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Marlins fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip: Part 1—The Travel Plan

Resources for those considering a summer adventure in the heart of Minor League baseball country.

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First National Bank Field in Greensboro, NC
Photo by @GSOHoppers/Twitter

Walter Triebel spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has had an extensive career in business and as a textbook and reference book author. Triebel’s “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities“ was published by McFarland in 2016. It’s available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon.

This is the first of a three-part article series for Marlins fans.

Figure 1

The table in Figure 1 lists the six baseball clubs in the Miami Marlins Minor League organization. Three of them, the Batavia Muckdogs (New York-Penn League, short-season class A), Greensboro Grasshoppers (South Atlantic League, full-season class A), and New Orleans Baby Cakes (Pacific Coast League, triple-A) are located a long distance from the Miami Marlins fan base in southeast Florida. In fact, their home ballparks are located approximately 1416 miles, 791 miles, and 869 miles, respectively, from Marlins Park in Miami, FL. On top of that, those three Minor League clubs are located in states remote from each other: Muckdogs (New York), Grasshoppers (North Carolina), and Baby Cakes (Louisiana).

Figure 2

First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, is hosting the 2018 South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
Photo by Walter Triebel

The theme of this three part post “Marlins Fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip” is a limited Miami Marlins Minor League Baseball Road Trip. That is a trip to attend home games of just their single-A team in the South Atlantic League—the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Figure 2 shows the main entrance to the Grasshoppers’ baseball stadium First National Bank Field, which is located adjacent to downtown Greensboro, NC. The primary goals of the road-trip are:

  • To attend home games of the Greensboro Grasshoppers at First National Bank Field.
  • See a number of the Miami Marlins MLB Top 30 Prospects that are members of the Grasshoppers 2018 roster in action on the field.
  • Explore and experience some of the attractions of this attractive and historic North Carolina city.

Figures 3(a) and 3(b)

BB&T Ballpark home of the Charlotte Knights (left) and Durham Bulls Athletics Park home of the Durham Bulls (right) are considered among the 10 best Minor League venues, according to Baseball America.
Photos by Walter Triebel

The state of North Carolina has a long, rich, and very successful history related to the support of Minor League baseball. In fact, it is the home of some of the classic teams and top ranked stadiums of Minor League baseball. Two of them are the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights. For example, a team named the Durham Bulls has played in the city of Durham, NC during 91 of the last 119 years. Moreover, a Charlotte Knights team has been a member of the International League (AAA) for the last 26 years and a double A team in the Southern League for a number of years before that.

Today, both of those teams play their home games in top ranked baseball stadiums. In fact, in a 2017 Baseball America article by Josh Norris titled “Top 10 Minor League Ballparks” BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC, which is shown in Figure 3(a), was ranked the #1 baseball stadium in all of Minor League baseball. Moreover, he ranked Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Figure 3(b)) #6 in his top 10. Finally, the cities of Charlotte, Durham, and Greensboro all have historic downtown districts and are interesting North Carolina travel destinations.

For those reasons, I am suggesting that a secondary goal of the Marlins Fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip could be to attend a game at the ballparks of the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights, enjoy the baseball experience in their stadiums, and spend a little time exploring those host cities.

Figure 4

Day-trip travel distance and time between the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Durham Bulls, and Charlotte Knights home ballparks

The table of Figure 4 is a travel matrix that lists the name and address of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Durham Bulls, and Charlotte Knights stadiums and one-way travel distance/time between them. Note that the one-way travel distance/time from First National Bank Field in Greensboro to Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham is approximately a 54.2 mile, 55 minute drive. Moreover, the trip from the Grasshoppers ballpark to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte is about a 90.5 mile/1 hour 32 minute drive.

The proximity of those three parks to each other offers an interesting opportunity for fans of the Miami Marlins. That is, the ability to enrich their Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball travel experience with games at the ballparks of these other two clubs. They are all located within what I consider day-tripping travel distance and drive time of each other. My metric is that if a ballpark is within a one-way travel distance of approximately 200 miles and a 3 hour or less travel time that a baseball road-trip can be made to that destination without an overnight stay. Assuming that one hubs out of Greensboro, the table shows that the travel distances and times are well within the parameters I suggest as qualifying for a day-trip.

Figure 5

Composite Greensboro Grasshoppers, Durham Bulls, Charlotte Knights July/August 2018 schedule

The table in Figure 5 summarizes the home game schedules of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Durham Bulls, and Charlotte Knights during the summer vacation months of July and August. This information will help you in choosing dates and the sequence of games for the Marlins Fans—Greensboro Grasshoppers MiLB Road Trip.

For Marlins fans that live in the vicinity of Miami, an area near one of the host cities of their other Minor League affiliates, or possibly another location in the country, it is important to keep your travel plans a little flexible so that if necessary some easy, quick adjust may be made. Seeing home games of the Grasshoppers is the number 1 item on the agenda. Therefore, my first recommendation is to allow a minimum of two days for attending games in Greensboro. That should add some protection against the possibility of a rainout. Second, try to attend Grasshoppers games in the earlier part of their home stand. That will assure that there are more games to be played in case the game schedule needs to be pushed out due to bad weather. Finally, if possible, include a one day travel buffer between the stops in Durham and Charlotte. That will increase the flexibility of your travel plan by adding a window of time for on-the-road adjustments, such as unexpected bad weather conditions.

A look at the schedule table in Figure 5 shows that the Grasshoppers play home series that have overlapping game dates with both the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights a number of times during both July and August. Note that during the period from Thursday July 12th through Tuesday July 17th Greensboro plays at home and each of those days either the Bulls or Knights also have a home game. That series of date offers a lot of planning flexibility.

A good choice for one’s game plan might be to set aside Friday through Sunday of that period for attending three Grasshoppers home games, travel to Durham for a Bulls game on Thursday; take in a Knights game in Charlotte on Monday; and allow Tuesday as a free day. That way, if weather affects the Durham game day, it could be rescheduled for Friday and only two games attended in Greensboro. On the other hand, if the Monday game in Charlotte is rained out, you could move that game out to Tuesday. Finally, if a rain out on Thursday takes away the Friday game in Greensboro and you want to attend a third Grasshoppers game, that could be done on Monday and again the Knights game moved to Tuesday. A review of the August schedule shows that the periods from August 9th through August 14th and August 22nd through August 27th offer similar travel opportunities.

As part of the planning process, check the 2018 schedule on the official websites of the Grasshoppers, Bulls, and Knights for the specific game times. Most of the games are in the evening at about 7PM, but on Sunday they are typically in the late afternoon. For instance, in Greensboro Sunday games start at 4PM. Also, recheck the travel matrix in Figure 4 of this post for an estimate of the travel distance and time for your day-trip to attend a game of the Durham Bulls or Charlotte Knights. Moreover, allow some extra daylight time for the trip to both of those cities to give you the opportunity to explore local attractions and the ballpark.

In Parts 2 and 3 of this post, I will provide background information about each of the three teams, their ballpark, and their travel destination that will be helpful in developing one’s plans to attend a home game of those three baseball clubs. I will start with the Greensboro Grasshoppers and First National Bank Field in Part 2 and then provide information on both the Durham Bulls/Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Charlotte Knights/BB&T Ballpark in Part 3. In those parts, I will briefly look at the history of the team, their stadium, and introduce a few visitor attractions and places to eat in the host city. Moreover, I will introduce the 2018 MLB Top 30 Prospects on the team’s current rosters.