The Major/Minor Trip Tradition Continues
Since 2000, Sports Travel and Tours of Hatfield, Mass., has offered trips to see both major and minor league baseball games. Jay Smith, president of Sports Travel and Tours, is excited that the tradition continues this year with two separate major/minor trips.
The first, called Major/Minor T.O.C, will take place from May 28 to June 4 and will feature six games at six different ballparks across Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. The other, called Major/Minor: Heartland, is scheduled for June 8 to 14 and will feature seven games at seven different ballparks across America’s heartland—Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.
Jay says he came up with the idea to organize trips that combine major and minor league games as an off-shoot of the Stadium Hall of Fame program that Sports Travel and Tours offers.
The Sports Travel and Tours Stadium Hall of Fame program began about 15 years ago, and through it, participants get inducted into a Sports Travel and Tours Baseball Stadium Hall of Fame after visiting 30 ball parks in North America on a Sports Travel and Tours program. Jay said over 100 people are now official Hall of Famers, and it is for these folks who have developed a bond over traveling and watching baseball that the major/minor trips were originally designed.
“These fans live all over the place and still traditionally like to continue to travel with one another,” Jay says. “There’s a fraternity, a group of people who enjoy one another’s company and want to continue to travel.”
The first major/minor trip kicked off about five years ago, and the concept took right off. Jay says there are roughly 240 minor league teams across the country, and he generally sticks with AAA games for his trips as the AAA players are the best in the minor leagues.
Jay also says the minor league games are fun for participants because the atmosphere is less intense than that at major league games, not to mention less expensive.
“It’s like a family night,” Jay says. “Instead of going to the movies, people say, ‘Let’s go to a game.’ In the minor leagues, the food is less costly, there’s entertainment, mascots, games going on between innings and sponsors throwing T-shirts into the crowd. Spectators are just there for the fun.”
Jay has also found that his clients enjoy minor league games because they like the ambience of small parks coupled with the “local flavor.”
Gary Laprade, who will be a tour guide on the Major/Minor: Heartland trip, is a Sports Travel and Tours Stadium Hall of Famer. He says if he wasn’t leading the Heartland tour, he would certainly be signed up to go on it.
“All the people who are Stadium Hall of Famers decided they wanted to see more stadiums,” Gary says. “We’ve all become friends and we’ve known each other for years and years, so we try to take these trips together so we can enjoy baseball together.”
Gary also appreciates that “minor league games are almost night and day with major league ones.” He says that because major league games are more expensive, there is more pressure to carefully watch every pitch, whereas minor league games are much more relaxed.
In his first year planning a major/minor trip, Jay says that about 18 travelers voyaged throughout Maryland and Virginia, while stopping to enjoy historical sites along the way. Every year since then, Sports Travel and Tours has offered one itinerary. This will be the first year that two major/minor trips will be offered.
Jay is proud of the fact that the trips offer stays in downtown hotels and also include city tours led by people who live and work in the regions Sports Travel and Tours visits.
In Fort Worth, Texas, for instance, Juanita Gonsalez is a popular city tour guide. “We had such a good time with her last year,” Jay says. “Our travelers like the extras and the flexible time to be able to see some of the things we can include are value-adds to the program.”