Block these dates out: June 12-24

I’ve had the pleasure of going on several ballpark sojourns in my day. It started during college breaks, as it has for many. When you’re a broke college student on the west coast, you can only get so far even if you’re camping and gas is cheap (circa 1996). The adventures extended well into post-education life. I even have a pretty good routine down for scheduling business trips to coincide with sporting events of different types.

In these troubling financial times, it might be easy to be dissuaded from taking such a ballpark trip in the near future. It is, after all, the era of the staycation. However, next year there will be a unique period in which California fans will have an opportunity to take in a veritable cornucopia of baseball experiences – all practically within the state of California. We can thank MLB’s schedulers, who have released next year’s schedule in time to start planning.

Next year’s interleague schedule has the AL West facing their counterparts in the NL West once again. During the second period of interleague play in mid-June, all five California teams will play each other in a sort of unintentional round robin. It’s the scheduling equivalent of a total eclipse. From June 12 through June 24, the schedule looks like this within California:

From this an A’s fan could fashion a pretty nice road trip focused entirely on A’s road games. It could get more interesting by throwing in one of the Freeway Series games. If you wanted to make it really cool (and you had the time), insert a few minor league games to boot. We already know about the Sacramento River Cats and the Fresno Grizzlies. Las Vegas will continue to field a AAA team, though it’s not yet known what affiliation it will carry – other than the fact that it won’t the be the Dodgers, whose AAA team will once again live in its rightful home, Albuquerque. Vegas’ Cashman Field may not be swank or even modern, but as a one-time temporary home for the A’s, it could merit a visit. Besides, it’s Vegas, right?

To make the minors more exciting, Reno is building a new stadium for the old Tucson Sidewinders (Diamondbacks affiliate). The team will start play there in April. Add that to the mix along with Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark, and you’ve got two weeks of baseball bliss without having to fly anywhere or drive more than 8 hours at any point along the trip, most often much less. Minor league schedules haven’t been released yet so inclusion of minor league cities is speculative for now. As that information is released we’ll have a better idea of what is feasible. Fortunately, the schedule allows for some flexibility.

The itinerary:

  • A’s @ Giants, 6/12-14. If you’re like me, you tend to avoid the A’s-Giants series unless a large group gathering (read: casual fans) makes it worthwhile. As Yogi once said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
  • TBD @ River Cats, 6/14 or 6/15. Hopefully the big league team stays healthy enough that the River Cats don’t bear an uncanny resemblance. While you’re there look for the AAA championship trophy.
  • TBD @ Reno team, 6/15 or 6/16. One more reason to head to the Reno-Tahoe area in the summer. The ballpark site is downtown. You could even take Amtrak’s California Zephyr train from the Bay Area and walk to the ballpark.
  • TBD @ Las Vegas team, 6/16 or 6/17. The team is getting rid of the 51s moniker with new ownership. Side note: the former owner was Mandalay Entertainment (film producers, not casino), a group that was interested in buying the A’s in 1999.
  • A’s @ Dodgers, 6/16-18. Even if you’ve been to Dodger Stadium multiple times in your life and it’s old hat, the place still has a magical quality to it. Maybe you’ll catch a game on a relatively smog-free day.
  • A’s @ Padres, 6/19-20. I’ll go out on a limb and predict it’ll be a low scoring affair. Even when accounting for the aggregate score of all three games.
  • Dodgers @ Angels, 6/21. Catch another rivalry game despite your hate of both teams.
  • TBD @ Grizzlies, 6/22. With any luck the River Cats and Grizzlies games will involve the two teams playing each other. Chukchansi Park is a nice, modern ballpark.
  • TBD @ Stockton Ports, 6/23. Might as well, it’s on the way home.
  • Giants @ A’s, 6/24. It’s unusual to schedule any Giants-A’s series during the weekdays, but that’s what’s happened here. I suspect that this game will be a 12:35 PM tilt as is customary on Wednesdays. That might allow for a switch at the end of this trip. After the end of this game, you might be able to drive out to Stockton to catch the Ports game.

Again, this is all contingent on the scheduling of the AAA teams. Still, at least two of the four teams should have schedules that can accommodate the trip. It’s also possible to switch Las Vegas and Fresno if scheduling conflicts warrant it. A trip like this can be done cheaply (couchsurfing) or expensively (long hotel stays). The NorCal and SoCal segments can be separated. I’m looking forward to next summer, when I can take the whole trip myself.

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