Every season, baseball players leave their hometowns to travel to their new teams for the year. Some players travel hundreds or even thousands of miles while others may be moving to whole new countries to start their baseball season. Many interns around the country do the same thing to work for teams with the hope of making it in the industry and securing a full-time position with a club. This season, I was one of those interns.
This is my second season in minor league baseball but I was fortunate to have spent my first season with the Frisco RoughRiders in 2012. I was lucky because the ballpark was close to where I was already living so the commute was only about 20-40 minutes away. For this season, I made the cross-country trip from Texas to Idaho which originally totaled out at 28 hours but ended up being 33 hours overall.
The first leg of the trip was from Dallas, Texas to Salina, Kansas. The drive was pretty smooth and the weather was perfect and sunny. I decided to stop around the Oklahoma City area for lunch. I was going to stop by Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks, but the traffic to downtown OKC was ridiculous. It would have taken over an hour to get in and over an hour to get out so I decided to head north. About 10 minutes north of Oklahoma City is Pop’s Soda Ranch, an awesome soda shop on Route 66 that I highly recommend. It’s not hard to miss judging by the 30-40 foot tall soda bottle in front of the gas station/restaurant/store.
When you walk into the store, almost every inch of wall space is covered in glass soda bottles. Pop’s boasts carrying and selling over 600 different types of soda including what probably was over 100 types of root beer and sarsaparilla. The diner fare was great. A three-cheese patty melt with bacon hit the spot before filling the car up with gas and heading back out on the road. The next stop wouldn’t be until Kansas and I stopped at a landmark that can only be described as the Holy Grail of food places for all college students and quite possible minor league players as well: the world’s first Pizza Hut.
This beauty of a building is located on the campus of Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas just a few blocks away from where the building originally stood when the first Pizza Hut pizza came out of the ovens in 1958. It’s been a college staple ever since. After bunking in Salina at what can only be described as a shady hotel with orange water and broken bed springs, it was on to Denver for leg two. Driving through Kansas, there were many windmill farms with hundreds of windmills spread across the countryside with cows grazing beneath them speckled with the occasional corn field here and there. With an easy, uneventful drive behind me, I arrived in Denver. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Coors Field in person so I made my way to see the home of the Colorado Rockies and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
The field is absolutely gorgeous and the tour was very informative. I had no idea the field was heated from underneath or that lots of other stadiums get their grass from Colorado.
We checked out the owner’s suite, the club level, and had pretty awesome views from the press box, a double-decker right behind home plate.
Then we went to the visitor’s locker room before wrapping up the tour in the visitor’s dugout. Our tour guide told us that normally we would go to the home dugout but today, a couple was getting married at home plate. Congrats to the happy couple!
After settling in for a night in Denver, it was on to Cheyenne, Wyoming. However, a snow storm shut down the Interstate forcing me to go back to Denver. Luckily because I stayed further south, this Interstate was open the whole way to Idaho. The scenery in Colorado and Utah was gorgeous but with a 15-hour drive, there wasn’t a lot of time to stop and admire it.
After four days, seven states, and over 30 hours on the road, I made it to my apartment in Idaho and definitely had a greater appreciation of all of the traveling that players go through over the course of the season. But we all share the same passion which makes it all worthwhile: baseball.