Saturday, December 6, 2014

Regional Dog Fight: Tampa vs Miami

It has been a while since my last post. Why you ask? Partly because it is the off season, but mostly because I have been editing my book. You know, the one you can’t wait to buy.

Since much of the nation is mired in cold weather and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring training, what better time to turn the regional dogfight looking glass onto the teams of the Sunshine State? Everyone wants to be in warmer weather this time of year, so let your mind wander south as we test the toasted weenies of the Tampa Rays against their rivals on the peninsula the Miami Marlins.

It really is a tale of two cities. Miami in on the bejewelled south coast with all of its multicultural flair, food and festivities in a place as much noted for its nightlife as it is its weather. Across the state, situated on the Gulf of Mexico, is the much lower key town of Tampa. That may not be confusing, but consider this: the Tampa Rays actually play in the city of St. Petersburg. Miami has baseball’s newest and most modern ballpark that could be mistaken for a museum of modern art, while Tampa has an old dilapidated dome that could be mistaken for nothing but an old dilapidated dome. Perhaps the threat of hurricanes is the only equalizing factors for both the cities. Tampa does have one HUGE thing going for it: my brother lives about 45 minutes south of the city and he is related to me. When you are a city on the brink, having a close relative of a famous hot dog celebrity within an hour’s drive can make or break you.

So how did the sausage showdown of the south pan out?

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability2GA Ticket Price3
It Factor2.5Fans3

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price3.5
It Factor3.5Fans3

What we have here is a good old fashioned blowout. The Marlins take the Rays to task in this matchup. The biggest reason is the ballpark's location and cleanliness. Miami's stadiums is located in Little Havana with good access and is spic and span. Tampa is located in the wrong city and out of the way and needs a hosing down (by a hose, not a hurricane). 

The killer for the dog portion was the toppings. If you read my blog on this you know that the lower levels in Tampa have a great selection of toppings, while the fans that bought the cheaper tickets have a very paltry pick. Not cool...and it cost them. 

But be not troubled, you can put the Florida dogs to test yourself, and soon. I  will be flitting about the Cactus League in Arizona this spring and testing the dogs, you can check out the Grapefruit League and let me know how those are. And if you want to leave now and wait for the pitchers and catchers report date while basking in the sun no one will blame you. Send me a postcard. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Off Season Doldrums

So I was wrong about who would win the world series. I said I was a literary genius and prince of processed meat...not a fortune teller. But now that the world series is over, depression sinks in. I think it was Rogers Hornsby that said when asked what he does in the off season, “look out the window and wait for spring.” I feel his pain. To make matters worse I was in Kansas City last weekend and my hotel had a splendid view of Kauffman Stadium. Talk about a tease.

So what does a vaunted hot dog explorer do now that baseball has finally come to a close? Work on my book of course (you are buying my book aren’t you?). It has been sent to the publisher and being edited as you read this. After that I have to approve the edits, assist in designing the cover, submit photos for the inside and figure out a marketing plan. Look for a Valentine’s Day release. I had planned to play a lot of disc golf, but it just dipped below freezing here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am no fan of disc golf in the cold.

I could go back to work I suppose, but I figured I would leave that to you people. Persons in my exalted position of hot dog expertism should not be made to work anyway, how else would I share my new found wisdom? Besides, there are a few things to keep up on during the off season. The players and managers of the year have been announced, along with the Silver Slugger, Golden Gloves, Rookies of the Year, Cy Young Award winners, etc. Then there are the winter meetings where the most significant trades happen. Lots to follow actually, if you can find it among the TONS of pro and college football coverage. Is college football fervor a sickness?

Model of Nashville's New Ballpark
Then there were the flurry of new minor league affiliations. Most exciting was that the Dodgers moved both their AAA and AA teams to Oklahoma. I now live about two miles from the Dodger’s AA team, the Tulsa Drillers. AND….two new ballparks are being built that I have to see in 2015. There is the awesome new facility being constructed in Nashville and a team is moving to my home state of West Virginia and will play in Morgantown next year. Gotta see both.

I also made a calendar that includes 13 of my best photos from my 103 day journey to over 70 ballparks. Message me if you are interested in acquiring one. They are fantab. I should be a photographer...preferably for for Playboy magazine, but I will take what I can get.

So how are you spending your off season? Remember, pitchers and catchers report in late February.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Regional Dog Fight: Texas vs Houston

Regional dog fights pits the titanic twosome of the Lonestar State against each other for a fur-flying showdown of who has the best MLB baseball/hot dog experience in Texas. While Texas is a huge state, both teams are a mere 4 hours apart in the two major metropolitan areas of DFW and Houston. This high plains dog-off will be fierce, with one team pulling out the biggest gun in the west.

I love Houston. I lived there for over three years. I love jogging in a tee-shirt in January, I love the humidity, I love having a ton of entertainment options in the nation’s fourth largest city. The traffic is as horrendous as they say it is, but you gotta sacrifice something for the privilege of living in the Bayou City. The poor hapless Astros have been one of the worst teams in baseball for several years running, and their attendance bears that out. I still like Minute Maid Park, aka “The Juice Box,” because they can close the roof when it gets oppressively hot. It is in a great location as well, and they have a tremendous hot dog selection. If their on field play matched their dogs, they might actually get above .500 someday.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability3GA Ticket Price3
It Factor4Fans5

Meanwhile, in Arlington, the Rangers put up a fair fight until they tear up the Astros by whipping out the biggest, baddest hot dog in all of baseball: the monstrous, several pound, two-foot long beast called the Boomstick. Not only is their ballpark more basebally (yes, I made that word up) but the boomstick is the atomic weapon of regional hot dog fights. Unfair? Perhaps, but you don’t build a nuclear arsenal unless you intend to use it and the boomstick is the processed meat equivalent of a Minuteman II missile. Don’t mess with Texas.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price3
It Factor5Fans5

It's a good thing the Rangers had the nuclear option, they edged out the Astros by one point and it was the "it factor" that put them over the finish line first. The Boomstick won the day for Arlington. You can't go wrong with a game and a dog in either ballpark, but the Rangers have a better overall experience. And if you try to Boomstick DO NOT attempt on your own. Nuclear weapons are painful enough, but they taste really nasty on the way back up. You have been warned. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hot Dog Score Predicts World Series Winner!

Who will win the World Series? I already know. It seems that the teams that have the best overall baseball/hot dog experience have fared well in the off season. How well? When matched up head to head, the team with the better overall baseball/hot dog experience they have beaten their opponents with nearly 70% accuracy. The exception is the San Francisco Giants, which if they had reasonably priced tickets would have scored higher. If you extrapolate the hot dog scores beyond what has currently been played you will clearly see that the Baltimore Orioles will win the World Series. Keep in mind that Baltimore was the only team to snag a perfect score of 60 during my road trip. 

So, basically it is a done deal. I am personally pulling for the Royals, but the dog does not lie. So head to Las Vegas place your bet and make a bundle. You can use your winnings to fund your own personal baseball road trip in 2015. Sorry for the spoiler, but you can't beat science man...the Orioles win it.

Royals vs A’s- Dog winner: Royals Actual winner: Royals  BLOG PREDICTED

Orioles vs Tigers- Dog winner Orioles Actual winner: Orioles BLOG PREDICTED

Pirates vs Giants- Dog winner Pirates Actual winner Giants GIANTS CHEATED

Cardinals vs Dodgers- Dog winner Cardinals Actual winner Cardinals BLOG PREDICTED

Royals vs Angels- Dog winner Royals Actual winner Royals BLOG PREDICTED

Giants vs Nationals- Dog winner Nationals Actual winner Giants GIANTS CHEATED

Giants vs Cardinals- Dog winner Giants

Orioles vs Royals- Dog winner Orioles



Friday, October 3, 2014

Regional Dogfight: Reds vs Indians

In this Buckeye State blowout the Indians (I can still say Indians can’t I?) take on the Red Legs of Cincinnati to determine which Ohio MLB team has the best baseball/ hot dog experience. It’s a tough call, both have loyal fan bases and top-notch facilities. And both have a ringer in their corner; Cleveland has Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard and the Reds have the Skyline Chili Dog. Let’s get it on!

The dog part of the dog was a toss up. I am not a fan of the Sugardale frank used in Cleveland and the frank in Cincy was not outstanding but it edges out the Tribe’s offering. The deciding factor on who has the best dog came down to the “It Factor.” While the Bertman’s mustard saves the dog in Cleveland it can’t offer a variety of types of dogs. Nothing in the concession stand wows the fan. On the Ohio River, the Skyline Chili Dog is so famous I had actually heard of it before even embarking on my adventure. Something that renown gets top score on the “It Factor” meter and tips the scale in Cincinnati’s favor.

Ballparks was another close race. The Sons of the Cuyahoga have a nice venue, but they need to fill it with fans...and fans that know what “no smoking in the ballpark” means. The Reds have the benefit of having a newer stadium and with that the opportunity to have learned from others that were built before it. Plus, it is hard to beat a steamboat that shoots flame out of its smokestacks. The fact that the general admission ticket price was a bit expensive was the only factor keeping Cincinnati’s stadium from achieving a perfect score.

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price4
It Factor5Fans5

DogBallparkTotal Dog/Game
Portability5GA Ticket Price4
It Factor3Fans3

In Ohio and can’t decide which team to catch? This dogfight indicates that you should head for the Ohio River and grab a Skyline Chili Dog at Great American Ballpark. Cleveland is no slouch, but them’s the facts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Can Do It!

The 2014 baseball season is winding down. Did you know the schedules for the 2015 season are already out? After reading of my fabulous and glutinous exploits you are probably spinning a plan in your head right now on how to pull off your own MLB/Hot Dog Road Trip next year. So what is keeping you?.

Oh...right….time, cost and that separation from your significant other. I can help you plan your baseball bonanza by relating some insight from my own trip. First up, the time.

Time off from work I can only give you this advice: your clock is running out. Yes, you need a job to pay for living. But you have to ask yourself if the time is right to ask for a sabbatical, extended leave without pay or other deal with your boss. Hate your job? Quit in April, do your road trip and start your new gig when you get back. Life is short dude, see a game. If you are wanting to catch all 30 MLB teams in their home ballparks plan on a minimum of 2 months. Yes, it took me 103 days, but I’m a slow learner. If you hit it hard you can to it in 60 or 70 days.

Getting your significant other to agree to a lengthy absence? If he/she really cared for you they would let you live your dream. Best bet, take him/her with you or for at least a portion. What’s that you say? Your SO doesn’t like baseball? Dump them, they are a loser. I would never trust anyone that didn’t like baseball, you shouldn’t either.

Planning costs is what I can really help you with, and probably your most pressing question is “can I afford it?” If a pauper like me can catch 65 games, you can too. But you have to be ready to rough it. Let’s take a look at what it COULD HAVE cost me:

Average cost of a MLB ticket times 30 games-$27.73 X 30 = $831.90
Average cost of a MiLB ticket times 35 games-$7.09 X 35 = $248.15
50 nights in a hotel (every other night)-50 X 83.06 = $4,153
Average cost for parking at a MLB game-30 X $15.09 = $452.70
Average cost for parking at a MiLB game-35 X $4.60 = $161
My cost for gas for nearly 19,000 miles-$2,431.37
My cost for a coffee/wifi habit-$366.02
My cost for food-$394.09
My cost for beer-$20.09
My cost for hot dogs-$210.25
My cost for tolls-$78.65
My cost for other transportation (bus, train)-$90

What it COULD HAVE cost me-$9,437.22
What did it REALLY cost me-$5,696.40 (that is adding 10% for missed items)

I saved $3,740.82 which for me is a boatload of money. How did I slice off all that fat?
  1. BIGGEST tip. Sleep in your car. Yes, it is a major inconvenience, but it will make or break the affordability of the trip. You get used to it, trust me.
  2. Get general admission tickets. So you won’t be able to see the player’s boogers in their noses. The view from up top is not so bad, and it saves you a bundle. In some cases you can get into an MLB game for under $5.
  3. Never pay for parking unless you have no choice. I used to find where I could park for free. Sure, I had to walk over a mile on occasion, but it saved me hundreds. Plus, you need the exercise fatso.

Now, things I COULD HAVE DONE MYSELF to save even more.

  1. I would have shaved $1,000 off of my expenses if I had spent EVERY night in my car or couch surfed. As it was I spent 12 nights in a motel. Don’t hate me because I am weak.
  2. That Starbuck’s habit had meaning. I used their wifi to update my blog, used their restroom to shave and other bathroom stuff and whiled away HOURS in there checking schedules etc. But, in retrospect, I could have grabbed a cup of coffee from McDonalds and used more public libraries to cut that cost in half.
  3. My GPS has an “avoid toll roads” option. Sometimes I did, but doing it always would have saved me clost to $100. I thought that is what gasoline tax is for anyway.
  4. The food cost was kept pretty low, perhaps I could have saved a bit on that but I was pretty frugal when it came to groceries.
  5. Things I had little or no control over the cost were gasoline (it is what it is, and getting a more fuel efficient car was not an option), hot dogs (it was for research after all) and beer (it was 20 bucks total man, lay off).
  6. The other transport costs were busses and trains to and from Toronto and New York City. While pricey, they actually saved me money (ever try to park in NYC?).

So I would venture to say you could have a hot dog in all 30 MLB ballparks for about $4,000. That is subtracting the approximate cost of the Minor League games I attended. I could do the exact math but I am way too lazy for that.

Here is a pie chart that displays my actual cost by percentage. As you can see, if you have a really fuel efficient vehicle it can save you a bundle. My RAV4 probably average about 25 MPG.

Life really is short, and you will never regret stuffing your face with a loaded dog while sitting in the bleachers and watching the national pastime. Think of the stories you will have to tell. The clock is ticking and the time is now.

So, what are your plans for next summer?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Minor Dog Details

Now that you know who wins the crown for the best overall baseball/hot dog experience in Major League Baseball, you are probably wondering how the Minor Leagues fared. The answer is below in the overall MiLB rankings. As you know each MLB has 3 Minor League teams, one at each level in A, AA and AAA. That is 90 Minor League baseball teams, and that does not include the Short Season Leagues or the Independent Leagues. While I made it to 100% of the MLB ballparks, I only made it to 35 of the MiLB parks.

I was both impressed and disappointed in the hot dogs at the Minor League level. Some teams really went all out and serve up some creative and tasty puppies, while others were horrid. Many were mediocre. Running a MiLB team is tough business, but if there is one thing I do know is that the money in baseball is not in tickets, it is in concessions. If you dish out a good dog, the fans will eat one

My dirty little secret is that while I love MLB games, I feel much more connected at the MiLB venues. You sit closer, everything is less expensive and your chances of getting a foul ball are much better. I had two close calls with foul balls in over 20 years of MLB games, but I never got one. I snagged 5 foul balls at MiLB parks this year alone. All were on the bounce or rollers because….ok, I am too much of a pussy to catch one barehanded.

Congrats to the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Charleston Riverdogs for tieing for the top spot of the MiLB teams I did have the pleasure to visit. Both are South Atlantic League teams, a single A league, so the must take their dogs seriously in the SAL. Coincidentally, both are fabulous cities to visit as well.

Know of a Minor League ballpark I need to visit in 2015? Let me know and I’ll get it on my schedule for next year

Sand GnatsA29.527.557
River DogsA27.529.557
Mud HensAAA27.52956.5
Springfld CardsAA272956
Red BirdsAAA23.528.552
PB CardinalsA2624.550.5
SJ GiantsA262450
PSL MetsA24.52549.5
River CatsAAA212748
Rough RidersAA252247
MissionsAA 241842
Sky SoxAAA202242

Want to keep connected with baseball and hot dog items during the off season? You can follow this blog by clicking on the "follow this blog" button on the left side. Never miss a post, subscribe now.