Planning the Ultimate Minor League Baseball Road Trip: An Exercise in Patience
Yesterday, new Ben’s Biz Blog contributor Ashley Marshall introduced himself via a Pac-Man inspired tour of the Minor League landscape. Today, he really goes the extra mile with this “ultimate” Minor League Road Trip itinerary. Please keep in mind, however, that this “ultimate” itinerary is entirely theoretical. Neither I (Ben’s Biz) or Ashley or anyone else will actually be doing it. For my 2015 road trip itineraries, click HERE.
Happy Opening Day, baseball fans. From Vancouver to West Palm Beach, San Jose to Winooski, Vt, the Minor Leagues bring baseball to millions of fans in thousands of communities.
Each year, there are 160 Minor League teams playing more than 8,000 games in 42 continental US states and one Canadian province across 14 leagues and six levels from Triple-A down to rookie ball. All this happens in a five-month, 152-day window from Opening Day on April 9 to the regular season finales on Sept. 7.
That had me thinking. With fewer than 10 flights and relying otherwise only on car travel, is it possible to visit all 160 teams in one season? Also, how big does my suitcase need to be to fit five months’ worth of clothes into it?
I’ll try to answer the first question. I’ll leave the second one up to your own imagination. At the end of this article, I’ll also tell you what such a trip might cost. While seeing every club play one home fixture during 2015 is possible, the logistics of planning such a schedule range somewhere from tricky to excruciatingly frustrating.
But with Ben unveiling his road trip itinerary Friday, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share with you one way such a mammoth, travel-intensive journey could take shape.
Call this whatever you want — a logistical crossword, a thought experiment, a lesson in tedium. But just to be clear, this is a ‘paper only’ experiment. Neither I nor anyone I know is undertaking this trip.
So, a few initial observations: While some states boast a high number of Minor League teams (Florida is home to 14; California, 12; Tennessee and North Carolina, nine each), eight other states and provinces are home to just one club. For those keeping score at home, they’re Vermont, New Hampshire, Missouri, Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Delaware and British Columbia.
There’s no way to tackle these except in isolation in the context of a bigger road trip. The need to schedule at least eight day-night twinbills of two games in two ballparks on one day is the very minimum requirement to make such an ambitious itinerary possible.
But factoring in days off (the Florida State League is off entirely on Mother’s Day, for example; the International and Pacific Coast Leagues are off July 13-15 for the Triple-A All-Star Game) homestands not always coinciding with the days you’re in that part of a state and the fact that the rookie-level and short-season leagues are at opposite ends of the country and only play for around the final 10 weeks of the year, it’s imperative to double up on games almost twice as many times.
These leagues are limited geographically from the northeast (New York-Penn League) and down the coast as far as the Carolinas (Appalachian League) on one side of America, and from the pacific northwest down into Montana and Colorado on the other. To make it at least somewhat cost-effective, I’ll limit airplane travel to 10 times during the season, most likely for cross-country journeys or picking off isolated teams that otherwise wouldn’t fit into a schedule.
I initially thought you could start in the Midwest around Omaha, head east through the Midwest League and then tackle the International League, Eastern League and South Atlantic League teams as you get to them. At that point, you could head south and west, starting with the New York-Penn League and Appy Leagues and going into Florida to wrap up the Florida State League in two weeks.
Next would be the Texas League and more eastern Pacific Coast League teams, the California League and finally the Northwest and Pioneer Leagues. Two potential problems with that plan.
- One, the New York-Penn League doesn’t kick off until mid-June, meaning you’d need to hit around 65 teams before starting the NYPL schedule. There’s just not enough teams in the Midwest, International and Eastern Leagues to make that happen
- Two, the weather is notoriously unpredictable in the spring in the east and Midwest, making rainouts more likely, even if exact postponements could never be foreseen that far in advance.
So instead, here’s how you could make it work. Start on the west coast. Head south and east through Texas, looping up through Florida, up the east coast (by which time the NYPL will be playing), then across the top of the country finishing back in the northwest with the two summer leagues there.
That should give you enough time to head back into California or toward Texas to mop up any teams you missed the first time through. Most of the day-night games have to be in the Florida State League or along the eastern seaboard where multiple teams are within a few hours’ drive of one another.
Even if, for example, Corpus Christi played an 11am game on the same day El Paso had a 7pm start, Texas is just too big to navigate between them to arrive at the second ballpark in time.
About one-third of the way into the planning of this fictitious trip that exists only on paper, I ran into another problem. Biloxi’s new stadium will not be ready until early summer, with the home opener scheduled for June 6. With that obstacle in mind, you can bypass the trio of Biloxi (and neighboring Mobile and Pensacola) for now, planning to return to them later in the year when all three teams are at home. The next time this happens is the third week of July. Biloxi has a homestand from July 15-21, Mobile from 15-19 and Pensacola from July 20-26. That gives you just enough of an overlap to make it possible, allowing you to return north to complete that leg of the trip.
With that in mind, I present to you the following schedule.
|14-Apr||Lake Elsinore||High Desert||CAL||6:00|
|4-May||St. Lucie||Palm Beach||FSL||6:30|
|12-May||New Orleans||Oklahoma City||PCL||7:05|
|1-Jun||Bowling Green||Great Lakes||MWL||12:05|
|3-Jun||2||South Bend||Cedar Rapids||MWL||7:05|
|4-Jun||West Michigan||Quad Cities||MWL||7:00|
|10-Jun||Cedar Rapids||Great Lakes||MWL||6:35|
|13-Jun||Quad Cities||Great Lakes||MWL||6:00|
|18-Jun||Great Lakes||Lake County||MWL||7:05|
|25-Jul||Hudson Valley||State College||NYPL||7:05|
|2-Aug||Lake County||Great Lakes||MWL||6:30|
|29-Aug||El Paso||Oklahoma City||PCL||7:05|
|31-Aug||Las Vegas||El Paso||PCL||7:05|
|6-Sep||Rancho Cucamonga||Inland Empire||CAL||5:05|
|7-Sep||Colorado Springs||New Orleans||PCL||1:35|
This incorporates 15 dates with two games on the same day, and just six days out of 152 with no games scheduled.
Breaking it all down
- This itinerary logs almost 40,000 miles, including almost 30,000 by road and nearly 10,000 on 10 trips through the air.
- You’ll spend a little more than 500 hours driving and another 38 hours on an airplane. That’s nearly 24 full days.
- The shortest leg of the trip is from Staten Island to Brooklyn, just 18 miles.
- By contrast, the longest leg is going from Erie, Pa., to Vancouver. That’s a 40-hour, 2,600-mile trip by car, reduced to a seven hour, $500 multi-leg flight from Buffalo, Cleveland or Pittsburgh.
- Other flights include Los Angeles (serving Adelanto) to San Antonio, Texas; Mobile, Alabama to Clarksburg (serving Granville, West Virginia); and Orange County (serving Rancho Cucamonga) to Colorado Springs.
- Assuming your car gets 33 miles to the gallon and the average cost of a gallon of fuel nationwide is $2.50, you’ll spend around $2,272 on 1250 gallons of gas alone. Figure to spent another $3,000 on air fare.
- There are 30 Triple-A teams, 30 Double-A teams, 60 Class A teams, 22 short-season teams and 18 rookie-level teams on the schedule. Based on the average prices published by MiLB least year, if you bought one ticket, a soda and a hot dog, a program and paid for car parking at each game, you’d spend $3,280 during the year.
- The most expensive part of such a ludicrous trip would be hotels. Even at $75 a night, a place to crash after a ballgame would ring up an additional $12,000 over five months.
- Then factoring in taking five months off work. With the average American making between $27,000 – $28,000, taking such a long period of time off work could lose you around $11,000 in wages.
These calculations don’t even take into account paying for breakfasts, lunches or dinners, doing laundry every week you’re on the road, the possible need to rent a vehicle assuming you don’t have access to one in each city you travel through, and just the general cost of living. Food alone could run upward of $5,000, and that’s only budgeting $30 a day.
So the real cost of this trip? It could very possibly cost you a cool $40,000.
How would your schedule look? Which way would you attack such a logistical nightmare? How would you save time, money or both? If you only traveled throughout one league, which one would you pick and why? Feel free to message me on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB or reply in the comments below. And if you have any MiLB travel plans this season, however small or large, I’d love to hear from you. Plan your own road trip here.
Reblogged this on Root For The Home Team and commented:
Love visiting Minor League Baseball parks throughout the country (well, mostly in the south). Great piece on how to plan a trip to the best MiLB parks in the country!
Love this idea, maybe when I retire!
Great post. You might be interested in this blog post for solving this problem (and associated paper): http://blogs.sas.com/content/operations/2015/04/03/the-traveling-baseball-fan-problem/
That is some scheduling wizardry right there! Very cool. I did this entire 152-day roadtrip by hand, you can imagine how hard that made it. I’d love to see this same schedule plotted out in actual software to see where you could save time.
Yep. MiLB is way bigger and harder to solve than MLB. But, when I have some time to kill, I’ll give it a try. I’ll contact you when I free up some time to play around with this.
I see an issue with May 3rd. Traffic on I-4 through the Orlando area is gonna chew up a bunch of time. You probably wouldn’t make fist pitch in Daytona.
A way of cutting SOME cost (yet ruining your idea of all one year which I think is a GREAT idea,,,AND I remember a few years ago ESPN , Baseball Today showed a couple doing tis ,,,,but my point is,,,am thinking when I retire,,,,,doing something very similar ,,MINUS the stadiums I have already been to
For the dates listed June 23 to July 1, you listed the Appalachan League contests as “PIO” which stands for Pioneer League. And the contests commence in the Appalachian Mountain area of the United States, where the Pioneer League contests commence in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. Just thought I’d point out this discrepancy to you to help you and your readers.
STARTING IN 1975 TO 2014 MY WIFE AND HAVE BEEN TO 108 MINOR LEAGUE BASE
BALL PARKS. SOME OF THESE TEAMS ARE NOT THEIR ANYMORE . LIKE LITTLE FALLS NY METS , ALBANY NY YANKEES, PITTSFIELD MASS METS, QUEENS NY KINGS PS WE WILL BE ADDING TO 108 PARKS THIS SUMMER
Another minor discrepancy, which doesn’t change the schedule, per se, is you have the Mississippi/Chattanooga and Jackson/Tennessee games listed as part of the Texas League, when they are actually the Southern League.
Thanks for spotting that. I’ve corrected it in the table. Thanks for the heads up.
A challenging itinerary but one that will incur far, far less aggravation than following the New York Knicks for every game. http://www.theoakmancometh.com/
I understand you want to see every team, but what about teams that share a stadium? For example, Jupiter (Marlins) and Palm Beach (Cardinals) share a stadium. Instead of driving from Jupiter/Palm Beach to Lakeland to Bradenton and back to Jupiter/Palm Beach, you could cut one of those out to save time and travel?
I mean, you could, but where’s the fun in that? Right? I’d much rather take the extra day and make sure I see both teams play there as the home team. You know, for comprehensiveness. It’d be a shame to see 159 teams play at home and just leave one out.
Loved this and can’t imagine how long it took to figure it all out because it took me awhile just to tweek a few dates in early August in the Pacific Northwest.
However, I was able to save 14 hours and 35 minutes driving time (670 miles which works out to a $50.76 gas saving) by changing the Aug10-14 schedule to the following:
10 Aug Vancouver Everett NWL 7:05
11 Aug Tacoma Sacramento PCL 7:05
12 Aug Tri-City Boise NWL TBD
13 Aug Spokane Salem-Keizer NWL 6:30
14 Aug Great Falls Orem PIO TBD
This not only saves time and money but also results in much more leisurely drives and avoids having to drive for 3 1/2 hours between games on the same day in Tacoma and Tri-City on Aug 12, especially since the Tri-City starting time has not been determined yet, making it perhaps even impossible.
Even without these changes, it is great to see you’ll be able to spend August 8-10 in Vancouver. You might not even want to leave. (I can’t say enough about “my” city.)
If you elected to drive to Toronto (3 1/2 hours) after the Aug 7 night game in Erie, you could catch at flight at 7:15 a.m. on Aug 8 and be in Vancouver in time for the annual Vancouver meeting of the Northwest chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) at Nat Bailey Stadium at noon and the induction of the latest members of the Vancouver Canadians’ Broadcast and Journalism Hall of Fame before the evening game.
AWESOME tweak. Great job re-plotting those few days. Also kudos for getting a SABR meeting and induction ceremony squeezed in there, too. Not easy to plan everything logistically is it?
The first three Eastern League team games the away team is Erie. The last EL home team game is in Erie. Funny how this worked out.
I hadn’t actually ever noticed that. Great spot. It’s funny because I’m sure there will be some teams that I only ever see once, just at home.
Forget all the Fantasy Leagues, this trip IS the Fantasy League of MiL baseball.
For the flights for games in Rancho Cucamonga, and Adelanto, flying from Ontario, California will save much time.
Ben or anyone on the site can answer, is there any places or sites that offer bus trips to different minor league teams on the East Coast? Trenton & Reading use to go to a few games during the year, now with Trenton you have to be a season ticket holder and they do 1 game. Please Need some help!