ALL POSTS TAGGED "[baseball]"

Break out the peanuts and cracker jacks, Major League Baseball is back! And in an attempt to bring baseball’s international popularity to new heights, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers will kick off the 2014 MLB season with an opening series in Sydney. These games on March 22 and 23rd will mark the first time the MLB season has started abroad.

For the rest of the league, however, Opening Day (and night) will commence on March 30-31, where the other 28 teams will begin their grueling, 162-game schedule, all with the hopes of being crowned World Series champion in 7 months.

As you get ready to hit the road for your own Opening Day experience, don’t miss our choices for baseball’s greatest stadiums, from Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the world-famous Fenway Park in Boston. And while the whole world gets ready for another unbelievable season, check out some of the tasty ballpark treats that will be stocking the shelves across America’s stadiums as you gear up for Opening Day 2014.

The Washington Post / Getty Images

For more than a century, baseball spring training was strictly a professional endeavor — a time for athletes to shake the cobwebs of winter and prepare for the 6-month season that starts every April.

But that was before towns and teams discovered they could add to their coffers by persuading snow-weary fans to buy tickets, food, souvenirs in intimate ballparks where autographs are as common as hot dogs.

The 30 big-league teams, evenly divided between Florida and Arizona, spend March playing meaningless exhibition games that count only in the minds of managers who need to reduce rosters to 25 players by Opening Day. Newspapers print won-lost records and “standings” from the Grapefruit League and Cactus League, respectively, but few fans notice.

They’re more concerned with the play of red-hot rookies or rehabbing veterans whose spring performances can influence the pending pennant races.

Spring training is simply a baseball hors d’oeuvre. Established players rarely play more than a few innings and often skip road games; virtually all games are played on natural grass in daylight; and schedules are determined by geographic proximity rather than league rivalry.

If history serves as an accurate barometer, spring training was a cool topic even before it became a hot travel destination. Here are a few of the reasons: READ MORE

 

Baseball legend Ted Williams greets visitors at the Hitters Hall of Fame. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

First-time visitors to Tropicana Field might be surprised to see a Ted Williams Museum across from the concession stands. After all, why would a legendary Boston Red Sox star be celebrated in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays? Doesn’t this museum belong at Fenway Park?

It turns out that Williams, aka “The Splendid Splinter,” spent much of his retirement years in Citrus County, FL, and helped raise funds for a baseball diamond-shaped museum that opened there in 1994. Poor attendance — the rural county is far off the tourist radar — forced the museum to relocate in 2006. The Rays offered to house the 10,000-square-foot facility when it was clear that the Red Sox didn’t have the space.

The quality and rarity of the baseball memorabilia at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame is on par with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Williams’ childhood baseball bat and glove are here, as are his fishing tackle box (he’s also in the Fishing Hall of Fame) and artifacts from his service in World War II and the Korean War. Yet, there’s also plenty to see for the fans of the other 29 Major League Baseball teams.

The Hitters Hall of Fame honors the greatest offensive players in history, including both current and retired players. “Kids want to see the stars of today,” explains executive director Dave McCarthy. “Once they get pumped up about players they can relate to, there’s a window for them to get excited about the history.”

The 2013 Hitters Hall of Fame inductees were Darrell Evans, Lou Piniella, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Sandy Alomar Sr. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

When you first walk into the museum, which is only open during Rays home games, appearances can be deceiving. The first floor is a small group of display cases and a painting gallery by artist-in-residence Justyn Farano, whom on most days visitors can watch in action. But at the back of the room, a staircase leads to an exhibit area 10 times as large.

“A lot of visitors tell us that they enjoy us even more than Cooperstown,” says McCarthy. “I don’t think we have a more impressive collection, but I think people love seeing this stuff in a ballpark setting. For every wine and cheese guy out there, there are 100 beer and hot dog guys — we’re a museum that caters to the beer and hot dog guy.”

Another difference from Cooperstown: This Hall of Fame honors all-time hit leader Pete Rose, who was banned from the MLB for gambling on Cincinnati Reds games while he was the manager. McCarthy says he’s been flooded with compliments for including Rose.

“Most fans feel that he should be forgiven. The crime doesn’t fit the punishment. He didn’t throw games. He bet on his own team to win,” he says. “The steroids era is another story — we’re steering away from that whole mess for now.”

Tropicana Field’s “Touch-A-Ray” Tank looks like it is spilling over the centerfield wall, but that is an illusion. The rays’ swimming area is confined to the observation deck. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

Outside the gates of the Ted Williams Museum, there’s a bevy of family-friendly activities. Kids can pose for their own Topps baseball cards for $5 each and there’s a coloring wall where they are challenged to draw Raymond, the blue furry mascot of the Rays.

There’s also a giant fish tank in the centerfield stands, teeming with real rays of varying sizes. Staff from Tampa’s Florida Aquarium instruct fans how to safely touch and feed the animals without disturbing them. Lines are usually long, so be sure to show up early.

With the Tampa Bay Rays currently fighting for one of the Wild Card berths in the playoffs, the Hitters Hall of Fame could potentially be open for business deep into October. Regardless of how the Rays do, fans planning the ultimate baseball road trip should mark February 1 on their calendars. That’s when the new inductees are officially honored.

In addition to the ceremonies for the Class of 2014, which has yet to be announced, the Ted Williams Museum hosts a fundraising dinner on the Tropicana baseball diamond and invites fans to participate in photo and autograph sessions with up to 2 dozen retired and current stars. So far, confirmed guests include Cy Young Award winner David Price, Grant Balfour, Tony Oliva, Denny McClain, Ron LeFlore, Darrell Evans and Oscar Gamble.

“Players tell me that they’ve never had dinner on a Major League Baseball field before,” McCarthy smiles. “It’s a night when they become little kids again.”

For more information on the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, visit TedWilliamsMuseum.com.

By Darren Garnick

 

This Week in Photos

With the San Fermin festival winding down, the celebrations keep coming with Bastille Day fireworks, the eccentric Chap Olympiad and the 101st Calgary Stampede rodeo in This Week in Photos. Want even more travel highlights from this week? Read on for the viral news stories on our radar.

Music to the ears of any ‘90s kid and geography whiz, HuffPost rounds up the rumors surrounding the triumphant return of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”

The Smithsonian reports that a rare, smelly corpse flower is about to bloom in the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington DC. Seriously, we couldn’t make that one up.

USA Today continues to cover the fallout surrounding the Asiana plane crash in San Francisco earlier this month. The latest? Asiana is now suing a San Francisco TV station over their use of fake, and racially offensive names for the 4 pilots on air.

The NY Daily News covers a couple who managed to snap a photo in all 118 of Manhattan’s subway stations – in a span of 9 hours.

Watch “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen throw the worst first pitch ever. Enough said.

Want to get in on the Spring Fling action, but having a hard time since you’re … you know … single? Then grab a buddy, and fling about the nation’s ballparks!

Baseball season is in full swing, which means you’ve got one more thing to add to your sightseeing list while on vacation: rooting for the home team. While there are plenty of people who have “visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the country” on their bucket list, you don’t have to be quite so ambitious to make your trip ballin’.

Tips for Navigating the Wilds of Baseball Travel:

1.     Download the MLB’s At The Ballpark app. With it, you have access to every team’s full schedule, the ability to buy tickets and find promotions, as well as a map and a full A to Z guide of anything and everything you could need while at the park.

2.    Call the team’s front office ahead of time.  On the team’s website, search for an employee directory and contact the person who has something “community”-related in their title. They’ll be able to tell you if tours are offered or they might be able to hook you up with a special experience of some kind. (One-on-one time with the mascot, maybe?) Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Just let them know how big of a fan you are.

3.     Explore the city! Keep a few days available, just in case your game gets rained out. But while you’re there, check out the landmarks, search for an awesome restaurant, find a baseball museum (chances are pretty good there’s one nearby).

4.     Don’t make a beeline to the first hotdog stand you see. Walk the entire perimeter of the park and survey all your options. In fact, ballpark food is more varied now than ever. At Camden Yards in Baltimore, keep an eye out for the Jack Daniel’s Grill and their slab of whiskey-glazed, thick-cut bacon on a stick. Or how about some frozen custard from the Shake Shack at Citi Field in New York? You never know what you might find!

5.     Speaking of things you never knew you’d find, a few parks have unexpected perks. A pool and Jacuzzi at Chase Field in Phoenix? Sure, why not? An aquarium at Tropicana Park in Tampa Bay? Lead the way!

If you’re having trouble narrowing down your list of must-see ballparks, let our picks for Baseball’s Greatest Stadiums help you out!

MLB Trip Flip at Yankee Stadium

Ever wanted to tour one of the most historic ballparks in all of baseball? Tonight at 9|8c, watch as Trip Flip’s Bert Kreischer gives 2 vacationers the opportunity of a lifetime as he takes them on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City – including a tour of Yankee Stadium led by former Major League Baseball star Harold Reynolds. READ MORE

Hotel Commonwealth

In anticipation of tonight’s MLB All-Star Game (and, of course, after last night’s homerun derby), we’ve got America’s national pastime on the brain. Even though Boston is still mourning the loss of Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox, the city is in the process of celebrating the 100th anniversary year of Fenway Park – the nation’s oldest ballpark  – and you can take advantage of it. READ MORE

Welcome to the “Paris of the Plains,” where, tonight, the National League will go head-to-head with the American League in the 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Maybe they won’t settle the argument of whether a designated hitter is a good idea or not, but America’s favorite players will surely compete in an exciting battle of the brawn that symbolically marks the halfway point of the baseball season.

From its fountains and parks to its famous barbecue, Kansas City holds its own as an All-Star Game host city. Learn more about the city that the Royals call home with our gallery of Kansas City’s sights.

And while we’re figuring out which league is better, let’s talk about whose stadium is the coolest, too — check out Travel Channel’s picks for Baseball’s Greatest Stadiums.

Who will you be rooting for tonight? We want to know!

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • Escape to Poste de Flacq, Mauritius!

  • Travel's Best Honeymoon's- Rwanda and Mauritius

  • Travel's Best Honeymoons- Argentina

  • Travel's Best Honeymoons- Marrakesh, Morocco