The ultimate summer road trip (cont.)
August 3 - August 4
Casper, Wyo. -- Casper Ghosts vs. Orem Owls, 7:05 p.m., Mike Lansing Field
On the list of players who've had ballparks named after them, you likely didn't expect to see Mike Lansing's name. But the nine-year vet, a career .271 hitter and --perhaps most importantly -- Wyoming native is the namesake for the Casper Ghosts' home field.
Ogden, Utah -- Ogden Raptors vs. Missoula Osprey, 7 p.m., Lindquist Field
Named for the dinosaur bones excavated in the state, the Raptors boast what many believe to be the best view in baseball. They certainly have an argument: the wide-open panorama of mountainous Utah in the background frames a newly renovated ballpark in downtown Ogden.
Everett, Wash. -- Everett Aquasox vs. Tri-City Dust Devils, 7:05 p.m., Everett Memorial Stadium
Nearly six weeks after your stop in Spokane you're back in Washington, which means it's undoubtedly time for a haircut. Conveniently, the Aquasox is holding Buhner Buzz Night. The (still) clean-headed Jay Buhner will be on hand before the game to give you an authentic Buhner Buzz Cut.
Stockton, Calif. -- Stockton Ports vs. Visalia Oaks, 6:05 p.m., Banner Island Ballpark
A cradle of baseball since the 1860's, the home of this A's Class A affiliate is reputed to have been the inspiration for Ernest Thayer's legendary poem, Casey at the Bat. Modern-day Banner Island Ballpark seems a far cry from Mudville, though. Hard by a lake, the park is set against the backdrop of jet skis whipping along the water. Added bonus: On this night pro wrestling icon Sgt. Slaughter will be signing autographs at the park.
Sacramento, Calif. -- Sacramento River Cats vs. Salt Lake Bees, 7:05 p.m., Raley Field
It's always difficult to juxtapose the big-league squad with one of their farm teams, but having Oakland's Triple A team in a city like Sacramento begs the comparison. While the A's fend off threats to move the squad to Fremont, the River Cats happen to thrive in the capital. In their first four years there (2000-2004), they won four straight PCL division titles and two championships. And perhaps even more importantly, they've led the minor leagues in attendance every year.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. -- Rancho Cucamonga Quakes vs. Lancaster Jethawks, 7:05 p.m., The Epicenter
The name is foreboding -- and, in that area of California, occasionally accurate --but worry not. The most fearsome thing in Rancho Cucamonga is a mascot named Tremor the Rallysaurus. Besides that, of course, the spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains will take your breath away.
San Bernardino, Calif. -- Inland Empire 66'ers of San Bernardino vs. Lake Elsinore Storm, 7:05 p.m., Arrowhead Credit Union Park
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the minor leagues, the Inland Empire 66'ers of San Bernardino are named for the famous route which ran through its home city. They are also yet another minor league team with another former Mets third baseman as their manager: John Valentin, promoted this year.
Lake Elsinore, Calif. -- Lake Elsinore Storm vs. Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 6:08 p.m., Lake Elsinore Diamond
The Padres' Class A affiliate has the top-selling logo in the minors (two eyes staring out of the baseball cap) and the most idyllic surroundings in the minors. Located at the eponymous lake and tucked away amid the Elsinore Mountains, the Diamond is a true gem.
Tuscon, Ariz., -- Tuscon Sidewinders vs. Portland Beavers, 7:05 p.m., Tuscon Electric Park
Though most of the 'Baby Backs seem to be in Phoenix these days, don't forget about Tuscon. Fueled by the cash brought in by the big-league Diamondbacks and White Sox --both of whom play their spring training games at Tuscon Electric Park -- the Sidewinders enjoy the benefits of a top-quality ballpark for the PCL.
Albuquerque -- Albuquerque Isotopes vs. New Orleans Zephyr, 6:35 p.m., Isotopes Park
You have to like any club that's named after a baseball team on The Simpsons, and there's plenty more to admire about the Marlins' Triple A site: like the view of the beautiful 12,000-foot Sandia Peak beyond the outfield in the background, as well as the altitude of the ballpark itself. At over 5,300 feet above sea level --higher than the Rockies' Coors Field -- the ball reportedly flies.
San Antonio, Texas -- San Antonio Missions vs. Frisco Roughriders, 7:05 p.m., Nelson W. Wolff Stadium
The so-called "Jewel of the Texas League" features more than home runs flying overhead (and Tex-Mex specialties at the concession stands, though they are delicious). Sitting across from San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base, the Missions have actual fighter jets routinely patrolling their airspace. The Missions welcome Air Force trainees and alums to the park, averaging 500-800 cadets on Friday nights.
August 22 - August 24
Corpus Christi, Texas -- Corpus Christi Hooks vs. San Antonio Missions, 7:05 p.m., Whataburger Field
It's hard to ignore any field named "Whataburger." But the name is somewhat deceiving: when a Hooks pitcher reaches double-digit Ks, all fans in attendance win free tacos, not burgers. Historically, it's worth noting, no one has complained.
Round Rock, Texas -- Round Rock Express vs. Oklahoma Redhawks, 7:05 p.m., The Dell Diamond
Deemed the best minor league park in the country by the Minor League News in 2006, the Dell Diamond's ownership includes a couple of fireballin' locals named Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens and boast such accoutrements as a swimming pool and a track-climbing wall. The Astros' Triple A team will pay tribute to Ryan at four home games this season giving away collector statues of the Hall of Fame righty.
Frisco, Texas -- Frisco Rough-Riders vs. Corpus Christi Hooks, 7:00 p.m., Dr. Pepper Ballpark
Named for Teddy Roosevelt and the first U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment in the Spanish-American War, history buffs will enjoy watching the game from "San Juan Hill," the grassy seating area in the outfield of castle-like Dr. Pepper Ballpark.
August 29 - August 31
New Orleans -- New Orleans Zephyrs vs. Nashville Sounds, 2 p.m., Zephyr Field
At last, journey's end. There isn't a better place to spend it either, as the French Quarter offers you prime relaxation and a dose of reality to shock you out of two months of small-time baseball. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Zephyr Field served as a staging area for FEMA and the National Guard. On April 6, 2006, the ballpark officially reopened for baseball, making the Zephyrs the first pro sports team to permanently return to New Orleans.