I’ve been traveling a lot lately. Fortunately, this is baseball season, so sometimes I get a chance to visit a park I’ve never been to before.
Last week I was in Allentown, PA. Actually, that’s not quite true — I was actually in Schnecksville, PA, a small suburb of Allentown. It turns out that this year Allentown has a new baseball team. The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs are playing their inaugural season as the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
(Two years ago, as part of an extended weekend road trip, my son Xander and I did the Phillies circuit. We got tickets to see the Phillies at Citizens Bank park (a huge improvement over the old Veteran’s Stadium, but, then again, almost anything would be), then we saw the Reading Phillies (their AA affiliate), and finally swung around to see the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, who at the time were the Phillies AAA team. Now that Scranton is the AAA team for the Yankees, we won’t be going back any time soon (I’d link to their web site, but hey, if you’re a Yankee fan, go find it yourself). As a final aside, we were hoping to do a similar circuit for the Red Sox (Red Sox at Fenway, Portland Sea Dogs, Lowell Spinners), but couldn’t get tickets to any of them. That’s right — the Single A Lowell Spinners were sold out, too. Baseball is king in New England.)
I was teaching a private class last week, and the client was a major sponsor of the Iron Pigs. That meant I was able to join a group of people in a good balcony section of Coca-Cola Park (an awful name, but there it is). The whole pig theme was obvious, from the kids hanging out on the freshly mowed lawn in left-center, which was called Pigs on a Blanket, to the Pig Pen in right-center field. Their program was even called Pork Illustrated.
We had a lot of fun, even though the Iron Pigs lost 5-4. Still, the park was charming, we had excellent weather, and the people were friendly. (Mostly — I did have an extended baseball discussion with a long suffering Cleveland Indians fan who hates all things Boston, which is probably understandable under the circumstances. ;))
This week I’m in Austin, TX. Last night I drove out to Round Rock and got to see the Round Rock Express, the AA affiliate of the Houston Astros. Yesterday the temperature peaked at 102, but there was a warm breeze and it cooled off a bit as the sun went down. The stadium wasn’t terribly full, but the people who were there were quite enthusiastic. The Express even won 3-0 and hit two home runs. Other than taking forever to find my rental car in the parking lot (a sign of traveling too much is that you forget what your rental car looks like), I had a great time.
I’ve now added baseball caps from the Iron Pigs and the Express to my collection. I used to get T-shirts everywhere for my son Xander, but he told me he doesn’t want them any more. Now that he’s 16, all he wears are T-shirts with various rock bands on them. So be it. Be sure, though, to check out his band’s excellent studio recording of their song “Don’t Tell Me” at their MySpace page.
Next week I’ll be in Asheville, NC, and it looks like the Asheville Tourists (the class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies) will be in town. Maybe I’ll be able to buy another hat.