We’ve come to that glorious time of the year when we set about to plan the annual Great Baseball Road Trip. This year’s trip provided many challenges, including the fact that the four presumed participants have, respectively, in 2014: gotten married, gotten married, become a father and moved across the country. But we have somehow wrangled a long weekend in which everyone is available to leave from Minneapolis. A trip with the Twin Cities as a starting point keeps costs down (no flight for most of us, while the cross-country mover has to be here for a different trip anyway) and allows us to hopefully maximize our time for a trip that has been going strong every year since 2000 but has dwindled to 3 or 4 days in recent years instead of the 7-8 day trip of years past when time was more plentiful than responsibilities.
The downside of a trip from Minneapolis is that it severely limits our options for where to go. In recent years, the trip model has come to include at least one major league game, but also a handful of minor league games. Our crew has determined that the lower levels are fun, with jewels for ballparks, cheap seats right by home plate and the chance to yell a lot without much consequence.
In browsing our trusty map from MILB.com (shown above and linked here, pretty much the best thing ever), however, we were struck once again by the dearth of options we have around here. A total of 42 states have at least one affiliated minor league team. Minnesota is one. Of the eight that do not, Alaska and Hawaii are included. So of the contiguous 48 states, just six are minor-league free. Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are among those six.
Iowa has five. Wisconsin and Illinois have two apiece. So it’s not like we have to go a LONG way to get to some, but it does limit the options. We’ve already been to five of those nine minor league destinations between the three states, and our route this year includes another (Burlington, Iowa).
Yes, it would not be a true road trip if we didn’t have to drive to get places. But we do find ourselves thinking, yet again, that a couple of Minnesota franchises in the Class-A Midwest League — one in St. Paul, as will apparently be discussed between the Twins and Saints — and another in, say, Rochester — sure would be nice not just for the trip but for local fans of minor league ball in general.
The Saints are fun, while the Northwoods League and amateur town teams help fill the gap. But as the GBRT can tell you, they don’t quite compare to the lure of minor league baseball.