Trip 9: Bay Area Brethren

Updated: September 1, 2006, 11:09 PM ET
By Bill Evans | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Previous: Trip 8 - Rockies | Next: Trip 10 - So. California

Lucky ballplayers will get to follow the same route as fans on this route from central California to the beautiful Bay Area. That's because this trip makes stops at the Triple-A affiliates for the Giants and A's in Fresno and Sacramento, respectively -- with a stop at the A's Single-A club in Stockton for good measure -- before heading to The Show at McAfee Coliseum and glorious AT&T Park. Four out of the five parks here are new, having been built since 2000.

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 Francisco: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Sacramento: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Fresno: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

FRESNO, CALIFORNIA
Ballpark: Grizzlies Stadium
Address: 1800 Tulare Street, Fresno, CA 93721
Capacity: 12,500
Opened: 2002
Team: Fresno Grizzlies (Giants)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Undoubtedly, residents of California's largest inland city bristle at their punchline status. When you're "the raisin capital of the world," you've inspired a failed TV mini-series and your famous citizenry includes Victor Conte, Kevin Federline and Cher, it's easy to develop a complex.

Since 2002, Grizzlies Stadium has given the locals a reason to strut. An HOK-designed park, Grizzlies Stadium is two-tiered with a classic exterior design. Seats on the first-base side provide a view of downtown. There's a large foul territory, so you're not right on the action, but at 12,500 seats, there isn't a bad seat.

ico_orbitz Fresno: Hotel

Driving distance from Fresno to Stockton: 128 miles

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA
Ballpark: Banner Island Ballpark
Address: 404 West Fremont Street, Stockton, CA 95203
Capacity: 5,300
Opened: 2005
Team: Stockton Ports (Athletics)
League: California (A)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Stockton is seeping in baseball history. Local lore has it that a Stockton team of the late 1800s was the inspiration for Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat." (from 2000-01, the Ports were known as the Mudville 9). Stockton was a charter member of the California League in 1941 and its teams have won 10 league titles.

As part of a waterfront revitalization that also includes a 10,000-seat hockey arena, Stockton Ballpark ("Banner Island" is an unofficial moniker that stands to be replaced when a title sponsor comes along) was completed in 2005 to rave reviews, including recognition on the Minor League News list of top parks of 2006.

Like AT&T Park in San Francisco, its waterfront location provides batters an opportunity to knock a ball into the drink. Upon entering, you're on the 360-degree concourse, with a panoramic view of a park whose distinguishing features include an outfield "back-porch" area with deck chairs, a berm and a bar behind first base. Concessionaires do provide a signature item: deep-fried asparagus.

ico_orbitz Stockton: Hotel

Driving distance from Stockton to Sacramento: 40 miles

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA
Ballpark: Raley Field
Address: 400 Ballpark Drive, West Sacramento, CA 95691
Capacity: 14,680
Opened: 2000
Team: Sacramento River Cats (Athletics)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

Technically, they are the West Sacramento River Cats, since Raley Field is across the river from downtown, set in an urban/industrial neighborhood. Don't let the gruff exterior fool you; a trip inside confirms Raley Field's status as one of the minor league's top parks.

For starters, the team draws extremely well, so the atmosphere is festive. If you care to get particularly festive, the beer and wine lists are extensive, and there is a margarita stand (olé!). All seats are pole-to-pole, but berm seating is available in the outfield (beyond the bullpens). Among the stadium's more impressive features: it was built in only 8-1/2 months.

ico_orbitz Sacramento: Hotel

Driving distance from Sacramento to Oakland: 87 miles

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA
Ballpark: McAfee Coliseum
Address: 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, CA 94621
Capacity: 34,077
Opened: 1966 (1968 for baseball)
Team: Oakland Athletics
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

Make this stop before you head to San Francisco because McAfee Coliseum is a fine place to watch a ball game, but it isn't AT&T Park. At this writing, politicking continues; the A's covet a modern venue. Their current home is a multi-purpose stadium, more suitable for football, which has undergone substantial renovations to remain relevant. The most obvious is "Mt. Davis," a multi-tiered seating structure that replaced the outfield bleachers in conjunction with the Raiders return to Oakland.

Though this park can accommodate more than 55,000 people, the A's have tarped the upper deck and listed the capacity at 34,077, to create a more intimate atmosphere. They have provided all the necessary 21st-century upgrades (club seats, kids area, etc.), concession choices abound, and the fans are enthusiastic about the new brand of BillyBall, which has produced a lot of wins on a shoestring budget.

ico_orbitz Oakland: Hotel

Driving distance from Oakland to San Francisco: 16 miles

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Ballpark: AT&T Park
Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107
Capacity: 41,503
Opened: 2000
Team: San Francisco Giants
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

Spend an extra day (or five) in San Francisco to experience its beauty, its restaurants and a few of its many attractions... Alcatraz... Fisherman's Wharf... the Golden Gate Bridge. The list of must-see landmarks grew by one in 2000, when this ballpark replaced the wind tunnel once known as Candlestick Park. AT&T Park's urban setting adds to the pre-game buildup. A beautifully landscaped entry features a statue of the great Willie Mays. Behind it, the classic red-brick exterior of a timeless ballpark.

Upon entering, you may be overwhelmed by the crowds (and the smell of garlic fries) in the narrow concourse. Once you enter the seating area, the setting is pristine. Seats are right on top of the field, incredible views of San Francisco Bay abound. At night, the lights of the suspension end of the Bay Bridge twinkle behind left field.

This ballpark, financed entirely by the team, was built in the perfect urban, waterfront setting at the perfect time (post-Camden Yards). As a result, it's regarded by many as the best park in the major leagues. If you can't get enough, tours are available at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (unless there's a day game).

If the game's sold out, grab a boat and a radio and enjoy the game from McCovey Cove. Can't beat that.

ico_orbitz San Francisco: Hotel

Previous: Trip 8 - Rockies | Next: Trip 10 - So. California

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