Trip 7: Lone Star State Swing

Updated: July 26, 2006, 7:24 PM ET
By Bill Evans | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Previous: Trip 6 - Midwest | Next: Trip 8 - Rockies

So, you want to mess with Texas? For starters, bring your best ball cap -- leave the chintzy cowboy hat at home -- and your sunscreen. One thing you can count on is intense summer heat, though many of the parks on this tour were designed to keep the effects of Mr. Sunshine to a minimum. On the plus side, you could rent a convertible, and won't your Shiner Bock taste that much better? When you visit the five parks on this tour of the Lone Star State, you'll find amenities that make J.R. Ewing's Southfork Ranch look like a shantytown. If that's not enough, there's always Henry the Puffy Taco. Who says this is football country!
• Six more great ballparks: make sure to include Oklahoma City

Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)


ico_orbitz San Antonio: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Dallas: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Austin: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Ballpark: Nelson W. Wolff Stadium
Address: 5757 Hwy. 90 West, San Antonio, TX 78227
Capacity: 6,200
Opened: 1994
Team: San Antonio Missions (Mariners)
League: Texas (AA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Nelson W. Wolff Stadium, located adjacent to Lackland Air Force Base, doesn't offer baseball's most picturesque environment, but it does offer the occasional air show. It's not uncommon to see an F-16 fighter jet fly above "the Shea Stadium of the Minors."

Named for the former Mayor of San Antonio, the park was built in a classic Southwest style, and offers Tex-Mex specialties in addition to traditional ballpark fare. Of course, what would you expect from a team whose mascot is Henry the Puffy Taco? In addition to reserved seating and, yes, luxury boxes, there is a grass berm beyond the left field wall that provides a comfortable, if not premium, perspective of the action.

ico_orbitz San Antonio: Hotel

Driving distance from San Antonio to Round Rock: 90 miles

ROUND ROCK, TEXAS
Ballpark: The Dell Diamond
Address: 3400 East Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78664
Capacity: 8,722
Opened: 2000
Team: Round Rock Express (Astros)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

The northern suburb of Austin with the funny name, Round Rock -- named for a formation in Brushy Creek that served as a marker during cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail -- is getting its share of attention in baseball circles. Having Nolan Ryan as its principal owner doesn't hurt, and having Roger Clemens take the hill in a rehab start also generates headlines. Nevertheless, the state's two most famous hurlers take a backseat to the team's star attraction, The Dell Diamond.

Named baseball's top minor league park of 2006 by the Minor League News, the Dell Diamond has become a destination for baseball fans, lured in by sound marketing and unique ballpark offerings. Beyond luxury boxes, an outfield berm and a pair of party decks, the Diamond features a rock-climbing wall, sand volleyball, a sportcourt, a pool and a hot tub! Other accoutrements abound, including good (and varied) concessions, picnic area, outfield restaurant, kids' play area and an on-site conference center! Nearly 9,000 fans a night -- many of them Dell employees (the company is headquartered there) -- can't be wrong.

ico_orbitz Austin: Hotel

Driving distance from Round Rock to Arlington: 165 miles

ARLINGTON, TEXAS
Ballpark: Ameriquest Field in Arlington
Address: 1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington, TX 76011
Capacity: 49,115
Opened: 1994
Team: Texas Rangers
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

With all the great minor league parks in Texas, Ameriquest Field -- formerly known as "The Ballpark" -- is a forgotten jewel, nestled alongside Six Flags Over Dallas in the suburb of Arlington. Architectually, the park is notable for its shape -- it appears a nearly perfect square -- and for the inclusion of corporate offices beyond the center-field batter's eye.

The two-tiered right-field bleachers are reminiscent of yesterday's parks; ditto the asymmetrical field and the exposed steel. Nods to today's family-friendly era include a baseball museum (with several items on loan from Cooperstown) and a children's learning center. Access to the park is easy from the Expressway, named after none other than Nolan Ryan.

ico_orbitz Dallas: Hotel

Driving distance from Arlington to Fort Worth: 13 miles

FORT WORTH, TEXAS
Ballpark: LaGrave Field
Address: 301 NE 6th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76106
Capacity: 5,100
Opened: 2002
Team: Fort Worth Cats
League: American Association (Independent)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (May-Aug.)

Until pitcher Luke Hochevar was selected with the first pick in the 2006 amateur draft by Kansas City, he was popping the mitt for the Fort Worth Cats at LaGrave Field. The park was built on the site of the original LaGrave Field (1926-64) and pays homage to the original.

Home plate is in the exact spot as the original park, where the likes of Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Musial performed when the Cats were a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The dugouts were also preserved and renovated; they are rented nightly as "dugout suites" adjacent to the two team dugouts, and they're the only suites you'll find here in a park that was clearly built with baseball -- not bells and whistles -- in mind. There are nods to the modern parks (a grassy berm in the outfield, for example), but the park's nostalgic charm and views of downtown are the reason it rates. League-leading American Association crowds may get even bigger; Kincaid's, a Fort Worth institution, started selling their burgers at the park this year.

ico_orbitz Fort Worth: Hotel

Driving distance from Fort Worth to Frisco: 40 miles

FRISCO, TEXAS
Ballpark: Dr. Pepper/7-Up Ballpark
Address: 7300 RoughRiders Trail, Frisco, TX 75034
Capacity: 9,000
Opened: 2003
Team: Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers)
League: Texas (AA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

And you thought RoughRiders only played in Canada! These RoughRiders play in the Double-A Texas League, not far from Dallas, at another of the minor leagues' top ballparks. Even though they share the market with their major-league affiliate, the RoughRiders draw extremely well by minor league standards. Dr. Pepper/7-Up Ballpark may not quench your cola thirst, but you'll leave satisfied nevertheless. The park received honorable mention on the Minor League News list of top parks for 2006 (it cracked the list at No. 7 in 2005).

The most ballyhooed feature is the bullpens, built into the stands. Other features include outfield berm seating, a party pool and a concourse that allows you to walk completely around the park while sipping your Dr. Pepper. Aesthetically, the concourse resembles an apartment complex. Instead of one building, there are seven, surrounded by intricate landscaping. These two-story pavilions have restrooms and concessions on the bottom, luxury suites on top, and are connected via walking bridges. Augmenting that residential feel is a shopping mall just across the street and, for you ladies, the first ballpark restrooms designed by an interior decorator.

Previous: Trip 6 - Midwest | Next: Trip 8 - Rockies

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