Baseball may have been born in upstate New York (or, as certain legends go, Hoboken, N.J.), but it was certainly charbroiled to perfection in Texas. The Lone Star State is a veritable baseball hotbed, all the way from high school -- the city of Conroe boasts the No. 1 high school team in the country last season, The Woodlands -- to the pros. So whether you want to watch the player many deem baseball's greatest living pitcher, or take in a couple of world-class minor league teams owned by one of the other fireballers in that "best ever" discussion, Texas has it all. Take a tour through two MLB franchises, three top-flight minor league ballparks, and an independent organization that most recently featured the No. 1 pick in the 2006 Amateur Draft. Just remember to pace yourself when you inevitably wind up staring down Texas' unofficial state meal: mouth-watering chicken-fried steak.
Round Rock's Dell Diamond is one of the jewels of minor league baseball.
Round Rock Express
The Rocket has ties to not one but three of the stops on our Tour of Texas.
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Luke Winn & Dan Hoyle's Midwestern Loop
Two SI.com writers took a six-day, four-state tour of games in the Midwest, and kept a full journal to whet your appetite for baseball tourism.
1. Round Rock Express (Triple A -- Astros, Pacific Coast League) Location: Round Rock, Texas Stadium: The Dell Diamond
Owned by a couple of locals named Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, The Dell Diamond was dubbed the "Best Double A Ballpark in the Country" by Baseball America before being upgraded to Triple A's Pacific Coast League in 2004. Since then, it's been named the best minor league park in the country by Minor League News. The fan-friendly stadium -- which features a swimming pool, hot tub, sand volleyball court, and an area devoted to Texas cooking -- welcomed a record crowd on June 16 as Clemens made his third and final tune-up minor league start, warming up before heading back to the big league club.
2. San Antonio Missions ( Double A -- Mariners, Texas League) Location: San Antonio Stadium: Nelson W. Wolff Stadium
Although the Express had the Rocket, the Missions have actual jet planes: Wolff Stadium is uniquely situated across from San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base, meaning home runs aren't the only things flying overhead. The Seattle Mariners farm team, in fact, welcomes Air Force trainees and alums to the park, averaging 500-800 cadets on Friday nights.
Unveiled in 2000, the ballpark once ignominiously titled Enron Field features Houston's first retractable roof, a welcome departure from its predecessor, the suffocating but historic Astrodome. The stadium's largest entrance is located inside the city's former Union Station -- accounting for the locomotive which chugs over left-field after homers -- and is famous for Tal's Hill, an actual, flagpole-adorned incline in the deepest part of center.