It is also shaping up to be an exciting 2011 Tour Plus schedule. This is our first year since the main tour that there is not a new MLB stadium opening, so our options of what to cross off the list were wide open. Our tentative plan for a few years was to fly into Anchorage and spend a week exploring the great state of Alaska and its collegiate summer league. We always thought that going to Alaska in a year before the both of us were married made the most sense. But, several factors including cost, Erik's perennial job insecurity, and me having an abundance of weddings to attend all weighed in on us postponing this trip for another year. Not to mention the fact that this was the first trip we ever brought up to the girls that they too seemed excited about, so it would be nice to save that adventure for a time when the 4 of us could go together. Spring Training was something we've been putting off for a number of years, and with the Brewers' future in Arizona in limbo after the 2012 season, the Cactus League was our first logical choice to replace the ABL. In true Houses E&P Built fashion, we are basically just trying to cram as much ball into a week as possible. There are 10 ballparks shared by 15 of the 30 MLB teams in the Cactus League, and we plan on seeing at least 7 or 8 of them, as well as a Phoenix Coyotes NHL game, schedule permitting. Every park except HoHoKam (Cubs) and Phoenix Municipal (Athletics) is supposed to be fairly new and nice. Erik had previously been to Spring Training in 2008 and a couple of my friends from high school follow the Brewers around every year, so we should have ample research before the trip to know what parks/cities/eateries are the best, and I could not be more excited. As of now we are shooting for the 4th week in March. I always love those years when I have a few ballgames under my belt even before Opening Day!
Traditionally we have been planning at least two trips a year, but this year's 2nd trip is kind of in jeopardy. Our 2nd trip was to be the Golden League v. Northern League All-Star Game at Kevin Costner's new park in Illinois. But it seems official now that the Northern, United, and Golden Leagues have in essence merged into a super-league, the North American League. So we kind of have to wait it out for the schedules to see if an All-Star Game is still being played at the Lake County Fielders' park this summer. Another idea of ours to take a day trip to Green Bay to see what was supposed to be the opening season of the Bullfrogs' new park also seems to be a no-go, as I don't believe that the team was able to procure financing. Right now our contingency plan is just a weekend excursion to some Midwestern ballparks we haven't found time to see, which I assume includes the parks in Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne, but Erik and I haven't talked in depth about it. Either way I am sure we'll have a great time, and either way we'll eventually have to hit up a North American League game. 109 days until Opening Day, and even less so until we fly to Phoenix!