ONE FAN'S ODYSSEY: 106 Minor League Ballparks In Five Months

Phillies fan tazer tazedHopefull, this doesn’t happen to Tug.

Photo: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The 2011 baseball season is just weeks away and Tug Haines will be doing something that most baseball fans only dream of. He will spend his summer traversing the eastern United States, driving to 106 different ballparks, to watch 107 different minor league teams play 113 games.Haines, who works on the family farm (Pine Island Cranberry Co.) started formulating his plan a year ago with some encouragement and a little help from a friend, his sister and special thanks to Major League Baseball’s archaic blackout rules that kept him from watching Phillies games on DirecTV. 

But instead of dreaming of big league ballgames, Haines’ plan centered around the minor league experience. “It’s different. Initially, what attracted me was the accessibility of the games,” said Haines. “[Minor League] games allow for spontaneity…The [big league] stadium tour sounds like a lot of fun, but it’s common enough that people have businesses to help people achieve that dream. With my project, it seems beyond most people’s scope, mostly because it’s entirely unreasonable. Me, I have spent most of my life being entirely unreasonable, just for fun. So I took this big idea, knowing that if I could execute it, people would notice, just because people like seeing things they haven’t seen before, or thought to attempt.”

Haines’ plan does have some ground rules: 1) No independent leagues (“too many teams”); 2) east of the Mississippi (“once you cross that river, there isn’t a whole lot of density”). And with the help of his sister Becca, Haines mapped a route that would get him to the 113 games over the next five months.

Haines expects to log more than 20,000 miles in his car on the trip. The farthest point from his home in southern New Jersey is New Orleans, home of the Zephyrs (approx. 1,300 miles). Other distant reaches include Ft. Myers, Florida (~1,200 miles) and Grand Chute, Wisconsin (~900 miles).

In total, he will visit all 107 minor league ballclubs that play east of the Mississippi. Two of those clubs, the Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals share a stadium. Haines found a fun way around that little scheduling quirk. “Both times I’ll be at Roger Dean Stadium, the Cardinals and Hammerheads will be playing each other from [opposite] dugouts.” Haines will also catch more than one game for some of the minor league affiliates of his beloved Phillies, leading to the 113 game total.

Haines, who is a contributor at and (and formerly at one of my personal favourites and now defunct*) will chronicle his journey at his own blog, on Twitter (@TugHaines), and in a book that is scheduled to be published in 2013 (tentatively titled “Casual Fan”).

*Pourin’ out a little for my homies

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