Birthday Ballpark Road Trip

Cool night at Banner Island Park

When asked how I wanted to celebrate a big birthday, I had a one word answer – baseball. Since my birthday is at the very start of baseball season, my husband and I decided to take a trip to northern California where we would be able to visit one major league and six minor league ballparks in just over a week. Forgetting how vast the state of California is, we decided to stay in one location and travel each day to a different stadium, as well as a couple of National parks. It turned out to be a not-so-great idea as we spent way too much time in a, dare I say, crappy rental car. The weather cooperated for the most part – it started out cool at the beginning of the trip and warmed up a little each day. Minor league games are always a hoot and the California Single and Double A teams did not disappoint.

Happy 75th [yikes!] Birthday to me

Our first stop, after a long plane ride and jet lag, was Banner Island Park, home of the Stockton Ports. Northern California can be quite chilly at night; I was glad to have my woolen cap and parka. Saturday evening found us at Excite Park, where the San Diego Giants play. It is an old ballpark with lots of history. The game was made more special by attending it with my old high school friend Pat and her husband Paul, who live in Palo Alto. The AAA teams were pretty awful but entertaining to watch. There were a lot of hit batters, and a player running from second to third tripped and made a somersault [he was out.] Sunday we headed into San Francisco to watch a Giants game. While we’ve been to Oracle Park before [a few names ago] we had great seats in the sun and it was an exciting game – the Giants came from behind in the 8th inning to win. Monday is an off day in minor league baseball and was also my birthday. We spent it at Yosemite National Park where there was still snow on the mountains.

Home of the Fresno Grizzlies

On Tuesday we headed to Sutter Health Park where the Sacramento River Cats play. The weather was starting to warm up – I was able to ditch my parka and enjoy some sun before it set. Wednesday found us at Chukchansi Park [try repeating that three times], home of the Fresno Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies are a Single A team, the stadium was originally built for a Triple A club; it was the largest and nicest park we visited on the trip. Our Thursday trip was to John Thurman Park. It was a small and raucous stadium where the Modesto Nuts play; the team has a Bat Dog, who would scamper out of the dugout to retrieve a bat once the hitter headed to first base. Our last game was spent at Valley Strong Park, home of the Visalia Rawhide. It is an old, small park with plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied.

Visit to the California Automobile Museum

Although we did a lot of driving, we found time between ballparks to make a few stops. While in Sacramento to watch the River Cats, we made visits to the California State Railroad Museum and California Automobile Museum which were wonderful surprises. And afternoons spent at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks were nothing short of spectacular.

The spectacular Sequoia National Park

It was a fun trip and a great way to celebrate my birthday; however, there were a few things I learned. 1. Check the distance between destinations before booking hotels, and 2. Take your own car or splurge on a better one. 

Published by Chris Lezotte

Chris Lezotte PhD is an independent scholar whose research focuses on the relationship between women and cars.

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