Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 9: Junction City Brigade, Junction City, KS. Informative Bathroom Trips, Light Coors Heavy, and New Scrappiest Scrappers to Ever Scrap.

After a restful 3 days in the Denver area, we left early for the first of two days of brutal drives to get back east to Atlanta in 3 days. Our original target was the Topeka Train Robbers of the Pecos League, but we realized the day before that that entire League had changed its schedule since we planned our route, leaving us with no game in Topeka. We tested out a dozen different routes and alternative stops, but every one was either an unacceptably long drive or the team was out of town (thank you, all of Oklahoma). Then Ben had the bright idea to Google “baseball” “Topeka” and we discovered the summer collegiate Topeka Golden Giants were playing a game against the Junction City Brigade but an hour west of Topeka. While summer collegiate baseball isn’t normally our top choice (more of a schedule fill-in as necessary), we decided this was our best option. We were not disappointed. More on that in a moment.

Our day was mostly driving, but we did decide to stop for breakfast at the IHOP/Truck Stop in Limon, Colorado. We had to wait forever for our food, but we got a “policemen” 50% discount as an apology, so that was cool. The most notable piece may have been Zach’s trip to the bathroom, which was not only relieving, but also informative and educational.

My God, we had no idea! Also, Zach would like to note that this is one of those rare acceptable photos to take with your pants down and share unsolicited.

After that we drove to Kansas. Then we drove in Kansas. Then we drove in Kansas some more. Seriously, this drive was boring. Worse than West Texas. Miles after miles of flat prairie and the occasional farm. And one sign for the Horse Motel Bed and Breakfast which read “Pretty Good Horses for Sale.” We respect truth in advertising.

When we couldn’t take it anymore we stopped in Salina to play a quick round of minigolf at Jumpin Joe’s Family Fun Center, which we were not convinced was a.) open or b.) not going to result in our abduction and live flaying. But we decided to risk it anyway and Zach emerged victorious once again when a furious comeback by Pat was short-circuited by a confusing and impossible to miss (?) 18th hole that seemed to require you to shoot the ball about 10 feet into a large shack which then dumped the ball into a pit of standing water.

This is more or less my plan for the Zombocalypse.

Jumpin' Joes was not exactly, ah, jumpin'.

Then we drove in Kansas some more before reaching Junction City just a couple minutes after first pitch.

Day 8: Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Colorado Springs, CO. The Gardens and Wrath of the Gods

So after a late, high scoring affair at Coors field two nights ago and only a home run contest the day before, we were itching to see an entire game.  And we did, by both hell and high water, see a game from start to finish in Colorado.  The Colorado gods tried to keep it from us, gave us every reason not to finish this one, but dammit, we stayed.  And got a free hat.

Before the game, though, we did some exploring south of Denver.  After an unremarkable lunch at Wendy’s, we sped to some place called Mantinou to see if we could climb Pikes Peak.  There is a three-hour round-trip railway line to the top which looks amazing, but was understandably full.  We waited on standby, but with only 3 minutes left on the parking meter, and the fact that we had no water with us, it wasn’t the end of the world when they didn’t call us.  And the prospect of the 40 degree summit while clad in t-shirts and shorts was daunting.  Plus, we had an excellent backup plan.
The Garden of the Gods has large red rocks.  And very limited parking.  Fortunately, you can drive around the large red rocks as many times as you’d like as you revisit every lot looking for a spot.  
Yep, we've been here.  And you haven't.  Well, maybe you have.  You might be Scott or somebody.  Who are we to judge?

Eventually we found a spot in the 8th place we looked and took a loopy walk (with plenty of water and under cloud cover, this time) around the rocks, seeing formations with names like “Kissing Camels” and “Sleeping Giant.”  If I were a god, I could certainly do worse than this for a garden.
I call it "Neckless Behemoth"

And you’ll thrill to knowledge of yet more mini-golf.  This time, it was inside, with air conditioning.  Nice and cool.  And glow-in-the-dark!  If you’re depth-perceptionally deficient, this is not for you.  The course did come with nifty capsules to put your balls in and make them glow, too.  Both courses shared an 18th hole, however, and it was Plinko style with an unavoidable hole at the bottom.  So both courses were decided after 17 and Ben’s ball got stuck on the Plinko bars and didn’t even go into the hole.

When we got to the park in Colorado Springs, it was already starting to drizzle.  We made a quick circuit for food and watched the first couple of innings from our seats behind home plate before the skies opened and left us huddled under the concourse roof with everybody else.  And it was COLD!  Who would have thought that a mile in the air with rain coming down would not be good weather for shorts?  Anyway, after an hour and a half of delay, the game resumed and we stuck it out, getting back to our beds in Denver at 1 in the morning.

Does this look like quitting weather to you?

But you’re here about the free hat, aren’t you?  All in good time.  Here come some

Day 7: RMBL All-Star Night: Boulders in Denver, Dingers in Boulder

A week into our journey, we found something more enticing than a mere minor-league game. We went to a minor-league all-star game. And more importantly, a minor-league HOME RUN DERBY. In Boulder, where the air is thin and theoretically conducive to DINGERS. We were pumped. But first, we were in Colorado, so we had to go hiking.

After a leisurely morning, we took a spin out to Red Rocks Park, home to a variety of striking geological formations and also a major concert venue. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in a move that probably wouldn't fly under current environmental regimes, is built into the terrain of the park and seats nearly 10,000. We hiked our way up the amphitheatre stairs -- no small feat on a hot day at high altitude -- to the visitors center, and then took a short circuit among the park's more accessible rock formations. Then we had to head to Scott Carpenter Park, home of the Boulder Collegians, host of the Rocky Mountain Baseball League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby (RMBLASGHRD), starting at 3pm sharp...

Seriously, though. That's a stage at bottom center.

And that's a pretty big rock.

Or so we thought. While the RMBL website told us 3pm, when we arrived at the park for the RMBLASGHRD, we found no crowd and only a few staff members starting to set up. We were informed that the actual start time (listed correctly on the Collegians website, but not on the league's) was 5pm for the derby and 7pm for the game itself. So we did what any self-respecting trio of amateur bloggers would do: we went mini-golfing. We played two rounds at the Gateway Park Fun Center, which delivered a respectable amount of fun and one unexpected wildlife encounter.

That's a living, breathing rabbit, who was so used to life on a mini-golf course that it did no more than twitch its ears as we rolled three tee shots past it. It didn't move until Zach went for his follow up shot and got within five feet of it. Just all sorts of chill, this rabbit, is what I'm saying.

Our lust for putting sated, we headed once again to the RMBLASGHRD, and this time there was actually something going on. The derby was organized similarly to the MLB ASG derby, except each player only got five “outs” (any non-HR swing of the bat) to go yard as many times as possible. Swarms of Little Leaguers played the outfield, tracking down any flies that fell short. We got there just a few minutes late, but there were 10 or 11 contestants, since not all of the 12 teams in the league fielded one. Now, the RMBL is a college summer league, so most of the players are only around 18-22 years old, and they were using wooden bats, so even in high altitude any display of power hitting would be fairly impressive. In the first round, the highest total was a respectable 7 homers by JJ Bissell of the Sterling Xpress, but only three other players cleared the fence at all, with totals of 3, 1, and 1. The second-place total belonged to Rough Riders 1B Josh Peterson, a giant Georgian who told the announcer “I just want to put on a laser show for the fans. I’m a big hairy-chested American winning machine.” Needless to say, he was an immediate crowd favorite, especially among the Atlantan Scrappy Journeymen. 

The park, and the giant Georgian in action.

Thanks to fatigue or bad luck, no one would manage multiple home runs for the rest of the day. In the second round, the four players who had managed to launch a bomb in the first round were given five more outs, and three of them managed exactly one long ball. A hasty conference between the event organizers resulted in some dubious ad hoc tie-breakers. The first of the two finals spots was chosen on the basis of longest non-HR, and the second was given to JJ Bissell for having the most total jacks. Bissell won the final by a score of 1 - 0, firing his single decisive tater over the right-field wall.

Another view of the field, players starting to warm up for the game.

Having previously made plans for dinner with our hosts, we were unable to stick around for the proper ASG, so consider our scoring somewhat tentative. We met our hosts at Breckinridge Brewery, a standout of the Colorado craft scene, and had a very satisfying meal featuring elk burgers, beer-braised meatballs, beer-glazed pretzels, and beer, as well as some surprisingly good hummus.

Highlights & Lowlights

  • Scott Carpenter Park was the smallest we’ve seen this trip, with just three sets of bleachers set up around a field in a municipal park.
  • The Boulder Collegians doubled their normal ticket prices from $4 to $8 for the RMBLASGHRD. Shrewd business practice, for sure.
  • A free program! Granted, it was just a single sheet printout of all the players and teams participating in the RMBLASGHRD, clearly produced in a spreadsheet, but given how few programs we’ve seen on this trip, it counts as impressive.
  • Also shrewdly, the Boulder Collegians had a robust array of hats, shirts, and other merch available for sale.
  • The announcer, who was strolling around the field with a wireless microphone, was charmingly irreverent and had a ready supply of quips:
    • “Baseball is all about butt slaps,” encouraging teammates to congratulate a derby contestant.
    • “Pee in a cup,” when a particularly long home run was hit.
    • “Other way, Jaron,” when one of the sluggers fouled a ball back on a big swing.
    • “If you hit a skater, one of the realty companies will buy you a house” — since there was a skate park just beyond left field.
  • Teammates repeatedly came out to encourage and “cool off” the sluggers when they took a break, giving them Gatorade, fanning them with towels, and of course providing a couple butt slaps for encouragement.
  • Several of the hitters eschewed batting helmets during the derby, since the pitching is all soft tosses by friendly coaches, but one added a stars-and-stripes bandanna. Nicely done.
  • One of the all-stars was the son of a coach and had been in the league four years, and he was among those who failed to go deep even once. Boo, nepotism.
  • Home plate was moved up slightly by means of a painted turf rug, to aid the pitchers and hitters in getting the ball over the plate and out of the park. Not something we’ve seen before.
  • For a small park, the field was respectably sized, 334’ at the corners and 388’ in center, with an even deeper 397’ to center-left. Accordingly, almost all of the day’s moon shots went to right.
  • The derby catcher got a special introduction as the "#1 fan" of the RMBL as a long-time volunteer (maybe? didn't catch the exact explanation) with the league.
  • While the main concessions tent was sans-alcohol, we belatedly realized that there was a separate tent for a local brewery (Wibby Brewing) offering a very tasty IPL. Even more confusingly, we weren't allowed to leave the small, vaguely fenced area around the tent while drinking it.


  1. Men’s Room: One is the loneliest urinal. 9/10
  2. Price of Beer: $5/12oz. of craft beer. 3.33/10
  3. Most Caloric Concession: A burger off the grill with all the fixings. Generously, 3/10.
  4. Free Seats for Bloggers: Well, ticket prices were doubled, so... no. They did offer us a drink to make up for our being two hours early. 1/10.
  5. Promotions: Well, we didn’t stick around for the game, but counting the derby as a pregame promotion for the game, let’s say 7/10.
  6. Crowd & Personalities: They might all have been the players’ friends and family, but they did fill the stands pretty well, and the field was positively littered with Little Leaguers. There were some minor league groupies and/or players’ girlfriends as well. 6/10.
  7. Best Name: A fairly thin crop here, but Arvada Colts derby representative Kaleb Geiger’s HRs were tallied by a “Geiger counter”, and Slammers C/3B/OF Titan Marler is named Titan, so that’s something. 4/10
  8. Tailgating: None to speak of unless you count the skateboarders, who for the sake of argument get a 2/10.
  9. Subtotal: 35.33 base metric points.
  10. Bonus Points: +1 for shrewd business practices, -1 for poor scheduling practices, +1 for program made in Excel, +1 for merch selection, +2 for irreverent announcer, +1 for teammate encouragement, +1 for stars-and-stripes bandanna, +2 for "laser show", +1 for failed nepotism, +1 for home plate carpet, +1 for #1 fan, -1 for sketchy tie-breaking procedures, +1 for delicious local beer, -0.33 for arbitrary alcohol zone.
For a grand to total of 46 points on our entirely arbitrary and furthermore tentative scale. This is definitely one of the more minimalist stops on the trip, as we often see with college summer teams. On the other hand, it was a unique event with a lively crowd, and the RMBL players and staff seem like they're having a good time with the whole thing. I don't think we could call the Boulder Collegians a must-see, but you probably won't be disappointed if you drop by. 7/10.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 6: A Major League Interlude with the Colorado Rockies.

Good news, everyone! No full post for you to deal with today. We left Albuquerque early in the morning, stopping only for a delicious breakfast of spicy waffles at Tia Betty Blue's and to play another round of Putt Putt that Zach won, ahead of our 7 hour, 20 minute drive to Denver. Pat and Zach both had spicy blue corn waffles, which were covered in eggs, cheese, and green and red chiles, served with beans and potatoes. And then we got in a car for seven hours.

We forgot to take pictures of our spicy waffles, so full credit to

We were much more excited about this drive than yesterday's, and while it was a bit of a slow start in northern New Mexico, the scenic route we chose (U.S. 285, importantly different from I-285 back home) began paying major dividends in Colorado.

...Unfortunately this also made us late because Zach screwed up the start time (the Texas Rangers played at 820, the Rockies at 640). But for once, angry WeaTHOR came to our rescue! Speeding through the mountains in occasionally driving rain and nearly stalling in a flash flood on a Denver off-ramp were cool and all, but the real benefit was a healthy 2 hour, 40 minute rain delay for the Rockies game.

The game finally had first pitch at 920p local time. Our friend Jake had presciently warned us that Rockies games tend to be "5-hour, 13-9 slugfests" (Coors Field is well-known for excellent offense due to the thin air that makes the ball carry, and commensurately horrible pitching because, well, would you want your stats hamstrung by pitching at Coors?). Well, this game was actually a 4-hour 14-9 slugfest, but we still gave up around midnight after the 7th inning stretch and headed to a Denver suburb for our very kind hosts for the next 3 nights, Scott and Meghan. The view from the 1st base side was gorgeous, though.

Man, look at that view. Shame it was dark before the game got underway.

Tomorrow we'll return to our regularly-scheduled posts with a visit to the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Baseball League's home run derby!

Day 3: Texas AirHogs: Flying Pigs, Rolling Elvises, and Testing Coasters

Hello folks! Pat here. I rejoined the Journeymen late on Friday night after no fewer than three hours on the tarmac at LaGuardia (during which we were re-routed, had to go back to the gate to get more fuel for the longer route, then were re-routed back to out original, shorter route) and one surprisingly expensive and GPS-challenged taxi ride. Nonetheless, I arrived and we once again had enough members to field a jazz trio, were any of us capable of playing the instruments involved.

With a full day ahead of us in Dallas, we briefly contemplated the sweet release of death, but decided to ride some roller coasters instead, and headed for Six Flags Over Texas. Despite the ungodly heat and substantial crowds (both to be expected on a summer Saturday in Texas), we had a pretty good time. Highlights included the ludicrously fast magnetically-accelerated Mr. Freeze, the bobsled-esque La Vibora, and Pandemonium, where each car rotated independently from the track on a sort of lazy Susan. Lowlights included some very questionable line management, and the decision to basically alpha test a “VR coaster” called Revolutions. For this ride, each rider was given their own VR headset, programmed to sync up with the real, physical coaster (aka The Shockwave) they were riding. Conceptually this is kind of a neat idea, but in practice it took an extra ten minutes for every train to set up the headsets, make sure all the riders had them securely strapped on, swap out the malfunctioning ones, etc. We wisely elected to ride the Shockwave (meaning the same ride, but no headsets) and were able to board relatively quickly, but we ended up waiting a while for the VR train ahead of us to clear the platform. So I took some pictures. Eventually we decided we’d had enough of the midday Texas heat and headed back to the hotel to regroup, at which point we realized that the AirHogs game had been rescheduled as a short double-header — two games of seven innings each — starting two hours earlier.

Stuck on the Shockwave.
Briefly refreshed and recharged, we took a short trip through the massive highway interchange that is north Dallas, we arrived at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie, home (sometimes) of the Texas AirHogs. Last year the Grand Prairie AirHogs and Amarillo ThunderHeads merged, becoming the Texas AirHogs. The team now plays half of their home games in each town. While this was attributed to scheduling issues, we did see some signs that perhaps the team has seen better days. 

As for the games, well, we must admit we left after the first half of the doubleheader, but rest assured we got our money’s worth of baseball. Early on it looked like a slugfest, with the AirHogs scoring three runs early and the visiting Joplin Blasters matching them as the AirHogs starter at one point threw 14 consecutive balls and walked in a run. But the score held at 3-3 from the 4th all the way to the bottom of the 13th. The AirHogs’ DH managed to get a walk and pinch-runner Will DuPont scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Good stuff. By the time the first game finished we’d been at the park for more than four hours and needed a break from the outdoors, so we made our way home. The second game, as it happens, finished 9-2 in favor of the AirHogs in a clean seven innings, so congrats to the AirHogs on sweeping the double-header. 

Highlights & Lowlights

  • The stadium itself is quite nice, at least on par with most high-minors parks, with lots of seating, suites, and wide open concourses. Out front of the park, there are some statues of airmen and a little bit of historical information about the region’s role in aviation manufacturing. Some friendly locals explained to us that an “Air Hog” is a model of Bell helicopter, formerly produced nearby. The much younger fellow at the box office gave us another explanation, “An AirHog is a flying pig.”
  • On that note, one nice touch were the “AirHog” sculptures hanging around the park, including this one outside the men’s room.
    To the best of our knowledge, this is what an AirHog looks like.
  • Park amenities included a fully enclosed “Sports Bar & Grill” in left field, which unfortunately was closed for a private event, although we were misled by the large letters reading “OPEN” in the windows. Maybe work on that signage, guys.
  • There was also a decently-sized pool in right field, along with a private pool deck, also occupied by a private party, probably a Little League team. We didn’t bring swimsuits and the Little Leaguers probably would have objected to our crashing their party, but anyway, pretty swanky.
  • For parents who aren’t able to rent out the pool deck, the park also features a kids’ zone with a pair of inflatable amusements, as well as a full playground, complete with a miniature baseball field. Signs at the playground indicate “NO ADULT SUPERVISION PROVIDED” — the AirHogs don’t specifically say you have to watch your kids, just that they aren’t going to do it for you. We appreciate this hands-off approach to parenting.
  • We discovered that elsewhere along the outfield, to the side of the batter’s eye, it was possible to watch the game through the fence from outside the park, and indeed there was a gentleman doing so. If for whatever reason you don’t have the $8 for a ticket, the AirHogs have got you covered.
  • One disappointment was that while QuikTrip Park appears to have a fully functional manual scoreboard, no one was operating it. The score was overlayed on the Jumbotron, while a smaller digital scoreboard recorded the count. 
  • They did pull some fun tricks with the Jumbotron. A Joplin player who was lacking a photo was displayed as one of Jabba the Hutt’s pig-faced Gamorrean guards from Star Wars, and gradually all the Joplin players’ faces were replaced with Nerf blasters or other guns.
  • Less amusing, but more impressive, the AirHogs also had legit video replay for big moments in the game, which is rare at this level. 
  • The crowd was extremely sparse for a Saturday night, especially in a relatively large park. Part of that is probably the adjusted start time, though we didn’t see too much of the crowd fill in later, either. It was also competing with a home game for the Rangers that night,  not more than ten minutes away.
  • However, the crowd that was there was quite animated, cheering, shouting, following the action. That’s always nice to see. Someone even brought an airhorn.
  • Thanks to the light crowd, we found ourselves seated directly behind home plate. That’s good!
  • The net behind home plate was alarmingly worn and fairly loose. That’s bad! Zach was concerned about the integrity of the net, although it did a fine job as far as we saw. Had any of us leaned too far forward, though, there’s some chance the slack in the net could have done us in. Through good luck and our diligence as baseball fans, none of us were injured.
  • Out seats were out of the sun all game. That's good! Especially in Texas in the summer.
  • TRUCK NUTS — not at the game, but on the way to Six Flags, we encountered a rather fetching pair of GOLD TRUCK NUTS. That is all.
  • Possibly because it was a rescheduled game, the AirHogs had no inter-inning promotions or contests. It wasn’t quite Nothing Night, but at least it did keep things moving along quickly.
  • They did, however, have one truly spectacular promotion: a gang of, um, motorcycle Elvises, which is to say, a diverse assortment of Elvis impersonators, at least twelve of them, all riding mo-peds around the concourses, making a tremendous racket. They came out around the 2nd inning and were still circling the entrance when we left after the 13th. Bravo, gentlemen.
    An Elvis!
  • Concessions were fairly typical with a heavy dose of Tex-Mex: fajitas, nachos, burritos, etc. We acquired a souvenir helmet full of nachos topped with cheese and “taco meat.” We still have the helmet; it has not been washed. On the sweet side, the AirHogs offer a fairly impressive array of floats, malts, and shakes, as well as helmets full of candy.
  • Continuing a theme, the stadium appeared to have a concession stand dedicated to a local barbecue joint, but it was closed and unmanned.
  • The PA informed us that the AirHogs’ mascot, Scout, had been “written into the Presidential race for years,” which is either a testament to his popularity or some kind of local in-joke, we’re not totally sure. A little research reveals that the AirHogs former mascot was “Ace Bacon,” which is clearly a better name.
  • Inter-pitch music. We’ve seen this before, and the AirHogs most emphatically embraced it, to out mild distress. But I guess if you’ve got a playlist of 250 ten-second samples of well-known songs burning a hole in your pocket, it’s the thing to do. It was at least done well here, with no repeats and no instances of music playing over the game action.
  • If an AirHogs pitcher records a 1-2-3 inning, or an AirHogs batter hits a home run, the team passes a bucket around the crowd for tips. This was a new one for me, and I’m not sure how to take it. It really highlights just how slim the financial rewards of indy ball are. It does have a certain charm, although after the fourth 1-2-3 inning we felt they needed to set a higher bar for pitchers.
  • One of the groups that received an official welcome on the scoreboard was the “Sexy Summit Seniors.” We refuse to research this further.
  • “Sweet Caroline” is impossible to escape no matter how far we get from Boston, but at least here no one cared to sing along with it.
  • After a particularly nice foul ball catch in the stands, the PA demanded the team “Sign that fan!” 
  • An adult fan scrambled for a foul ball and kept it for himself. Good for him. Kids need to learn to stop asking for handouts.


  1. Men's Room: Nine pearly white urinals. 1/10
  2. Price of Beer: $5 for 16oz of domestic, a solid 5/10. However, due to the double-header, there was no alcohol cut-off during the first game, allowing yours truly to keep drinking steadily for 13 entire innings. That's worth some bonus points.
  3. Most Caloric Concession: We thought the "family size" helmet nachos could have been bigger, but we suppose most families don't include three adult men who enjoy food challenges. Call it 5/10.
  4. Crowd & Personalities: As discussed, tiny but enthusiastic, and there was definitely a Little League team in attendance. 5/10
  5. Free Seats for Bloggers: Being able to watch from the parking lot doesn't count. Moving on...
  6. Promotions: I'm willing to give the motorcycle Elvii (Elvises? Elvodes?) 6 points even without much backup. 6/10
  7. Best Name: BURT REYNOLDS! It was a star-studded lineup, as AirHogs outfielder and presumed star of Gator Burt Reynolds was backed up by Blasters infielder and film auteur Sergio Leon. We also got an reasonable amount of amusement from AirHogs outfielder Michael Hur — her? Thanks, Arrested Development. One final shoutout to AirHogs pitcher Roman Madrid, whose name describes an archaeological site in central Spain. Anyway, BURT REYNOLDS. 9/10
  8. Tailgating: There were tailgaters! At least, as we were heading around the outfield, we saw some folks in the parking lot who looked to be enjoying some drinks before heading in. Not much, but good enough for 4/10.
  9. Subtotal: 35 base metric points.
  10. Bonus Points: +1 for name explanation, +1 for bar & grill, -1 for signage, +1 for pool, +1 for separated playground, +1 for AirHog sculptures, +1 for general park amenities, +1 for free viewing, -1 for unused manual scoreboard, -1 for unused barbecue booth, +2 for player photo hijinx, +1 for replay, +3 for dangerous netting, -2 for dangerous netting near our seats (we are hypocrites), +1 for keeping us out of the sun, +1 for mascot running for President, +2 for the player tip jar, +1 for ignoring Sweet Caroline, +1 for acrobatic foul ball catches & banter, +2 for walk-off wild pitch, +1 for serving me beer all game.
All told, 52 points on our totally arbitrary scale. Assuming they can get their home stadium situation sorted out, the AirHogs have a great park for the price and for the level of competition, and they have some fun and quirky traditions. We would have liked to see that park used more fully (unused scoreboard, missing vendors) but we still had an enjoyable time. If you've got some time to kill in the Dallas area you could do a lot worse than taking in a game (or two). 7/10

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 5: Albuquerque Isotopes. Professional Park, Less Professional Play, and Today We Celebrate Our Independence Day.

We began the morning in Roswell, New Mexico after not being abducted during the night. Pat harnessed the power of the 21st century to Foursquare us a breakfast spot a couple miles away called the Cowboy Cafe, which was both cowboy-themed and a cafe. But seriously, this was the best breakfast of the trip so far by a substantial margin. We were big fans of the fresh taste of the Spanish omelet (red chile sauce, cheese, and some other southwestern-ish veggies...9/10, would omelet again) as well as the sheer array of things wrapped into the aptly-named Washtub burrito. It was too early for any of us to take their 3-pound burger challenge...maybe next time. It didn't sound too difficult, but their wall of fame for it was sparse. We're not sure if it's 'cause the restaurant is fairly new or the challenge is deceptively tricky. Still, can't be worse than Richmond.

We then proceeded to the International UFO Museum and Research Center for...well, yeah, it's pretty self-explanatory. It's basically a large hangar with one side dedicated to the Roswell incident and the other to general evidence for the existence of UFOs. Our main complaint was the exhibits were poorly organized and seemed to just be random quotes and pictures and affidavits strung together with no real narrative - a problem with museum structure, layout, and curation. We didn't check out the research library, but we're sure it was...a library.  Regarding subject matter, none of us came away convinced in flying saucers and little gray/green/brown men, but for what it's worth Zach was and remains on their side that we're probably not alone out there due to statistics and the size of the known universe. Pat did buy a hat for the Invaders at their gift shop, though.

Continuing our streak of wearing gear for the visiting team, Pat donned his new hat for our next stop: the 1120a showing of Independence Day: Resurgence, because where else could we watch that other than Roswell? Our consensus reaction to the film was along the lines of "Well, I don't know what more I expected." Let's just leave it at that.

We then hit the road for the 3-hour drive up to Albuquerque. It was very, very, very, very, very flat and empty and boring, but we got to go really fast, so that was cool.

It's like Desert Bus, except more real and with less bus.

Since we had some time before the game we stopped by our favorite mini-golf chain, Putt Putt, for a couple rounds. Zach took the first round of the trip on a late comeback in Mississippi; Pat took today's first round, but Zach took his second of the trip on another late comeback on the second round. We had to save the third match for the next morning because it was game time!

Day 4: Roswell Invaders. Roswell, NM. There's a NEW Mexico now?

We have to apologize.  We know that all of our readers were waiting with bated breath just for this post so they could hear about the Midland RockHounds and finish off the entire Southern Division of the Texas League.  Well, Mother Nature didn’t exactly thwart the plan, but she gave us a stern glare and, based on the weather radar, we decided to burn all the way to Roswell, NM to check out the Roswell Invaders.

There’s not much to tell about the trip.  It was long, there was a lot of sky and clouds, a lot of flat.  It was remarkably nice to look at, but 7 hours of it borders on excessive.
The good clouds are fighting the bad clouds

Roswell loves aliens.  Their entire economy seems to be based on either selling aliens paraphernalia or being closed.  No alcohol purchases on Sunday (we had to drive 15 minutes to a gas station in the county jurisdiction as opposed to the city for booze), two mini-golf places that have Yelp reviews, but no physical location, and most non-chain restaurants seemed to be closed, either for Sunday or just to piss us off.

But the Aliens stuff we saw was neat.  Here’s a souvenir shop that has a playground inside.

Alf E. Alien's?  Vern E. Visitor's?  Needs more animatronics.

Here’s some of the darklight exhibit called Space Walk.  It is a series of rooms in a shop designed by theme park artists.  The pictures don’t really do it justice, but for 2 dollars, it’s worth your time if you’re in Roswell.

If you think this looks like a good idea for mini-golf, wait for Day 7

"I was one with the universe."  "Pics or it didn't happen"

The UFO Museum closed early on the day we arrived, but we made plans to visit the next morning before departing.

So we watched the storm tracker and noticed several huge cells now bearing down on Roswell.  We also checked the weather in Midland and were assured that it had been nice and clear in Midland and we would have certainly seen a game.  We huddled up in a surprisingly not-closed establishment to wait and watch, nervously trading possibilities about whether they might delay the game, when they might start, and just how wet it would be.

Unsurprisingly, the game went off without a hitch and we barely had a drop of rain.  Here’s the highlights.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 2: Frisco Roughriders. Top Notch Top Gun, Bluelight Beer, and Educating the Youth.

We woke up in Jackson, MS (not Michigan, Ben) and hit the road (by which we mean I-20...just I-20) pretty early for Dallas, TX (still not Michigan, Ben). First we grabbed some biscuits with tomato gravy for breakfast at a local farmer's market. It tasted like a light pizza sauce but I'm sure it was mostly butter, so despite the fruit in the name it was probably as bad for us as everything else we've eaten thus far.

The next moment of any merit happened between Monroe and Shreveport, LA when we sped past a sign noting "In the beginning, God created." Then, for more information we were instructed to dial 1-855-FOR-TRUTH. So naturally we did, and oh baby we were not disappointed. We declined to ask any questions of their spiritual counselors, but we did listen to three pre-recorded explanations from their collection of 10 billboards, including the one we saw. We were cautioned heavily against lust, because lust drags men to hell. No mention of women, though, so finally some good news for them!

We hit Shreveport around lunchtime and we noticed the city has no fewer than 8 Whataburgers, a local-regional burger chain in Texas and elsewhere. We'd never been, and Texans are inordinately proud of this place (not as bad as Californians and In-N-Out, but still), so we hit one for lunch. It was actually quite good! The fries are like McDonald's but crispier, and the burger was reminiscent of a Whopper but with mustard, which added a nice tang. Two out of two Journeymen agree that Texans' pride in Whataburger is, in fact, merited.

On the way out we decided to indulge our inner rebels and check out "Fort Humbug", which is basically a replica of a fake cannon made out of a burned log that the "clever Confederates" used to fool a bunch of "dumb Yankees" into steering clear. It was pretty awesome.

Heh, dumb Yankees. That's a LOG, y'all.

Then we hit the road west again. When we crossed into Texas the first thing we saw was mile marker 632. Well, sheeeeit. And that's not even the whole state.

Then we got into Dallas in the heart of Friday afternoon rush hour. So that was fun. But we made the game well ahead of first pitch for reasons that will become apparent below in our game recap!

Day 1: Mississippi Braves. Pearl, MS. Here's to the Braves of Mississippi!

So, a disclaimer before the main post.  We really enjoyed the game.  Miss Braves put on a good show, have a nice park, and there were at least a few unique highlights.  We actually recommend this park if you’re in the area.  But we’re going to be… unkind toward the state that houses them.  Eh, we’re men rapidly approaching the end of their 20s whose hobby includes counting urinals.  Don’t listen to us.

Scrappiness Ho!  To kick off our 5th adventure in minor league baseball, we got up, got dressed, got a stop sign ticket, got breakfast, got on the highway and headed west, young man.  Our end goal being the Mississippi Braves Jacksonville Suns game in Pearl, MS.  To fill up the time, we avoided Birmingham (more on that at the end of the trip) and embraced our pagan side by paying tribute to the Sibyl Temple in Vestavia Hills, AL.  Apparently an old Birmingham mayor was obsessed with Roman architecture and built his estate like a grand Roman temple.  All that remains is this temple to a sibyl, a prophetic priestess, the most famous of whom foolishly wished for immortality, but not eternal youth.
"Sibyl, what do you want?"  "I wish to die."

Zach's best impression of a Vestal Virgin

Our Alabama adventures concluded in Tuscaloosa, where we found what was recommended to be an excellent backwoods rib joint: Dreamland.  There were signed dollar bills all over the place, it was facing a set of mobile homes on one front and a church on the other, and it rather famously sold ribs and not much else, all signs of a winner.  It had great sauce and the sides were tasty, but the ribs themselves were… whelming.  For a place that had so much character, we kinda had better expectations for the food.  Oh well…

We entered Mississippi with a thunk.  Because the road quality from Alabama to Mississippi takes quite a dive, literally.
And they have cities named "Chunky".  No joke needed.

As for our experience in the ironically named Hospitality State, we felt it could be summed up only in 1960’s rebel ballad format.

Here’s to the drivers of Mississippi
You sit still on the highway when we want our speed to surge
Amidst all the construction you never want to merge
You and all your fellows should in one place converge
So all that’s good and beautiful can from your sins be purged

Here’s to the vending machines of Mississippi
Your candy bars should not be melted before they’re in my mouth
You should know air conditioning because you’re in the South
And furthermore your Pepsi makes us want to just drive out(h)
And because this is a baseball blog, I’ll mention Nate McLouth

Here’s to the forests of Mississippi
You advertise a scenic route with vistas, views, and more
Your streets are oddly labeled and make our tires sore
You’re filled up more with farms than with the nature we adore
We gave you half an hour, but you gave us a chore

Here’s to the minigolf of Mississippi
You open in the evening and only have white balls
The holes are all aloft so the putting never falls
And sometimes there are two holes inside the lowered walls
This was so unconventional.  How do you have the gall?

Here’s to the blog you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another journey to be part of

Measure twice, cut once.  Or in Mississippi, put holes wherever you want. 

It was even hard to get directions around Jackson, because Google always wanted to give us the locations and weather of Jackson, Michigan.  As if it was saying, "You don't really mean Mississippi, do you?"  But enough whining.  After checking into a hotel in Jackson, we did some errands and headed to the game.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SJ V Intro: Go West, Scrappy Journeymen

It's 8 million degrees outside and Ben has entered his annual childless phase, so it's as good a time as any for our 5th annual MiLB roadtrip.

Our original plan was to go exotic and drive down to MEH-HEE-CO, but once we realized we couldn't actually speed from the border to Mexico City in a Corolla without stopping for gas in the middle of cartel territory we decided to just drive west instead.

Scheduled highlights include TOP GUN NIGHT in Frisco, Texas; an Albuquerque Isotopes game; seeing the new Independence Day in Roswell, NM; and a college summer league home run derby in Denver (SO SCRAPPY...or because it's only dingers does that make them GLOREE BOYZ?). But of course these highlights are, as usual, subject to change due to journeyman or team incompetence or, like, wildfires.

Also, because we're old and cranky and set in our ways now (GRIZZLED SEASONED VETERANS) we're not planning to change our metrics from last year. We will, however, be adding a Player Tracking feature where we (randomishly) pick a player to keep an eye on in the future since we've accumulated quite a cadre of players who are (not coincidentally) elevated after being featured on this blog (Brandon Poulson, Xander Bogaerts, Mallex Smith, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Socrates Brito). 

Will any team step up and dethrone our favorite stops of St. Paul or Humboldt County, CA? Will we find ANY team as GRITTY as the replacement-level PawSox? Only one way to find out...