Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
WHAT TO DO DURING THE OFFSEASON
By Mike McCann
Well, here it is. The middle of the offseason. But there is still plenty to do to keep you occupied. Occasionally, I will watch some other sports, but it just isn't the same. In order to get my minor league fix, I'll take in some minor league hockey games. But I've been slacking in that department this year. I have been busy, and I'll give you some ideas of what you can be doing too. Keep in mind, pitchers and catchers report pretty soon, so that should get everyone pretty excited as well.
If you still enjoy the travelling experience, one fun thing to do is visit a current or former minor league stadium, just to see its design and what it is like. This works best in the southern part of the United States at this time, of course. It's often fun just to take a look around a ballpark, even if there isn't anyone around. You probably aren't going to be able to get in and walk around, but you can usually take a stroll around the perimeter. I was in Albuquerque, NM this month, so I was able to take some pictures of the construction of the stadium there. They aren't anything spectacular since I couldn't get very close, but still interesting to some. (In case you are interested, there are a few pictures on my website.)
There is always plenty to read about concerning the minor league baseball scene. I keep a close eye on the transactions column to see which players sign with which teams. Most publications that list baseball transactions will list players who sign to minor league contracts with clauses for making the major league team. Many of these players will be playing at the AAA level this year, so you can start to get an idea of who may be making International or Pacific Coast League rosters that way. These are often journeymen or former major leaguers who are looking to hang on. I also read about who is named manager and coaches for minor league teams. I often chuckle when reading the names of former major leaguers who couldn't quite cut it, but are now in coaching roles. You could also find minor league transactions which will mention players at all levels.
Many publications and websites post their list of top prospects which are very interesting to read. You can see which up and coming players may be playing on your local team this year. Or how the guys who have already passed through did this past year and their major league possibilities. I got to see Minor League Player of the Year, Rocco Baldelli, play in two games for Bakersfield this past season, so I was interested to see what was written about him and why he got such honors.
Another thing I always do is start planning some of my trips for 2003. I don't like planning that much in advance normally, but if I know of some events, I can start to plan around those. Mainly it's just to see what my options are and what I can do. I often set some goals for myself, this year to see the New England teams, and I see when I can find some good game combinations for the season. For instance, if I wanted to spend a weekend seeing Portland, Pawtucket and Norwich, I can see if there are any weekends in which all three teams will be home, and work around those. Another thing I'd like to do is visit some teams and stadiums that won't be around in 2004, as this will be my last chance. But I'm not going to get into that here because I'd like to save that article for another time.
This season, I've decided to try to make the most of day games. There are a number of teams that have afternoon or even late morning starts that would allow you to make it to another stadium that day for a night game. This could save a lot of money in expenses. I haven't been able to do much of it in the past, so I'm going to make a concerted effort this season. But in case you are curious of any good instances of this, here is one good example. On Monday, May 12, Indianapolis is home for a 12:00 game and Ft. Wayne has a 6:00 game. As the Indianapolis game will be done around 3:00 (I usually estimate three hours for a game to be on the safe side), making it to Ft. Wayne by 6 shouldn't be a problem. The following day, Toledo has a game at 10:30 in the morning, which isn't that far from Ft. Wayne. As that game should be done around 1:30, you would have about 4 hours to drive to another game in the area. You could also go to a game on the Sunday before these to start it off right.
Now some people will think that this is a bit extreme, but 5 stadiums in 3 days would be a fun trip for an intense minor league baseball fan. But even if this is too much, there are many other options out there that are similar, but not nearly as packed. If you are in areas like the northeast or Florida, you have many options. Although if you are out in the Rocky Mountains area, your options are definitely more limited.
I hope this helps to spark some ideas about what you can do with your offseason.
Unless you like to completely forget about baseball and do things like
spend time with friends and family. But I'll know that baseball is
always somewhere in your head.
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.