The ultimate summer road trip (cont.)
Lowell, Mass. -- Lowell Spinners vs. Jamestown Jammers, 5:05 p.m., LeLacheur Park
After the Quad Cities fireworks, you'll need to pull an all-nighter driving all the way to Lowell, Mass., where you're expected to help fill LeLacheur Park for consecutive sellout No. 318 -- a stunning streak dating back to 2006. It'll be worth it, however. Besides your standard-issue Sox fanaticism, the Spinners are renowned for highbrow bobbleheads (besides Jacoby Ellsbury, they've featured Jack Kerouac and artist James Whistler) and lowbrow promos (Birth Night, where the first pregnant woman to give birth wins a year's supply of diapers).
Portland, Maine -- Portland Sea Dogs vs. Reading Phillies, 1 p.m., Hadlock Field
Fenway may be its own creature -- "a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," as John Updike once wrote -- but Hadlock Field is at least a reasonable facsimile. The next rung of the Red Sox farm ladder brings you to the home of the Portland Sea Dogs, which features the "Maine Monster," a 37-foot wall in left. There's even the signature Coke bottle and Citgo sign.
Altoona, Pa. -- Altoona Curve vs. Harrisburg Senators, 7:05 p.m., Blair County Ballpark
Altoona, Pa., doesn't show up on many people's vacation lists, and it's hard to blame them when the ballpark's most famous promotion is called "Awful Night." Luckily, names can be deceiving. Show up to the park early (gates open at 4:30) and enjoy what's billed as the "Worseest Ever," a classically minor league paradigm shift wherein batting averages are recorded as "fail averages," scoreboards record errors instead of homers and the giveaway has been bubble wrap and color photos of the GM's newly excised gall bladder.
Aberdeen, Md. -- Aberdeen IronBirds vs. Auburn Doubledays, 7:05 p.m. Ripken Stadium
When the IronBirds play at home, they claim an audience of about 6,000 fans per game -- approximately 40 percent of the city of Aberdeen's total population. In fact, just how popular is Cal Ripken Jr.? The team he molded in his image has sold out every game since he moved the Orioles' Class A affiliate from Utica, N.Y. to their new ballpark in 2002.
Staten Island, N.Y. -- Staten Island Yankees vs. Oneonta Tigers, 7 p.m., Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George
The Baby Bombers have the pinstripes of their older brothers in the Bronx and even something better: a view. The Richmond County Bank Ballpark takes full advantage of the southern-most borough's waterfront trappings, complete with the real Statue of Liberty beyond the outfield buttressed by the lower Manhattan skyline (and a little New Jersey). The promos also reflect the ethnic diversity of the city, with heritage nights honoring fans of Irish, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican and Italian descents.
Cape Cod, Mass. -- Cape Cod League, Multiple games, Multiple stadiums
The Cape Cod League is the most prestigious summer wood-bat league for college players in America, and in the 2007 Amateur Draft alone, a stunning 222 former Cape Leaguers were selected -- including picks Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7. In existence since 1885, in fact, roughly 1 in every 7 MLB players today have cut their teeth along the coast's 10 teams, from Wareham (the Gatemen) to Hyannis (the Mets) to Chatham (the A's). By the way: as if it were designed with college kids in mind, admission to all the games is free.
Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Brooklyn Cyclones vs. State College Spikes, 6 p.m., Keyspan Park
Keyspan Park isn't Ebbets Field, but forgive Brooklynites for perhaps trying to convince themselves that it is. Upon opening at a capacity of 6,500 in 2001, fan demand actually compelled Cyclones brass to add another 1,000 seats, and the Mets farm team has paced the New York Penn League in attendance every year since. One face who's found success above the boardwalk? Manager and former Mets third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who happens to be the most successful manager in team history (106 wins, a co-championship and a .671 winning percentage).
Durham, N.C. -- Durham Bulls vs. Rochester Red Wings, 5:05 p.m., Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Thanks to Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Bull Durham, the most famous minor league team in America is housed in -- you guessed it -- North Carolina's Durham Bulls Athletic Park. (Locals call it "D-BAP.") There's no Crash Davis or Nuke LaLoosh, but one feature is true to life: the famous bull located beyond the outfield. If any player hits said steer with a home run, the batter and one lucky fan each win a free steak dinner.
Charleston, S.C. -- Charleston RiverDogs vs. West Virginia Power, 7:05 p.m., Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park
A team under the creative control of Mike Veeck guarantees fun. The team has had "Nobody Night" (no fans allowed until the game became official, thus setting the lowest single-game attendance record at zero) and "Silent Night" (just what it sounds like), though "Tonya Harding Bat Night" didn't go over all too well. But now, there's another dimension. The team co-owned by Bill Murray is reaping the benefits of the Yankees' newly stocked farm system -- and you might actually see these guys make it to the Stadium one day.
Elizabethton, Tenn. -- Elizabethton Twins vs. Greensboro Grasshoppers, 7 p.m., Joe O'Brien Stadium
Appalachian State's felling of Michigan last year primarily taught us two things: one, don't underestimate the little guy; and two, Appalachian is pronounced APP-a-LATCH-ian. Put this knowledge to work when you visit your reigning Appalachian League champion Elizabethton Twins, who play in Joe O'Brien Stadium, a 2,000-seat bandbox nestled in eastern Tennessee.