox take on the Texas Rangers at 7:10 p.m. Both ballparks are located on the CTA’s Red Line, which makes it easy to travel between the stadiums.
Paul Caputo is a grown man who serves ice cream in plastic helmet sundae cups to dinner guests. He is the author of “The Story Behind the Nickname: The Origins of 100 Classic, Contemporary, and Wacky Minor League Baseball Team Names” and maintains Countdown to Spring Training. He is on Twitter at @count2baseball.
Denver, Colorado (National Ballpark Museum)
While the National Ballpark Museum is a relatively small space, it is full of an unbelievable amount of goodies. Visitors must make several loops around the exhibits to see everything. The museum has items from what appears to be every ballpark ever used by a Major League club, but it focuses on the “Thirteen Classics.”
The “Thirteen Classics” are the ballparks built between 1909 and 1915 plus “old” Yankee Stadium. The collection includes items such as bricks, pitching rubbers, signage, and stadium seats from these old ballparks. If you’ve wondered what the ushers wore at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, you’re in luck because the museum has a complete usher’s uniform on display.
Devoted ballpark chasers get to see artifacts from stadiums they probably unable to visit like Shibe Park, the Polo Grounds, and Tiger Stadium. However, the most-fulfilling opportunity is for fans to enjoy items from stadiums they have visited. The museum also has a collection of inaugural pennants from every MLB stadium that has opened since 1991, beginning with “new” Comiskey Park.
Summerlin, Nevada (Debut of Las Vegas Ballpark; home of the Las Vegas Aviators)
Las Vegas’s Cashman Field has been universally accepted as the worst ballpark in Triple-A since Nashville’s Herschel Greer Stadium was shuttered in 2014. This summer, it is gleefully being replaced. Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin will host its first game on April 9, when the Las Vegas Aviators play the Sacramento River Cats.
Let’s clear the name thing up first. The ballpark sits outside of Las Vegas in the affluent suburb of Summerlin, but is named “Las Vegas Ballpark.” Despite the ballpark’s location, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is paying $80 million over 20 years for naming rights to the stadium.
Las Vegas Ballpark is sure to have all the amenities of modern ballparks. The ballpark will follow the recent trend of having many different “social areas.” These are areas where people can stand and drink beer or let their kids play outside of the main seating bowl. Party decks, a corn hole area, a pool, and a kids’ splash pad are all in the plans. The facility will also have improved amenities for the players, and a far better playing surface than its predecessor. Fans can watch the stadium’s progress online at the Las Vegas Ballpark Construction Cam (click here to see the construction).
Omaha, Nebraska (Infield at the Zoo; Rosenblatt Stadium exhibit at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium)
Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium hosted Omaha’s various Minor League teams and the NCAA College World Series from 1949 until 2010. Future stars such as Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and many others played in College World Series games here. In 2011, the CWS and Omaha’s Triple-A team (the Omaha Royals) moved into separate ballparks. The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium purchased Rosenblatt Stadium with plans to raze it and create additional parking.
Members of the city council and the zoo worked together to salvage the history of the site. They teamed up to create a memorial to the ballpark with markers at home plate and each base. Seats were preserved and displayed. The foul poles were kept in place. Interpretive displays also detail the ballpark’s history. The preservation of the site allows baseball fans to revisit Rosenblatt Stadium, even if they did not get to attend a game there.
The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is a top-notch destination, too. It consistently ranks among the top-five zoos in the United States. Fans can also visit the new home of the College World Series, TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha, and the Omaha Storm Chasers’ Werner Park in suburban Papillion.
Jeff Perro of Star Spangled Campers is part of a husband, wife, and dog team who ditched their worldly goods and hit the open road on a journey to embrace what America offers. With limited funds and supplies, they make the most of exploring all 50 states including national parks, breweries, ballparks, and whatever else they stumble upon. They are on Twitter at @SScampers.
Tokyo, Japan (MLB Japan Opening Series; March 20-21)
The 2019 season will be the eight time that Major League Baseball opens its season with an international series. The Oakland Athletics will host the Seattle Mariners in a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome on March 20-21. It is the fifth time MLB has started its regular-season schedule in Japan. If you’re a fan of either team, the Athletics and Mariners are offering travel packages. The series is a rematch of the 2012 Opening Series when the clubs also squared off in Tokyo. Oakland and Seattle will also play exhibition games against teams from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) on March 17-18.
For people unfamiliar with the experience of attending a Japanese baseball game, it is very different from games in the United States. In Japan, fans have specific chants for each player, bang drums throughout at-bats, and are tuned into virtually every moment of the game. Ballpark food, obviously, is also very different from MLB ballpark fare. It is common to find fans slurping bowls of ramen or eating grilled meat on a skewer. Traveling to Tokyo for the series also gives fans an opportunity to explore the city’s major sights and immerse themselves in a different culture.
Mobile, Alabama (Mobile BayBears final season)
A team’s last season in a market is always bittersweet. In many cases, speculation about the team relocating circulates for a few years before a deal is finalized and the club plays a lame duck season at its current ballpark. For fans in Mobile, they have one final season to enjoy the BayBears before the team relocates to metro Huntsville for the 2020 season.
In 2019, the BayBears are using “Going out with a Bang” as their slogan. Team management says they are sparring no expense to give fans a memorable final season at Hank Aaron Stadium. The team has already announced bobblehead giveaways of MLB stars Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Peavy, Max Scherzer, and Justin Upton. Another reason to visit Mobile this season is the chance to visit the childhood home of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, which sits on the grounds of the BayBears’ stadium.
Starkville, Mississippi (Renovated Dudy Noble Field; home of Mississippi State University Bulldogs)
When people think of college baseball their minds often turn to Omaha and the College World Series. However, those people are missing out on some of the best college baseball experiences, which are on campus during the regular season. The Mississippi State baseball team regularly sells out its ballpark, which will complete a major renovation in time for the 2019 season. Starkville is the quintessential college town, so it is a great place for fans to relive their college years.
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium has hosted the Bulldogs since 1967, but has been virtually rebuilt since 2017. The upgrades include a new scoreboard, a new double-tiered grandstand, a wrap-around concourse, and new entry plazas to the ballpark. Besides all the upgrades to the stadium, the Left Field Lounge is rated as one of the greatest experiences in college sports. The area is just beyond the left field wall, and earned accolades from Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine.
Steven Ericson is a Tokyo-based writer and founder of Steven On The Move. In a prior life he was a full-time college geography professor. He writes primarily about beer, culture, and sports. He is on Twitter at @StevenOnTheMove.