Sunday, May 30, 2010

July trip to Minnesota and Iowa set!

I'm back in Japan and already itching to return to the States for more baseball. Fortunately, the Minnesota Twins have opened a new stadium this season and I am compelled to make a pilgrimage. I've chosen a weekend series against the White Sox from July 16-18 which turns out to be a nice coincidence as fellow sports road trippers Gary Herman and Mike "The King" Casiano from New York and Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell from Buffalo will be there.

Gary maintains his own blog called Royalty Tours which details his adventures, and he has a lot of them. Both he and the King see around 400 sporting events a year while holding full-time jobs. I met them back in 2003 and have seen games with them nearly every year since then.

Andrew and Peter completed the Ultimate Sports Road Trip (all 121 venues in the big 4 sports) back in 2002 and continue to catch each new stadium when it opens. They are also sportswriters for a local newspaper and keep a blog about their travels and other sports issues. I first encountered them in 2001 and we have met on occasion when I visit New York or Ontario, but this will be our first meeting on the road. It will also be the first time the five of us attend a game together and I am very much looking forward to it.

Qantas miles to Chicago

As usual, planning the trip has been a lot of fun and seen a lot of changes. I originally had a 3-week journey that started in Minneapolis and finished with the Blue Jays in Kansas City, along with 10 days watching the minor leagues in Iowa. But I had to shorten this jaunt after my unexpected trip to LA last month, so I cut it down to two weeks. The White Sox-Twins and Jays-Royals series were a must, so the next step was to figure out which other games to see. I still wanted to check out the 5 minor league parks in Iowa and all those teams are home in the week beginning July 10th. As well, the Iowa Cubs would be home on July 22nd with Casey Blake bobblehead night, so that made a good stop on the way back from KC.

So I thought I had the trip set. But then I received an e-mail from the friendly folks at Qantas. Turns out that my frequent flyer miles are expiring at the end of June. When I was working, I had several business trips to Australia and had accumulated a good number of miles. But having stopped working two years ago, I hadn't had the chance to earn any more miles. Without any activity for 3 years, the existing miles expire.

Since I don't have enough miles to fly internationally, I first tried finding domestic flights in Japan, but there didn't seem to be a way to do that. I then realized that I could probably book a flight between Minneapolis and somewhere in the US during the July trip and add a couple of games. After much searching of baseball schedules and available flights, I determined that Chicago was the best bet. Even better, it was cheaper to fly from Tokyo to Chicago rather than Minneapolis, so I would save a few bucks in the process.

I'll arrive in Chicago on July 9th, a bit too late to catch the White Sox game and then fly to Minneapolis the next morning. From there, I'll drive down to Des Moines to watch the evening game between New Orleans and the Iowa Cubs. The next day is the World Cup Final, but that should be over in time for a game in Davenport, where the Quad Cities River Bandits play. The next few days will be spent watching more Midwest League games in Iowa before I return to Minneapolis for the weekend. In Kansas City, I found an independent league team which has a night game the same day the Jays and Royals play an afternoon affair. And when I fly back to Chicago, I'll see a Cardinals-Cubs matchup in Wrigley and then drive up to Milwaukee for the Nationals and Brewers on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon before driving back to Chicago and flying home on Monday.

The full schedule is as follows:
Jul 10 New Orleans Zephyrs at Iowa Cubs 7:05 (PCL)
Jul 11 Beloit Snappers at Quad City River Bandits 5:00 (MWL)
Jul 12 Peoria Chiefs at Cedar Rapids Kernels 12:05 (MWL)
Jul 12 Beloit Snappers at Quad City River Bandits 7:00 (MWL)
Jul 14 Bowling Green Hot Rods at Burlington Bees 6:30 (MWL)
Jul 15 West Michigan Whitecaps at Clinton LumberKings 7:00 (MWL)
Jul 16 Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins 7:10
Jul 17 Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins 6:10
Jul 18 Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins 1:10
Jul 19 Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals 7:10
Jul 20 Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals 7:10
Jul 21 Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals 1:10
Jul 21 Schaumburg Flyers at Kansas City T-Bones 7:00 (Northern League)
Jul 22 Oklahoma City Redhawks at Iowa Cubs 7:05 (PCL)
Jul 24 St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs 12:05
Jul 24 Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers 6:10
Jul 25 Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers 1:10
Seventeen games in 16 days! Should be a blast.

Quiet Time

Between now and then though, there won't be much going on here. The World Cup starts in just 12 days and that will take up most evenings for the month of June. The J League also halts its season while the tournament is held, so there won't be any soccer here. A third of the Japanese baseball season has been completed and both leagues have neatly separated into 3 good teams and 3 bad ones. Since 3 teams make the playoffs in each league, this year is even duller than usual, so I won't be seeing any games in Tokyo for now. That leaves minor league baseball, and I'll try to catch a few games as the weather should be nice.

There's also the industrial league tournaments which are taking place around the area. Last year I saw the championship game between Toyota and Honda. It was like baseball on speed and I want to see some of the regional games too. Each prefecture has its own tournament; Kanagawa (where Yokohama is) has games this week and next, while Tokyo has tournaments in early and late June. These are often day games, so I'll probably watch a few of them just to see what it is like. It'll be a relatively quiet month after the recent trips, but check back regularly, I'm sure to be watching something!




  1. Very nice, Sean. I'm a bit jealous.

    I'll be seeing your Blue Jays at Coors Field next weekend. Ubaldo Jimenez may pitch the first game of that series. Potentially Brandon Morrow for the Jays that game.

    Side note: Would love to hear your thoughts on Armando Galarraga's almost perfect game.

  2. Thanks Meg. You know, KC isn't that far from Denver...

    The Jays in Coors should be a homerfest. A couple of 9-8 games I would expect.

    I usually don't post on the news of the day like the Galarraga game, there are so many articles on that one event that I can't add anything unique. My opinion, I don't think it makes a difference to the team or players, they know he had a perfect game and it won't matter in the long run if he is in the record books or not. Detroit won and that is what matters. Compare it to Denkinger's call in 1985 which may have cost St. Louis the World Series.

    If anyone, it would be the fans who got screwed; they had a chance to say "I saw a perfect game". But then again, there have been 20 perfect games, but only 1 "almost perfect game that was ruined by a blow call in the bottom of the ninth" so maybe being at the rarest of games is worth more in the end.