Trip 1 - Red Sox Trail: From Farm to Hub
It won't be in chronological order, but this trip from Maine to Cape Cod includes stops to see three Red Sox farm teams (Single-A short season, Double-A and Triple-A) as well as the big club itself at legendary Fenway Park. The tour concludes with a visit to a collegiate summer league out on the Cape, a welcome respite after a hard lesson in just how rabid Red Sox Nation can be at every level of pro baseball.
Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)
Boston: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Portland: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Providence: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
Ballpark: Hadlock Field
Address: 271 Park Ave, Portland, ME 04102
Team: Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
League: Eastern (AA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)
It's Fenway Park's very own mini-me. At Hadlock Field, Portland has embraced the identity of its parent club like no other team in the minor leagues, erecting a 37-foot "Green Monster" in left field that's topped, naturally, by a Citgo sign and a giant Coke bottle. All that's missing out in left is Manny Ramirez misjudging a pop fly.
The squad hasn't neglected its Maine roots, however. A lighthouse rises from behind the center-field wall whenever a Sea Dog swats a home run, and the brick Portland Exposition Building, built in 1914 and visible beyond the stands along the first-base line, echoes the old warehouses that make Baltimore's Camden Yards and San Diego's PETCO Park so distinctive. There's also the famous "Lobster Toss" during the seventh-inning stretch, where two fans compete to see who can "trap" the most rubber lobsters.
One more reminder of Fenway: ticket demand. The Sea Dogs are consistently among the attendance leaders in all of Double-A and have expanded the stadium's capacity four times since opening in 1994.
Driving distance from Portland to Lowell: 98 miles
Ballpark: Edward A. LeLacheur Park
Address: 450 Aiken St, Lowell, MA 01854
Team: Lowell Spinners (Red Sox)
League: New York-Penn (A Short-Season)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (June-Sept.)
The tour of baby Red Sox Nation continues in the old mill city of Lowell, where the rookie-league Spinners make their home at LeLacheur Park. Lowell's history is key to the ambiance at LeLacheur, where smokestacks, brick warehouses and the Aiken Street Bridge -- built in 1883 and spanning the Merrimack River -- form a scenic backdrop beyond the outfield wall. The brick-fašade stadium was built right on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and additionally serves as the home field for the school's River Hawks baseball squad.
Like Portland, Lowell has made a concerted effort to capture the spirit of its Red Sox affiliation. The retired numbers of Sox legends are displayed along the right-field wall, and above center field stands the Hood Milk bottle, a kitschy Fenway artifact that moved to LeLacheur when the Red Sox added seats to their right-field roof. Also like their Red Sox and Sea Dogs brethren, the Spinners, belying their Single-A status, are enormously popular. The team is working on a streak of more than 200 consecutive sellouts, and there is a waiting list for season tickets.
Driving distance from Lowell to Boston: 30 miles
The oldest stadium in baseball and a sports institution, Boston's Fenway Park is the crotchety grandfather among major-league ballparks. The aisles and seats are cramped, amenities are sparse and sightlines are obstructed in some spots by support beams. Yet there's a reason it's next-to-impossible to get tickets for a Red Sox game: the place is living history, from the Green Monster in left field to The Triangle in center to Pesky's Pole in right.
Most famous, of course, is the Monster. Towering 37 feet over left field since 1934 (though it wasn't painted green until 1947), the wall still features the hand-operated scoreboard that was installed the same year. In 2003, seats were added atop the Monster, and they've become especially coveted among fans; during the season, the Red Sox award the opportunity to buy tickets for the Monster Seats only via lottery.
In deep center, the intersection of two seating sections forms a triangle on the field that can wreak havoc on a ball that makes it that far (or the fielder who's chasing it), and in right, the foul pole takes its name from former left-handed-hitting Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky, who blasted a grand total of 17 career home runs, six of those in Fenway with some help from the short porch in right field.
And while it may not be visible through the throngs of fans, keep an eye out for a solitary red-painted seat in the right-field bleachers (Section 42). It marks the spot of the longest home run ever hit at Fenway -- 502 feet -- by Ted Williams in 1946.
Make sure to plan your meals appropriately: grab a sausage from a vendor on Landsdowne Street before the game, and save room for a Fenway Frank sometime during the game.
Driving distance from Boston to Pawtucket: 50 miles
PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND
Ballpark: McCoy Stadium
Address: One Ben Mondor Way, Pawtucket, RI 02860
Team: Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox)
League: International (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)
The home of the "PawSox" is another elder statesman of ballparks, first opening in 1946, though it underwent extensive renovations in 1998 and added three seating sections. The new seats are distinguished by stretching out asymmetrically into left field from the covered grandstand that marks the original park.
In the entrance ramps, murals pay tribute to former PawSox greats and to a legendary event -- a 33-inning game, longest in pro baseball history, that began on April 18, 1981. The eight-hour, 25-minute marathon between the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings was suspended following the 32nd inning, just past 4 a.m., but when it resumed on June 23, it lasted just one more inning. The PawSox came out on top, 3-2.
If you're an autograph hound, simply follow the lead of the "McCoy fishermen" before the game. With the dugouts at field level, fans simply dangle goodies like baseball cards and other souvenirs over the dugout roof from the end of a fishing line or rope. The more charitable-minded players will often oblige and sign.
Driving distance from Pawtucket to Orleans: 100 miles
Ballpark: Eldredge Park
Address: 84 Route 28, Orleans, MA 02653
Team: Orleans Cardinals
League: Cape Cod Baseball (NCAA-sanctioned summer league)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (June-Aug.)
The ballpark tour through New England concludes out on Cape Cod, where star collegiate players hoping for an eventual shot at the bigs spend their summers in the NCAA-sanctioned Cape Cod Baseball League. (If no witnesses are around, check out the Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie "Summer Catch" for a look at life in the CCBL.) There are 10 teams in the league, but Orleans, furthest out on the Cape, has the honor of playing its home games at Eldredge Park, which was named Baseball America's "Best Summer Collegiate Ballpark" in 2004.
A chain-link backstop and open air gives Eldredge an air of small-town baseball, though the talent on the field is often top-notch; major-league stars like Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Todd Helton have all passed through the CCBL.
A grassy hillside along the first-base line is terraced perfectly for fans to bring their lawn chairs and watch the games, while intermittent sets of steps help prevent slips and falls. The park also features a bandstand out in right field and a playground for when the kids get restless. Admission is free, but help this non-profit league thrive and toss in a few bucks when they pass the hat around.