Minor League Baseball Stadiums to Put On Your Bucket List
There’s something about minor league baseball that harkens back to the roots of America’s Pastime. Walking through the front gate of nearly any minor league ballpark, the smell of popcorn and freshly cut grass immediately fills your nostrils. You can bring your whole family and get close to the action. And every now and then, you might get to see a future All-Star, up close and personal.
Just like the talent on the field, some minor league ballparks are a step above their competitors. Here are six fields of dreams worth a trip:
1. Victory Field, Indianapolis Indians
Designed by the same firm that developed the Baltimore Orioles’ classic Camden Yards, Indianapolis’ Victory Field helped usher in a new era of “throwback” minor league ballparks styled after these more intimate stadiums and remains one of the standard bearers. There’s no bad seat in the house: The Triple-A ballpark for this affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates offers great views of both the field and the Indianapolis skyline. Located just off the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the ballpark is easily accessible from downtown on foot or on two wheels via the city’s bikeshare program.
Must Try Item: Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewery created its Victory Lager for Victory Field — it’s the perfect accompaniment for a summer day in the stands.
Nearby Hotel: Holiday Inn Indianapolis Downtown
2. Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Built in 2012, the Blue Wahoos Stadium has won rave reviews from both fans and ballpark publications alike for its intimate feel and cool breezes wafting in from Pensacola Bay. The winds can blow much harder on the hurricane-prone Florida coast, so the 5,000-seat ballpark for this Double A-affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds has a very low profile, giving fans an even more intimate feel.
Must Try Item: The Cracker Jack Chicken and Waffles combine chicken tenderloins crusted in the venerable ballpark snack, placed over waffles, then drizzled with maple honey mustard syrup.
Nearby Hotel: Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach Gulf Front
3. MCU Park, Brooklyn Cyclones
Most stadiums offer lots of fun activities for kids, but how many have an actual amusement park outside the gates? The 7,000-seat MCU Park opened in 2010 in Brooklyn N.Y.’s storied Coney Island and quickly became a fan favorite. Luckily the action on the field can be as exciting as the team’s namesake iconic wooden roller coaster, which dates to 1927 and looms over the left field fence. Be aware that the Cyclones are a Short Season-A affiliate of the New York Mets, with games scheduled from late June to early September.
Must Try Item: Chow down on a hot dog from Nathan’s Famous, which launched a century ago on Coney Island and is now the official hot dog of Major League Baseball.
Nearby Hotel: Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown
Photo credit NYC & Company, Jen Davis
4. Smith’s Ballpark, Salt Lake Bees
Each season, more than a half-million fans pack this $23 million ballpark, cheering on the Triple A-affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Many fans agree that the best seats are in the upper deck behind home plate, giving excellent views of the action on the field and the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains beyond. If your kids get restless, they can take a ride on the Bumble Express kiddie train that departs from behind left field and travels to the other side of the outfield concourse and back.
Must Try Item: The half-pound Southwest Sausage protrudes from both ends of its foot-long bun and is topped with spicy peppers and onions.
Nearby hotel: Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Salt Lake City-Airport West
5. Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham Bulls
Made famous by the 1987 Kevin Coster-Susan Sarandon film, Bull Durham, this stadium features a “Blue Monster” modeled after the more famous green version at Fenway Park and a similar old-school manual scoreboard. The ballpark, which is home to a Triple A-affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, also features extra-wide seats — no worries about having a third hot dog — and its infamous snorting bull billboard. (If a batter hits it for a home run, he wins a free steak.) Try to snag seats atop the 32-foot-tall Blue Monster.
Must Try Item: Bull Durham Beer Company brews at the ballpark, so you know that the Lollygagger Kolch and other varieties will be totally fresh.
Nearby Hotel: Holiday Inn Raleigh-Durham Airport
Photo courtesy of Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau
6. Isotopes Park, Albuquerque Isotopes
Nicknamed the Lab, this gorgeous AAA park includes several atomic age-inspired architectural elements sure to delight design fans. If you love The Simpsons TV show, not only will you get a kick out of the team name, but also the Homer and Marge character statues located inside the concourse. Be sure to try to bring a blanket and stretch out in the outfield: Thanks to Albuquerque’s high altitude and dry air, a higher-than-average number of home runs are hit in the stadium, which is home to a Triple A-affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
Must Try Item: The Enchilada Dog starts with an all-beef hot dog, and then adds enchilada sauce, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, shredded cheese and tortilla chips on top.