There’s nothing better in the summer than grabbing a refreshing Coca-Cola, pulling out your scorecard and settling in for a baseball game. And away from the major leagues – where most stadiums are generally indistinguishable from each other – minor league baseball offers a panoply of cool parks with quirks, charm and style that make watching a game an experience.

“There’s a level of intimacy the major league parks can’t match,” says Josh Pahigian, author of several baseball travel guides, including 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out and The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip.

“With specialty food items, spacious concourses, goofy mascots, clever promotions and cheap tickets, the ballparks of the minor leagues give fans a multitude of reasons to visit their local yards and also to set their sights on ballparks far from home where they can broaden their hardball experiences,” he added.

Pahigian credits the popularity of classic baseball movie Bull Durham for helping to revitalize the minor league game, at least from an attendance standpoint, which soared to more than 38 million across all leagues in 2014.

“I think the renaissance started in the early 1990s on the coattails of the highly successful Bull Durham," he said. "The movie portrayed bush league ball, its players, and its fans as worlds removed from the big league version of the game. As the nostalgia evoked by the movie prompted fans to turn out at minor league yards across the country, the minor league teams responded by dramatically upgrading their facilities during the later 1990s and early 2000s.”

If you’re a baseball fan making a road trip this summer, here are five cool minor league stadiums from coast-to-coast worth exploring.  


Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Seemingly birthed as a joke – the result of a Simpsons episode in which the fictional baseball team threatens to move away from Springfield – the Isotopes (the name of which was voted on by fans) have blossomed into one of Triple-A’s top teams thanks in part to their home stadium, which embraced both the quirkiness of their name (the colorful façade of the stadium, the statues of Simpsons characters) and the natural beauty of New Mexico (impressive views of the Sandia Mountains, a large grass berm in right field). The park also features a unique, concave center field that presents an interesting challenge for outfielders, who have to run up a hill to chase down deep fly balls.

Hadlock Field

Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine

Named after a local high school coach, this home of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs takes advantage of both its coastal location and affiliation with the Boston Red Sox to create a unique environment. The team built a likeness of Fenway Park’s iconic outfield feature with the “Maine Monster” in left field, just one of several clever features found at the field. “When the Sea Dogs homer or secure a victory, a retractable lighthouse rises from behind the centerfield fence to flash its light while a foghorn sounds,” Pahigian says. “Those are very cool touches for a nautically themed team that plays less than a mile from the rocky shores of the Maine coast.”

Coca-Cola Park Entrance

Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania 

Home of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (named for the region’s steel use), this sparkling diamond has drawn consistent accolades since it opened in 2008, including “Ballpark of the Year” from Ballpark Digest, and huge crowds, as the IronPigs have averaged more than 9,000 fans for six straight seasons. The park promotes a festive atmosphere, including an old-time Coke truck at the entrance and an “exploding” Coke bottle that shoots fireworks after home runs, but also touches on the history of the region throughout the concourse. Don’t forget to sample the Aw Shucks Roasted Corn while you’re there, a favorite of Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, who often wrote of his visits to the stadium.

McCormick Field

Tony Farlow/Asheville Tourists

McCormick Field in Asheville, North Carolina

Built into the side of a hill near the Blue Ridge Mountains, giving it a postcard-like view, this venerable stadium has been in existence since 1924, although it has been refurbished several times since then. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played exhibition contests here, the Negro Leagues called the park home and scenes from “Bull Durham” were shot in the quaint facility. Watching the Class A Asheville Tourists play here is a decidedly old-school experience with a focus not on bells and whistles, but the game itself. “This ballpark is like a time machine,” Pahigian says. “To step inside its gates is to step into a time gone by. It’s delightful.”


Raley Field in Sacramento, California 

There’s something intrinsically cool about baseball stadiums built around natural surroundings, and the home of the Triple-A Rail Cats takes advantage of its former location as a railyard to provide spectacular views of the bridge over the Sacramento River and the city skyline, which includes the unique Ziggurat building, designed to represent an ancient pyramid. On the field, the Rail Cats have been among the leaders in attendance for the Pacific Coast League in each of the team’s 15 seasons in the capital city and have won two Triple-A championships.