The ultimate summer road trip (cont.)
Louisville -- Louisville Bats Triple A All-Star Game, 7:05 p.m., Louisville Slugger Field
Can't score tickets to the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium? This is the next-best thing. There are plenty of other minor league all-star events this summer, of course. But since 1988, 61 players in this game -- held between the best of the Triple A International and Pacific Coast Leagues -- have gone on to play in the major league All-Star Game.
Asheville, N.C. -- Asheville Tourists vs. Delmarva Shorebirds, 7:05 p.m., McCormick Field
It was once rumored that the Sultan of Swat himself died in Asheville, but the real details are arguably more gruesome. As the Yankees and Dodgers barnstormed through the South in 1925, an ailing Babe Ruth reported feeling nauseous as he pulled into Asheville, whereupon he fainted before the assembled throng at Depot Street. Teammate Steve O'Neill barely caught Ruth's head from hitting the floor, and the episode was memorialized in the New York Tribune as "The bellyache heard 'round the world." Stunningly, there is no curse associated with this city.
Augusta, Ga. -- Augusta Greenjackets vs. Hagerstown Suns, 7:05 p.m., Lake Olmstead Stadium
Credit the Greenjackets for having one of the more clever, geographically inspired nicknames in the minors. While you probably have no shot at actually playing at The Masters, settle for watching baseball where the Georgia Peach himself, Ty Cobb, played his first pro season in 1904.
Daytona, Fla. -- Daytona Cubs vs. Sarasota Reds, 5:35 p.m., Jackie Robinson Ballpark
When Jackie Robinson visited Dayton during spring training in 1946, as a member of the Dodgers' Triple A farm team, the city actually allowed him to play -- unlike nearby Jacksonville and Sanford. That makes the stadium the first site to host a racially integrated game in MLB history, predating his debut with Brooklyn in the bigs.
Fort Myers, Fla. -- Fort Myers Miracle vs. Port St. Lucie Mets, 7:05 p.m., Hammond Stadium
Like the RiverDogs, the Miracle is owned by the Goldklang Group, a bunch that includes actor Bill Murray and musician Jimmy Buffett. Not coincidentally, Fort Myers isn't a bad place to own a team. We dare say that if you're a baseball fan, Hammond Stadium's concessions might provide a cheeseburger in paradise.
Birmingham -- Birmingham Barons vs. Mississippi Braves, 7:05 p.m., Regions Park
Michael Jordan played for the Barons when he retired (the first time) from the NBA in 1994. In his only season he hit 202, but led the team with 30 steals.
Nashville, Tenn. -- Nashville Sounds vs. Tacoma Rainiers, Noon, Herschel Greer Stadium
As the team's moniker suggests, if you're in Nashville, you need to incorporate music somehow. Greer Stadium does boast a guitar-shaped scoreboard, but July 24 is part of the Miller Lite Concert Series, which means a pre-game show. (If the act is bad and you're of age, it's thankfully also "Thirsty Thursday," meaning you get $1 brews until 8:30 PM or the fifth inning.)
Chattanooga, Tenn. -- Chattanooga Lookouts vs. West Tenn. Diamond Jaxx, 7:15 p.m., AT&T Field
Catch up with the godfather of all sports mascots: the legendary San Diego Chicken, now 34 years old, as he makes his annual journey through the minor league circuit. After all, what baseball road-trip would be complete without him?
Madison, Wisc. -- Madison Mallards vs. Waterloo Bucks, 6:05 p.m., Warner Pond
The Duck Blind, a cordoned-off fan area, may be unrivaled in summer collegiate leagues and perhaps all of minor league baseball. The secret recipe? Open beer bar + all-you-can-eat grill food. Let's just say that the atmosphere is festive.
July 27 - July 28
(Drive/rest/catch up on sanity)
Clinton, Iowa -- Clinton LumberKings vs. Lansing Lugnuts, 1:05 p.m., Alliant Energy Field
One reason to love the minor leagues? Simply look at the names on this game's scorecard: the LumberKings vs. the Lugnuts.
Des Moines, Iowa -- Iowa Cubs vs. Colorado Springs, 7:05 p.m., Principal Park
There was never a memorial tour for the late, great Rod Beck, but there should have been. And Des Moines, Iowa would have certainly been a stop. The reliever known as "Shooter" was a rarity in the modern era: completely fan-friendly and without pretense. While playing for the Iowa Cubs during his big-league comeback in 2003, he simply lived in a Winnebago behind the right field wall and welcomed fans to visit, offering beer, food, stories, a television, a bathroom and anything else you might need.
July 31 - August 1
Kansas City, Mo. -- Kansas City T-Bones vs. Gary SouthShore Railcats, 7:05 p.m., Community America Ballpark
Not only is there an Irish Dexter steer on the premises and mouth-watering food, but there's a giant sign of a bull beyond the outfield with a hole in its right eye. If anyone hits a home run through the bull's eye (get it?), a designated fan wins $1 million.