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Behind the scenes at the MLB Little League Classic

Check out my behind-the-scenes look at Major League Baseball’s event at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. You’ll see what happened when all of the players and coaches of the Pirates and Cardinals mingled with the youngsters at the Little League complex. Then later the tables were turned when the Little Leaguers attended the big leaguers’ game at a spruced-up Minor League ballpark.

It was a tremendous day, and I’m quite pleased to give you a glimpse of what the once-in-a-lifetime event was like.

Check out my essay and a dozen photos here.  You’ll also find links to my articles on the event published by USA TODAY.

Finally, a new way to rank MLB parks

You’ve seen them in countless sports publications, on the MLB Network, on travel websites, on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, on The Travel Channel, and of course right here at

We’re talking about rankings of big-league ballparks.

In fact, my first writing assignment from USA TODAY was to pen a piece ranking the 30 MLB parks. This combines three of USA TODAY‘s very favorite things: lists; sports; rankings.

You probably think that the 30 stadiums have been ranked every possible way. Well, they hadn’t — until now.

Max Schleicher works for a start-up firm in Chicago called ReviewTrackers. Max explains that the company, among other things, analyzes online reviews of products and services to assess “customer service insights.” Obviously, such data would be invaluable to marketers.

“Plain and simple, I like playing around with data,” Schleicher told “Doubly so for baseball data.” That’s what motivated him to start looking at feedback about ballparks in ways never before attempted. Read More

The 2017 Ballpark of the Year

We are very pleased to announce that our 18th Annual Ballpark of the Year is Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the first-year home of the Hartford Yard Goats. (Official press release is here.)

Every year since 2000, has presented a plaque to the best new or renovated ballpark for that season. You can check out the list of winning parks and their architects here.

Hartford’s park wasn’t the most expensive baseball stadium that opened this year, or even the second most costly.  Those would be SunTrust Park in Atlanta ($672 million) and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches ($148 million).

While Dunkin’ Donuts Park’s $71 million pricetag isn’t a paltry sum, it bought an awesome ballpark. To learn why the park won the award (and read what the team’s owner, the park’s architect, Hartford’s mayor, the President of Minor League Baseball and the Farm Director of the Rockies had to say about it), I urge you to check out the official press release on the award here.

To read our massive in-depth review of the park — written right after it opened in April — go to our article entitled Ending Hartford’s Losing Streak.

Sights from 3K day

It’s no secret that my favorite player is Adrian Beltre. When I had the opportunity to witness his 3,000th hit, I made a beeline to Arlington, Texas on July 30th.

Check out my photos and thoughts on Beltre’s big day by clicking here.

A look at the Carolina League’s two new parks

Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but an interesting change was made within the structure of Minor League Baseball’s High-A level during the past off-season. Two California League franchises with woeful facilities were “contracted.” At the same time, the Carolina League was expanded, as two teams were added less than 80 miles apart.

The new teams are the Buies Creek Astros and the Down East Wood Ducks, both in North Carolina. We attended home games for the two clubs recently, and the result is articles on each team’s ballpark. Of course, we provide background on how the teams came to be and how that impacted the parks.

These aren’t the in-depth reviews that newly constructed parks receive on this site, but we think you’ll enjoy reading our thoughts on what it’s like to attend games at the two newest entrants in the Carolina League — one in a park that’s new to the league and the other in a facility that spent decades in the circuit.

First is a look at Jim Perry Stadium, the park being borrowed from Campbell University by the Buies Creek Astros. Then check out our assessment of Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC.

Two very different parks with very different approaches to the gameday experience … but both are extremely enjoyable!

Elmore announces three-team shake-up

Article and photos by Joe Mock,
All rights reserved

Amarillo is the winner. Helena is the loser — although folks in Colorado Springs and Wichita might not be feeling very happy right now, either.

In a move that changes the caliber of baseball that will be played in four cities, the Elmore Sports Group announced that three teams they own will be moving following the 2018 season. In a series of moves that has been rumored for months, the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox of the Pacific Coast League will move to San Antonio, while the Alamo City’s Double-A Texas League team currently called the Missions will move north to Amarillo. The short-season rookie-level team currently in Helena, Montana will transfer to Colorado Springs. The Helena Brewers are in the Pioneer League.

This will leave Helena’s Kindrick Field (see adjacent photo) — arguably the worst of the Pioneer League’s eight facilities — without affiliated baseball in 2019. Except for 2001 and 2002, the Pioneer League has fielded a team there every season since 1978. It’s likely an independent-league or college-wood-bat team could fill the void at Kindrick once the Brewers move to Colorado Springs.

When the Texas League moves to Amarillo in 2019, the team hopes to be in a new ballpark planned for the city’s downtown. The City has undergone quite a bit of squabbling about the funding for the new stadium (including a non-binding referendum at the ballot box), but with a pledge from Elmore to make it happen, the former San Antonio Missions will likely celebrate opening day in 2019 in a brand-new stadium.

A press conference announcing the news was held at the new $42-million headquarters of Xcel Energy in Amarillo. The nine-acre site for the ballpark is directly across the street. Read More