It’s that time of year again. Spring training is winding down and players are waiting to see where they’ll be assigned for the season. Coaches, players, interns, and some front office staff members are making their way to their new homes for the year, myself included. Last year I wrote about the epic cross-country trip to Idaho. Thankfully this season I’m about 10 hours closer to home and didn’t have to worry about blizzards but I did have a few hiccups on my adventures to Iowa. The trip only took two days and about 15 hours on the road. Starting out I decided to get a big chunk of the drive out of the way and left Dallas to head to Tulsa, Oklahoma. You guys know I’m always stopping at ballparks to check them out and I did check out where the Drillers play. That makes it the 18th ballpark I’ve checked off the list. It’s a super nice ballpark and the skyline in the background can’t be beat. (Except maybe by the Orem Owlz.)
I made a slight detour after lunch in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to tour the Bluebell Ice Cream factory which was neat. The original facility is in Brenham, Texas and is five times larger than this plant but it was still cool to see. Contrary to many ice cream myths, there are no cows at the factory. (That fact upset some of the kids on the tour.) They go through about 20,000 pounds of sugar a week and can make thousands and thousands on pints, half-gallons, and gallons of ice cream a day. We saw where they were packaging the ice cream and it looks insane. There are machines that twist and fill the containers with ice cream before a lid pops on. Workers then package the ice cream and put it on a conveyer belt to head to the freezer which can get to more than 40 degrees below zero. Then you have workers dedicated to getting the containers and loading them into the machine. Finally, there’s the guy who has the best job of all. He’s in charge of….marshmallows. All he does in load marshmallows into the machines and he gets to eat all the ice cream he wants. Sounds like a pretty awesome job to me! I got back on the road and stopped for gas at what once was the World’s Largest McDonald’s that was built over the Interstate. The golden arches were the steel girders. However, I think they might have lost that crown because all of the signs were gone and the food court is now shared with a Subway. Plus the arches were gone so it wasn’t very photo-worthy.
When I go on road trips, I’m always looking for fun little side trips to break up the long hours on the road. I use Roadtrippers.com which I would highly recommend because it’s how I find some of these places. I was pretty skeptical whenever I saw Mickey Mantle’s childhood home pop up because I had never even heard that it still existed. Nevertheless, I pulled over in Commerce, Oklahoma to try to hunt it down. In a really run down part of town in a neighborhood of small houses that look like they’re falling apart, I found it.
Mickey Mantle’s childhood home (Jarah Wright)
According to the plaque outside of the home, this is where Mickey Mantle first learned to play baseball which is pretty cool. I can image him and his dad playing catch in the front yard.
Plaque outside the house (Jarah Wright)
After checking out the house, it was back to the car to make it to Kansas City for the night. The weather was definitely not cooperating because it was heavy rain the whole way there. On the Interstate near Kansas City, the rain was so thick on the road you couldn’t see where the lane lines were. But I made it to the sports complex to see Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. I knew they shared a parking lot but it was wild seeing just how close the two complexes were to each other. (Although I shouldn’t be too surprised because the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys have a similar setup in Arlington.)
Needless to say, I was disappointed the weather wasn’t nicer because I wanted to look around some more but after a long day of driving, I decided to head back to the hotel. Something weird happened on the way back. I went to school with Dom Dwyer who plays for Sporting KC. As I was getting off the Interstate I looked up and there is a huge billboard of him promoting Sporting KC. No matter how famous he gets, I’ll always remember him as the guy from TJC. Anyways, the next day I had some things planned out but then my car started acting up. I could drive it but it was pretty stressful driving the four hours to get to Davenport. No fun stops to tell you about on this leg of the trip but I went through Des Moines and I know the Iowa Cubs play there so hopefully I can bring you guys some fun MiLB shenanigans again later this season.
(P.S. The Quad Cities River Bandits released their promo schedule yesterday and it looks like there are going to be some epic nights. I’m looking at you Pitch Perfect night.)