Sitting here looking out the window at the nasty weather outside, snowing and blowing, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven months now since this years baseball trip. The good news, is that it’s only five months until my 2010 trip. Those will be five very long months, though.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself: how does one start a baseball trip? How did this tradition of yours originate. OK, NOT, but here’s the story anyway. Like most of us, my love for baseball started as a kid. Playing Little League, sandlot ball, collecting baseball cards, and so on. Even just playing catch with my dad or grandpa in the backyard (reference: Field of Dreams). It was, and still remains today at that level, a pure and fun game. I played baseball all through high school at the Varsity level, but that was it, though. I was done. After high school, I moved north and my focus really shifted toward hockey. And why shouldn’t it have? It was my other favorite sport, and my teams did quite well in the 90’s. The college I was attending (Lake Superior State) won two NCAA D-1 National Championships on three Frozen Four appearances from 1992-94. They won a combined seven league championships counting regular season and playoffs during the 90’s, too. The Red Wings made three Stanley Cup appearances, winning in 1997-98. All was good in my hockey world, while the Tigers were, well, not winning, to put it lightly. All of the heroes from the quality 80’s teams were gone. So long Trammell, Whitaker, Sparky, and so on. I didn’t forget about baseball completely. I did go to some Buffalo Bison games in 1993 while out there working security for the World University games (thank you, tax payers). And in 1996 saw the Cubbies at Wrigley Field while visitig a freind in Chicago. Whether you like the Cubs or not, Wrigley is a must see. I even took in a Tigers game at the new Comerica Park in 2001, just to see the new ballpark (which can’t compare to Tiger Stadium in any way, shape or form). Then something happened in 2005, which is where out story truelly begins…
Like most traditions, whether baseball or not, they start with family. In Battle Creek, Michigan I still have a lot of family. Unfortunetly, not as much as I used to. We did get down to BC and watch the Big 10 baseball championships at C.O. Brown stadium a few times, but for some reason I never had been to one of the Minor League games there. The Michigan Battle Cats arrived in 1995, becoming the Battle Creek Yankees, and finally the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays in 2005-06. At this point in 2005, I was married with two kids-and needed a break. My dad suggested we go to Battle Creek, visit some family, and take in a few ball games. It sounded good to me. Getting away from the family for a few days, and seeing some baseball which I actually was really excited about. When we got to C.O. Brown, we got box seats right on the field. Literally-right on the field. The game itself was fun, with the Devil Rays winning 4-3 in extra innings. Ok-I was officially hooked. The next day, we were back at the ballpark for an 11:00 am game. There is something magical about a day game. The dew still on the grass before the sun warms things up. The tast of a cold beer for brunch. This is what it was all about. My gandpa was gone about 12 years at this time, but I swear he was right there with us. After the morning game, I experieced my first Whitecaps game in Grand Rapids on our way back up north. That was quite the experience, too. I was now a Minor League junkie. That’s really how it started. Pretty simple: three games in a two day span. A month later, I was sent down to Georgia for 16 weeks of gruelly training. On the weekends, they bussed us down to Jacksonville to watch the Double-A Suns or up to Savannah to take in a Class-A Sand Gnats game (again, thank you, tax-payers). This fueled the fire even more.
The next year in 2006, we added the Lansing Lugnuts to our journey. Still pretty simple. One game in Landing and Battle Creek, two in Grand Rapids. All in Michigan and not a lot of travel. Still fun for us, and a good get away. Unfortunately, 2006 was out last trip to Battle Creek for baseball. The team couldn’t come to terms with the city and get a new ballpark built, so they jetted to Midland, MI to become the Great Lakes Loons. We did get to see the Loons as part of our 2007 trip. That also included the Dayton Dragons, Toledo Mud Hens, and the Whitecaps. In 2008, we added college and the Majors to our trip. This one started at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. We then took the S.S. Badger to Wisconsin to see two Milwaukee Brewers games and one Beloit Snappers game. That trip ended with the Whitecaps on our way home. This years trip (2009) sent us to the South Bend Silver Hawks, Indianapolis Indians, Louisville Bats, Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Michigan State University, and the Lugnuts. We do keep busy, and meet a lot of nice people along the way. The 2010 trip should be finalized soon (there is always ONE team that doesn’t put their schedule out on time). I know your on the edge of your seat wondering where I’m goint next year, but you’ll find out soon enough….See you at the ballpark.
Photos property of MIB