It's about that time of year when baseball fans start planning trips to take in a few ballgames around the country. If your plans aren't complete for the 2017 season, you might want to consider adding a trip to Iowa in your list of possibilities. Iowa boasts five minor league baseball teams in addition to an independent league team and a collegiate summer wooden bat league. Iowa is also home to quite possibly the most iconic baseball movie site in the country.
Smack dab in the middle of the state is the capital, Des Moines. Des Moines plays host to Principal Park and the Iowa Cubs, Triple-A affiliate of the 2016 World Champion, Chicago Cubs. Principal Park has seen the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and many more players that helped Chicago break the 108-year old streak of not winning the Series. This year promises to be stacked with more prospects that will eventually help Chicago contend for years to come. The ballpark continues to improve its look at services with a new ribbon board and wi-fi for the fans in 2017.
Eastern Iowa has four Midwest League teams, all within fairly short driving distance. The drive is easy and you can hit all four in about 200 miles. Burlington, Quad Cities, Clinton, and Cedar Rapids are the destinations here and there are some fun and unique ballparks among this bunch.
Clinton is home to the Lumberkings. Ashford University Field takes you to a simpler presentation of the game. Walking through the corridor and entering the seating area is like going back in time. The ballpark is uncomplicated and that's what makes it a lot of fun to just sit back and enjoy a game.
Davenport is about an hour south of Clinton. In Davenport, you will find Modern Woodmen Park. You don't need to be a baseball fan to find something to do at a River Bandits game. The ballpark literally sits on the edge of the Mississippi River and has some of the best views you can imagine, especially at night when the bridge over the river is lit up. In addition to the game, fans have the opportunity to ride the 105-foot Ferris Wheel beyond the left field wall. There is also a litany of other entertainment options, especially for the kids.
Like Clinton, Burlington is a great place to relax and watch the game. There is nothing fancy here and that's not a negative. Great concessions prices and friendly fans add to the enjoyment of taking in a Bees game at Community Field.
About 85 miles west of Clinton is Cedar Rapids, home of the Kernels. Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium is a great mix of fun entertainment, great concessions, and history. Inside the team store is the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame, which has some great displays. You won't break the bank in Cedar Rapids either.
About 70 miles northeast of Cedar Rapids is Dyersville, Iowa. Dyersville is home to the Field of Dreams movie site, which is an absolute must see for any baseball fan. It's a pleasant drive into the area. Admission to the site is free and visitors are free to play catch or take in a little batting practice if it isn't busy. The prime time to visit is around August when the corn is highest.
If you haven't had enough baseball, Waterloo is about an hour west of Dyersville. The Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League play at Riverfront Stadium. New ownership took over in 2015 and the venue and game experience for fans has really improved, making for a fun time for a small price.
The Sioux City Explorers are on the far west end of the state. The American Association team also provides a quality time for a small price. Sioux City is only 100 miles from Omaha, which allows you to also take in a game at Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers.
If you plan your trip right, you can easily catch three games in three days, and sometimes four in four days; even five in four days if you are really ambitious. Before your plans are completed for the summer, be sure to give Iowa a look.
**Photo by Sean Flynn Photography