A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why Kentucky Is A Great Place For Ballpark Road Trippers to Live

When I first saw the title of Jim Ambs’s blog, the first thing that came to my mind was“minor league ballparks”. Despite that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is blessed with some great cities like Louisville and Lexington, Major League Baseball has yet to see fit to place a team in the Bluegrass State.

Not that there’s anything wrong with minor league games, of course. Maybe there won’t be 45,000 at the ballpark, but there won’t be massive traffic jams either, and you’ll definitely notice that you still have a wallet afterward even if you bring the kids. It’s still professional baseball—as my Dad says, if you hang a curve in this league, they’re gonna hit it.

But I got to thinking about it, and for baseball road trip geeks like me, Kentucky is an outstanding spot to start from.

As a South Jersey native, I do like being close to Wildwood and the “other” shore towns. And I am fortunate enough to be close enough to five major league ballparks—Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park—that won’t require an overnight stay. If I really pushed it, I could probably manage that in Pittsburgh or Boston too, but that’s a lot of driving in one day.

But I’ve sort of been envious of people in states in or near the Midwest, where there are so many great ballparks. In Kentucky, a state that borders Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois, they’re in every northbound direction.

Suppose you live in Louisville, which was a stopping point on a trip to St. Louis I took some years ago. Coming from Louisville you could put together a road trip that would enable you to start four hours away in St. Louis taking pictures of the Arch from Busch Stadium, then take a five hour drive to Chicago, where you could throw a home run ball back on the field at Wrigley Field and cool off in the Rain Room at U.S. Cellular Field. From Chicago it’s only an hour and a half to Milwaukee, where you can bring some brats to grill in the biggest tailgating party in baseball at Miller Park.

From Milwaukee head back south through Chicago and a six hour drive towards Detroit and ride the Ferris Wheel at Comerica Park, and then it’s only two and a half hours to Cleveland, and Heritage Park and its monuments to Indians history at Progressive Field. Cleveland is just two hours from Pittsburgh and the breathtaking view approaching PNC Park from the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Stop five hours into the ride home in Cincinnati and wave to the boats going by on the Ohio River at Great American Ball Park, and from Cincinnati it’s only and hour and a half to get back home to Louisville.

29 hours of driving (on some scenic roads that for the most part aren’t overwhelmed by traffic and tolls, more than I can say about the East Coast) to see eight great ballparks…an average of just about four and a half hours per ballpark. Piece of cake. And if you wanted to pile on, it wouldn’t be too difficult to add Kansas City, Toronto or Philadelphia to the trip!

Here’s what the whole thing looks like on Mapquest: http://mapq.st/M1cxiE

And the best part is that once you get home and don’t have much money left, there’s still Bats, Hot Rods and Legends games nearby, until you plan your Texas trip.

I wouldn’t want to give up living so close to my favorite vacation spot at the Jersey Shore, but I am kind of envious of people who can hit a lot of ballparks on a road trip with nowhere near the traffic messes found in the Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, New York or Boston areas.

They’re all great ballparks too, but getting there isn’t half the fun!

Kurt Smith is the author of Ballpark E-Guides, PDF-format guides to 14 major league ballparks, including Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Ballpark E-Guides provide lots of detailed information on getting tickets, finding the best seat, how to get there and what to eat at the ballpark, all for just $5…click here to learn more!

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