Trip 8: Rocky Mountain Highlights

Updated: July 3, 2006, 2:42 PM ET
By Bill Evans | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Previous: Trip 7 - Texas | Next: Trip 9 - No. California

In 1985, the Salt Lake Gulls were purchased and moved to Calgary, prompting Salt Lake to build a ballpark that would lure the Portland Beavers (1994). Portland's response? Renovate, and purchase the Dukes from Albuquerque (2001). Outraged and heartbroken by the loss of their team, Albuquerque, predictably, built a beautiful new ballpark and purchased... the Calgary Cannons (2003). The Cannons have come and gone, but their legacy is three beautiful ballparks, two of which you will visit on this tour, which covers more than 1,000 miles of Rocky Mountain terrain.

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 Salt Lake City: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Denver: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Albuquerque: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

OREM, UTAH
Ballpark: Home of the Owlz
Address: 970 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058
Capacity: 3,100
Opened: 2005
Team: Orem Owlz (Angels)
League: Pioneer (Rookie)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (June-Sept.)

In the Mormon enclave of Orem, in the shadow of Brigham Young University, the Home of the Owlz is where we begin our journey. You'll note a large percentage of children in attendance here in "Family City USA," which means Hootz the Owl, the grassy outfield berm and a large children's play area are among the favorite attractions at this park, which received honorable mention in the Minor League News list of top ballparks of 2006.

For the adults, stimulation comes by way of breathtaking views of the Wasatch Mountains beyond the outfield wall. It does NOT come from beer; suds aren't served. The Owlz boast one of the oddest promotional calendars in baseball; Luc Robitaille, Rulon Gardner and Steve Sax will all make appearances this summer.

ico_orbitz Orem: Hotel

Driving distance from Orem to Salt Lake City: 45 miles

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Ballpark: Franklin Covey Field
Address: 77 West 1300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Capacity: 15,500
Opened: 1994
Team: Salt Lake Bees (Angels)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

For all of Orem's charms, the trip to Franklin Covey Field in Salt Lake City offers the same stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, a better brand of baseball, and plenty of watered-down beer (state law mandates alcohol volume can't exceed 3.2 percent) at your disposal. The 15,500 seat park, one of the larger venues in the minor leagues, is set in a residential neighborhood on the former site of Derk's Field, its predecessor. Grass berm... check. Play area... check.

This park has amenities, varied concessions and good sightlines, but doesn't boast more excessive extras, unless you count "The Honeybees" (taking a page from the NBA's book). The team store undoubtedly does a brisk business. Since relocating to Salt Lake in 1994, the team has been known as the Buzz (1994-2001) and the Stingers (2002-2005) before this season's latest change in nomenclature.

ico_orbitz Salt Lake City: Hotel

Driving distance from Salt Lake City to Denver: 550 miles

DENVER, COLORADO
Ballpark: Coors Field
Address: 2001 Blake Street, Denver, CO 80205
Capacity: 50,445
Opened: 1995
Team: Colorado Rockies
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

If you're taking on this itinerary, you've signed on for about an eight-hour journey from Salt Lake to Denver. It's a beautiful drive, and the reward is one of baseball's most beautiful major league parks. Coors Field has spawned tremendous growth in Denver's now vibrant Lower Downtown ("LoDo") area. Take a game-day tour (10 a.m. or noon for an evening game) if you get there early, or just arrive a few hours before the game and take a walk around the exterior -- done in classic red brick -- before entering. Once inside, take a gander at the upper deck, where a row of purple seats denotes one mile above sea level. From the first-base side, you have another intoxicating view of the Rockies. From some outfield locations, you can view downtown Denver.

You're not as likely to catch a home run as you once were. A humidor that stores game balls is being credited (blamed?) for diminishing the effects of Denver's thin air. If the spate of seats in the outfield looks out of place, it is. Original blueprints were amended to add more than 6,000 seats when the Rockies were drawing as many as 80,000 fans at Mile High Stadium during construction of the park. When visiting the concession stand, remember you'll want a nice cold Coors to help you wash down your order of Rocky Mountain Oysters.

ico_orbitz Denver: Hotel

Driving distance from Denver to Albuquerque: 437 miles

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Ballpark: Isotopes Stadium
Address: 1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Capacity: 12,700
Opened: 2003
Team: Albuquerque Isotopes (Marlins)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Another day, another drive. Good thing gas is still teetering under $5 per gallon! If you need inspiration to continue, we present Isotopes Stadium, designed by HOK of Kansas City, the firm that designed six of the newer major league facilities, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Naturally, Isotope Park is significantly smaller, but equally decadent for ballpark connoisseurs.

Fans of The Simpsons will recognize that team's name was inspired by the television show, when Homer was worried the Springfield Isotopes might relocate to Albuquerque. The building's colorful exterior pays subtle homage; the entry tower contains colorful glass panes and a cartoonish "Isotopes Park" sign. The interior is marked by a 360-degree open-air concourse, and a multi-tiered right-field berm. The fence in deep center is concave, creating an unusual aesthetic (and extreme power alleys). Centerfield also has a small hill in play, a la Minute Maid Park. The park is technically a "remodel" of old Sports Stadium, but remnants of the old park are not evident. Parking is free and plentiful; the park is adjacent to "The Pit" on the University of New Mexico campus.

ico_orbitz Albuquerque: Hotel

Previous: Trip 7 - Texas | Next: Trip 9 - No. California

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