The Anti-Baseball Road Trip

Carson Cistulli · August 4, 2010 at 8:56 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As I suggested would happen the last time I contributed to these electronic pages, I’ve recently — along with milady — moved to the Middle West of these here United States. For those of you who’re concerned about such things (and I’m guessing this doesn’t include reader Dylan), the both of us made the trip without incident, so you can stop your worrying.

For anyone who’s never been, you should know that Madison, Wisconsin is, by all appearances, a pretty great place. Those readers of USSM who’ve lived in/around The Ave in Seattle would probably recognize many of that area’s salient features in Madison’s State Street: ethnic restaurants, bars, cafes, and some Sloppy-Joe-looking student types. Really, just take University Ave., add about 95% humidity to the air and about 5% in Body Mass Index to the average pedestrian, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of State Street.

Much to the disappointment of the reader, however, the point of this article isn’t to compare and contrast the relative merits of Seattle and Madison. Rather, it’s to alert those members of the readership who haven’t made the journey from the Pacific Northwest to this here area of the country that the trip is, essentially, death to baseball.

Anytime I go on any sort of a trip, my first instinct — one which I’m sure a number of readers share — is to see if it might be possible to include a baseball game in my itinerary. Major league, minor league, college summer league: whatever, doesn’t matter. Barring that, I at least like to listen to baseball on the road.

Here’s the thing about trips east of the Cascades and west of, say, Minneapolis: they offer little in the way of the former and almost nothing in the way of the latter.

As Exhibit One, I offer you this map — which will be familiar to you — of the 30 major league teams (courtesy of

Google Maps shows the distance between Seattle and Minneapolis as being about 1650 miles; between Seattle and Denver, about 1370. Seeing as the US of A is only about 3000 total miles across, that’s kinda a huge deal. In any case, the result for the baseball-starved traveler is that there’s little in the way of major league action.

But that’s not all! Consider Exhibit Two, a map of minor league teams (courtesy of

All told, there’re close to 250 minor league teams in the United States, and only about 10 to 15 of them are located in the huge swath of land between Portland/Seattle and Madison. That’s about five percent of the teams spread out over a land mass which constitutes, I don’t know, about 25 percent or so of the country’s total area. Between them, the Dakotas and Minnesota have exactly zero minor league affiliates. Zero.

Really hungry for a game? There’s always the collegiate, wood bat Northwoods League, but as you can tell from the map below (courtesy of, even that offers limited options through the relevant area.

None of this is to say that it’s impossible to catch a game. I watched part of a Rockies contest at the Ponderosa Campground in Cody, Wyoming, and caught some the Twins in Luverne, Minnesota, way out in the Western part of that state. That’s fine. And, of course, there are other charms to the trip that make the lack of baseball somehwat acceptable. The point is, if you’re looking for a baseball road trip, do not go East, young man.


21 Responses to “The Anti-Baseball Road Trip”

  1. drjeff on August 4th, 2010 9:59 pm

    Dylan’s been grumpy ever since that whole foray into country rock.

    And that looks like some serious bus travelin’.

  2. scateastwood on August 4th, 2010 11:01 pm

    Your article about the lack of baseball from Portland to Madison is elitist nonsense. I live in Rochester Minnesota and regularly enjoy the Northwoods League games (College players using wooden bats). The games are fun, exciting, and cheap (the antithesis of MLB). Right now I’m on vacation in Idaho Falls ID and I recently caught a minor league A ball game between the Chukars and Ogden Raptors. Again, great intimate ballpark, good eats, passionate fans, and super cheap. In a previous article you said you used to live in Missoula? They have a team and so does Billings. Currently there’s a Babe Ruth tourney in Idaho Falls with teams from WA, OR, MT, & ID. I’m sorry you’re too cool to attend such fine baseball games with athletes who play hard and don’t attack their managers in the dugout.

    I think you’re just bitter that you left the exquisite Pacific Northwest for the ho-hum Midwest. Madison is just like Seattle? Yeah just subtract the ocean and mountains and add tornadoes, humidity, and balls cold winters. I can’t wait until my house sells so I can ditch Minnesota and get back to the West. I’m happy to know that your fancy-pants keester won’t be cramping my style when I enjoy the Belgrade Bandits turning a double play in the shadow of Montana’s Gallatin Mountains. Enjoy the Badger hockey in Madison.

  3. Dave on August 5th, 2010 12:08 am

    Could you work a little more hostility into your comment? I think you left some simmering in the pot behind you.

    Carson’s a really good dude. Everyone who has ever spent any time with him will speak very highly of him.

    Be less judgmental.

  4. Jeff Nye on August 5th, 2010 12:17 am

    Great first comment, too.

  5. ScottBrowne on August 5th, 2010 1:13 am

    Not to mention that the drive from here to Wisconsin is absolutely mind-numbing. My wife’s family lives out there and we’ve made the drive a couple times in the 3 years we’ve been married. I never had an opinion of Montana before I had the (dis)pleasure of driving through it, but my God what a miserable state (especially east of the Rockies).

  6. Osfan on August 5th, 2010 3:57 am

    My sister used to live in nowhere Montana, 12 hours from Minneapolis, and not only could they not watch baseball in person, but they were blacked out from watching Twins’ games on tv. You have to love the blackblackout rules.

  7. wchen on August 5th, 2010 6:16 am

    Don’t forget the Northern League and the American Association, both independent leagues with decent talent (Kevin Millar is on the St. Paul Saints).

  8. jefffrane on August 5th, 2010 7:23 am

    My only Mariners game of the season was in Chicago in late April. Cold, wet and miserable, plus I was in the can when Guttierez hit his home run. Weirdly enough, although I live in Portland, the only other MLB games I will have seen this season (barring a possible trip to San Francisco) were in Baltimore and Cleveland. Neither were M’s games, but so what?

  9. Rick Banjo on August 5th, 2010 7:43 am

    The USSM casts a wide net. Any time you’re in Billings, I’d take you to a Mustangs game. For a short-season rookie team, the old ballpark was nice enough; the new one is just over the top. Enjoyable baseball, too.

  10. robbbbbb on August 5th, 2010 8:09 am

    The second comment reminds me of Penny Arcade’s GIFT. It’s essential knowledge for any internet denizen.

  11. Chris_From_Bothell on August 5th, 2010 8:53 am

    I always had a vague sense that this was the relative hinterlands, but those maps really make it stand out. Great post, Carson.

    This also reminds me why I love my satellite radio so much. May not be the same as watching baseball in person, but were I ever to go on a road trip, being able to tune into the home broadcast for any current game, from anywhere, would be a godsend.

  12. MTfandom on August 5th, 2010 9:05 am

    I gotta step in here. First, what route did you take, because it appears from the minor league map you could have quite easily hit several parks. In Montana alone we have Pioneer League teams in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula, and Billings. assuming you didn’t come through here, and went through Wyoming instead, there’s a couple teams there too.

    and Scottbrowne, thank you for telling everyone Montana is a miserable place. Maybe the yuppy immigration will cease…

  13. cjones on August 5th, 2010 9:28 am

    Great post, Carson, I always enjoy your work. However, I think there is an error in your first graphic. It shows a major league baseball team in Seattle; I seem to remember one, but surely that isn’t the case currently.

    I have to agree with Chris_From_Bothell on satellite radio. My XM is a key part of staying sane, baseball-wise, here in Kentucky.

  14. weasleman42 on August 5th, 2010 10:28 am

    During a couple of dark, cold years living in Fargo, ND I enjoyed Northern League games, featuring the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. Besides my wife, the only redeeming experience from that time was watching them win the 2006 league championship.

  15. ted_seattle on August 5th, 2010 12:37 pm

    It’s called University Way not University Ave.

    Just letting you know.

  16. MKT on August 5th, 2010 12:49 pm

    I never had an opinion of Montana before I had the (dis)pleasure of driving through it, but my God what a miserable state (especially east of the Rockies).

    Agree that east of the Rockies, Montana is flat and boring (but not as flat and boring as driving I-90 through Minnesota). But I question the Seattle credentials of anyone who describes Montana as “miserable”, because that person has either a grudge against, or at best a blind spot for, mountains. Which is well nigh inconsistent with living in a city surrounded by the Olympics and Cascades and whose horizon is dominated by The Mountain.

    They’re not as scenic as the Cascades, but Montana has not just the well-known Rockies and Glacier National Park, but the Absaroka Range, the Crazy Mountains, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and too many more to name.

    Little Big Horn’s good to visit also, and down in the corner is a small slice of Yellowstone Nat’l Park.

  17. Cody on August 5th, 2010 1:42 pm

    Parts of Montana are weird with regards to MLB blackout rules.

    My main problem was that with normal cable you got this mix channel that was sometimes called FSRM and sometimes FSNW. I think because the territory was claimed by Fox Sports Rocky Mountain for some sports and Northwest for other sports. The M’s games were actually broadcast about 25% of the time. The Mariners claim MT as their market so and MLB extra innings isn’t an option.

    Finally a couple years ago DirectTV changed the way they do things so that I get FSNWHD for baseball and FSRM for college football, etc. As far as I know the Fox Sports that comes in via cable is still a mess.

  18. madatms on August 5th, 2010 9:19 pm

    I sit here reading this and think what am I doing in baltimore,md on 8/5 I live in everett,wa.! Then I remember that I am 3/4 thru my baseball trip ,left seattle 7/26 about 5:30am I have seen alot of bad baseball (errors,missed signs,bad running mistakes,bad pitching,etc.)with some good games ,blow out games and everything in beyween .I thought I was watching the M’s (I did see the game @ target field w/king felix pitching– loss ) but baseball in general has been ugly the past week(s)but the thrill is still in me to see games / stadiums / crowds. Baseball is doing just fine, yes the M’s are not doing well but they are better than quite a few of the teams I’ve seen so far-K.C.,CUBS, PIRATES,O’s..The better teams were just as bad but they won.At the end of this trip I will have seen 12 – 13 different teams-games/stadiums ( I left st.louis after 1 1/2 hrs of rain delay game started almost a hour later ) and yes there is a long trip to find a MLB game from seattle but it was / is worth it to see this wonderful country of ours. The trip from denver to KC was the worst stretch, but it makes you relish our great area we live in.

  19. low on August 6th, 2010 8:09 am

    Carson, you’re forgetting the hundreds of amateur baseball games you passed by on the interstate. You’d be surprised the game that guys with day jobs can bring.

  20. sstadnicki on August 6th, 2010 10:59 am

    Speaking as a stat geek, I demand more data! Where are the population density maps of the US, where’s the cross-correlation between baseball team density (both Major and Minor) and that population? What areas are being under-served relative to their population, what areas are over-represented, and what’s the farthest you have to drive in the US to get to a McDo— err, professional baseball game?

    In all seriousness, though — very, very cool article. I’ve driven through that Dakotas-Montana-Wyoming swath three or four times now, and it’s astonishingly empty. It doesn’t surprise me that Montana basically ignores (ignored?) speed limits — what is there to hit? You definitely have my sympathies, although I’ve found a 160gb iPod on shuffle makes it at least a little more bearable.

    (Psst: no, really, write the density-correlation thing. It’d be awesome.)

  21. 15thBanker on August 6th, 2010 8:21 pm

    I’m a lifelong Mariners fan that has lived in the Madison area for over 10 years now. By the time this season ends, I will have attended 26 Mariners games. Each year I try to get to more. There isn’t much baseball between here and Seattle, as you stated, just as there isn’t much of anything in that area. Thankfully, living in Madison, there are a good amount of teams within a day’s driving distance away (the entire AL central).

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