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Kick off the Lower 48 leg of the odyssey in a town that has had minor league baseball since 1890 and a uniquely progressive approach to the nickname Indians. Don't be fooled—this Rangers Class A affiliate is a model for sports teams' relations with Native Americans. Two years ago the Washington-based Spokane tribe helped redesign the club's logo, featuring an eagle feather, and added a second logo in Salish, the tribal language.
It won't take much to entice you to root for the Mustangs, who will be playing not only their home opener but also their first game in spanking new Dehler Park. The Reds' Rookie League affiliate features a promotion called the Beer Batter: Every time a designated Billings player gets a hit, fans get the opportunity to buy four beers for all of $10. You never heard such applause.
Baseball is a game of sharp contrasts: bunt and homer, fastball and changeup, Chris Cates and Loek Van Mil (above). Only Pohlman Field, home of the Twins' low Class A team, features all of them on a regular basis. Cates is the Snappers' 5'2 1/2" shortstop, from outside of Tampa; Van Mil is Beloit's 7'1" righthanded starter, from Oss, the Netherlands. If there's a greater height differential in baseball, we'd like to see it.