Minor League, Major Fun
You may not recognize all the players’ names, but you’ll never forget the experience of taking the family to a minor league ballpark in Iowa. The six teams that call Iowa home have launched careers of dozens of all-stars, World Series champions and Hall of Famers.
CEDAR RAPIDS KERNELS
Veterans Stadium in Cedar Rapids plays home to the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Minnesota Twins Class A Affiliate. The Kernels go out of the way to interact with their fans. At least two players sign autographs before every weekday game and the entire team does the same before Sunday games. The team holds a variety of themed promotions to mark the halfway points on the calendar to fall and winter holidays. Halfway to Halloween, for example, fills Veterans Stadium with costumed kids who scramble onto the field to collect candy that is dropped into the ballpark from a helicopter.
Picturesque Burlington is home to the Burlington Bees, a member of the Prospect League. The Bees have launched many major league careers over the years, including those of Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Paul Molitor. The refurbished Community Field buzzes with entertainment for fans of all ages: from contests, fireworks shows and kids running the bases with their dogs on Bark in the Park days. A family of four can attend a Bees game, get hot dogs, soft drinks and a program for an average cost of $41.
QUAD CITY RIVER BANDITS
Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport plays home to the Quad City River Bandits. The Kansas City Royals' Class A affiliate has earned a reputation for offering some of the most unusual promotions in the minor leagues, including ugly sweater contests and post-game movies. The park is also an attraction in itself. In addition to a carousel and other amusement rides, the park also boasts a Ferris wheel that gives fans a bird’s eye view of the ballpark and the adjacent Mississippi River. Named the “Best Minor League Ballpark” by USA Today and 10Best.com.
The Mississippi River community of Clinton is home to the Clinton LumberKings. Since its inception in 1956, the Clinton franchise has helped launch the major league careers of more than 200 players. Today, the franchise is a member of the Prospect League. The LumberKings offer big-time promotions including flat-screen TV giveaways, fireworks displays and nightly food specials. Ashford University Field offers a great view of the Mississippi River.
Principal Park in Des Moines is the home of the triple-A Iowa Cubs. The I-Cubs are the last minor league stop before players advance to the Chicago Cubs. It’s also where injured Cubs come to get themselves back into shape. Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have all played here. The park sits at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. Look over the center field fence to the sun-glistened gold dome of the State Capitol. “It’s absolutely the best view in all of Minor League Baseball,” adds I-Cubs spokesman Scott Sailor.
SIOUX CITY EXPLORERS
The Sioux City Explorers play a 100-game schedule, including 50 home games at Lewis and Clark Park. The Explorers play in the independent American Association. The Explorers describe their games as nine innings of vacation. Every inning includes on-field and in-the-stands entertainment. You might even become one of the fans plucked from the stands to earn a chance to perform for the crowd. Dance for your Dinner is a big hit in which fans are selected at random to go onto the field, dance and earn free food.
BONUS BASEBALL ATTRACTIONS
FIELD OF DREAMS
Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa. This century-old family farm in Dyersville is a major part of America’s favorite pastime. It’s the site of the 1989 Academy Award nominee for Best Picture of the Year, Field of Dreams. Visitors can try to knock one deep into dead center into the cornfield (300ft), try to hear a voice in the cornfield that says,“If you build it…he will come,” tour the interior of the home or even stay overnight. This is truly a must-see for all baseball fans.
IOWA BASEBALL MUSEUM OF NORWAY
Norway’s baseball tradition grew into 20 state championships, with many college, semi-pro and professional players coming from this small community. The film The Final Season is based on the high school’s last championship team before consolidation.