Take me out to the ballgame

Stick and ball games, no matter where. My wife and I sometimes have a healthy discussion on traveling abroad. My contention is I really don’t want to because there’s so much to see right here in the United States, I really don’t want to go somewhere else. That’s something I will follow up on at a later time (it’s now on the list).

I did add an exception to traveling abroad, though. I wouldn’t mind going to a baseball-playing country and watch the game in their ballparks there. That cut the list of countries down to places like Japan, South Korea, Australia as well as Central America and the Caribbean.

I have been to a handful of major league and minor league ballparks to watch games. Beyond going to games at Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park here in Michigan, I’ve seen the Rays (Tropicana Field), the White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field/new Comiskey Park), the Brewers (Miller Park), the Twins (HHH Metrodome and Target Field), and the Reds (Great American Ballpark). I’ve gone to minor league games in the International League, the Florida State League and the Midwest League. And, there were the collegiate woodbat games in the Northwoods League.

If I had to rank where I’d like to go to see games, I’d rate Japan No. 1 based on safety alone. It seems the Caribbean and Latin America would pose the toughest places in terms of potential problems. That is, except for Puerto Rico.

So, after safety, just checking out the crowds, the stadiums, the smells, the atmosphere and the style of play all would be things I’d be out to watch. How do the players interact? How are their mannerisms the same as, or different to, what I see in the United States? Sure, it’s one thing to watch a movie such as “Mr. Baseball” or even recalling the Expos games played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. It’s another thing to be at these places, with the locals, and taking in a ballgame.

When I have gone to other games, it’s been fun to strike up conversations with the hometown crowds. One of the more fun times was watching the White Sox and Mets during an interleague series game in Chicago. I wore my Tigers cap, customary for me, so it was a conversation of the game, and our teams, while we watched the action in front of us. We were respectful of each other and enjoyed the action. No taunting, just asking their views of their teams. It was a good conversation.

That always hasn’t been my experience. I didn’t sit near Reds fans to engage them when I went to the Civil Rights Game against the White Sox several years ago. I went to then Devil Rays game when Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was playing for the Orioles, but over at third base. In Tampa, I was with other out-of-towners, taking in the action of the ballgame.

Hopefully, there would be English-speaking folks in most of those countries so I can learn more about the game being played there.

If I ever left the country, far away, I’d be all for checking out the baseball games at their stadiums and played their way. All so I can try to figure out the changes in nuances than what I see here.

Down on the farm. The more I think about the minors, and watch MLB Network, I wish there were was a show that covered the minors. I’m glad the network is a part of my cable package as I watch it off and on year-round. Sure, I’m into the action of the season and the hot stove season, so I really enjoy the current offerings from the network.

All that said, it’d be great to have maybe a half hour or hour show to cover how the minor league teams are doing. There are 240 teams scattered through all of the affiliated minor leagues. There are 12 leagues from AAA to low-A. So, plenty of material to work with.

The way I envision the program would be to have highlights from the AAA and AA games fed in from around the country. You can do spotlights on the high-A and low-A games, if video is available. Maybe have a feature on a top prospect each day. As players sign their contracts out of the draft and begin reporting for the remainder of the season, maybe have experts from Baseball America break down what they’ve done before. There also could be features on the communities, ballparks and the quirky promotions that are happening to help educate the baseball fans that may not have heard as much or haven’t had a chance to visit those places.

Would this dial up the pressure on these kids in the minors? Perhaps. But it would be a good way to continue bulk up attendance and have fans like myself consider taking in a ballgame at one of these venues when they’re traveling the country.

It sounds as though Major League Baseball is robust with fans coming through the turnstiles, and I know I’m likely wrong about that in some cases (like Tampa). It just seems that this is something to augment the coverage of the majors and it would allow MLB Network to not recycle the same storylines hour in and hour out.

The network, in the past, has shown games from the minors, and it will soon wrap up its coverage of the Arizona Fall League. It also is showing an international game Sunday evening. To me, it makes sense to take advantage of the affiliated baseball feeding the majors.

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