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Guest Blog: Will Carroll on PNC Park

Posted by Big League Tours on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 @ 12:00 PM

You can argue, but PNC Park in Pittsburgh is the best park in baseball. Sure, Wrigley and Fenway have that historic charm and are maybe a bit more integrated into the neighborhood, but at PNC, you can go to the bathroom, park, and oh those views. For years, people have said the only thing wrong with PNC is the team on the field. Last summer showed that's changing, so there'sWalking thru PNC Park during the game to see different views no time like now to get to the park before it's elbow to elbow. (Though frankly, the park is even better filled and loud.)

Get a seat on the third base side, especially on night games, so you can see the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the full view of the Pittsburgh skyline. The city is just across the river, a miniature Manhattan with a distinctive skyline. Make sure to have a Primanti Brothers sandwich, a Pittsburgh tradition that puts the fries and slaw inside the bread! (Trust me, share one.) Save room for Manny Sanguillen's BBQ, which is hidden behind the batter's eye in dead center field. Many times, Manny himself will be out there!

Sitting in the right field bleachers is a very unique view. I've gone to theWill Carroll w baseball resized 600 fenced area underneath and carried on conversations with Garrett Jones during games. There aren't too many places you can do that in baseball. As you leave, check the statues of Pittsburgh greats around the park - Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, and Roberto Clemente remind us all of how good it's been in Pittsburgh. You'll agree, PNC is the best park in America.

Will Carroll is a contributor to Sports Illustrated. Called "the industry standard" by Peter Gammons, Carroll's work on injuries and sports medicine has been groundbreaking for both fans of the game and those inside the game. He is a member of the BBWAA.

Tags: baseball stadiums, ballpark tours, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, PNC Park, Pirates, Pittsburgh

Guest Blog: Will Chambers on Great American Ball Park

Posted by Big League Tours on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 @ 10:00 AM

Great American Ball Park provides Reds fans and visitors one of the great baseball experiences in the game. Despite the Reds rich history (baseball’s first ever team) this is not a nostalgic feel type venue. Those are reserved for stops at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. And kudos goes out to those who planned this park for not trying to make it have that feel. What they did is give the city of Cincinnati an intimate setting to watch their beloved Redlegs.

Great American Ball Park - view from the press box while on a stadium tourAs a person who grew up in the area going to Riverfront Stadium and GABP, there are a few great ways to watch baseball here, even for a Cubs fan like me. I’ll give you my favorite way to watch the game:

There are a number of seating options, including the ultra-premium “Diamond Club” seat section behind the batter’s box. My favorite spot is the club area. They call it the “4192” club after Pete Rose’s record-breaking hit mark. It's a great vantage point and I’m a fan of the elevated view and the club area goes up the first base line on the second level, right on top of the Reds dugout it seems. Inside it is comfortable with ice-cold Freon blowing and great food being served up. Some of which are Cincinnati favorites, LaRosa’s Pizza and Montgomery Inn barbeque as well as a pasta bar and several other stations. One thing to be sure to get: a Big Red Smokey. A hot-dog on steroids. It’s a smoked sausage that eats like a dog without quite the spice you get from a mett. There’s also an option to get one infused with cheddar cheese; a superior hot-dog.

Be sure to keep an eye on the scoreboard located above the bleachers in left (the lower level bleachers in left field leave you with a blocked view of the scoreboard and an area I would avoid FYI) to see two things: the scoreboard stumper and the Mr. Red Race. The stumper is never too difficult and the Mr. Red Race is the tradition at a Reds game.Will Chambers

Lastly, you must go to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum located just outside the front gate at GABP. This is widely considered the best Hall of Fame and Museum for a team in all of baseball. It features the largest collection of Reds collectibles, artifacts and memorabilia in the world. Two floors and 16,000 square feet of Reds heaven. It’s a must for any baseball fan.

After you’ve taken it all in, finish it off with a sundae from United Dairy Farmers. Your Cincinnati visit is done.

Will Chambers is a local sportscaster and journalist covering Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. His duties include feature sports columnist for Cincinnati Profile magazine and lead play-by-play announcer for Georgetown College, among others. He is a Cincinnati native who currently resides in Kentucky. You can check out his work at IHigh.com.

Tags: stadium tours, baseball tours, baseball stadiums, Reds, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati

Opening Day - Finally!!

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 06:00 PM

April 2010 (Repost) - After a long, cold, miserable winter, Opening Day finally arrived. And none too soon. We made our way to Cincinnati yesterday for the parade, ceremonies (aren't fly-overs one of the coolest things on the planet??), and ball game at Great American Ball Park. The weather was a little iffOutside GABP on Opening Day 2011y yesterday but it didn't deter the 42,000+ fans from taking in the festivities celebrating the first game of the season of the oldest franchise in the Majors.

As a Reds fan, the game started a little, ok, very rough. If I remember right, Volquez had given up three runs before he recorded his first out. Not the way you want to start off the regular season. But after that, he seemed to settle down for several innings.

The topper of the day, though, was the 2-out, 3-run walk off home run by Ramon Hernandez! The Reds had 40 some come from behind victories last year and started off the same way they finished the regular season last year. Here's the box score from the game.

Heading to the ballpark yesterday just made us more excited for baseball road trips that we have planned for the 2011 baseball season. If you are looking for baseball vacation packages that are done the way you want 'em, make sure you check out our site for the details on all of our upcoming tour vacations. You'll be glad you did!

Tags: Opening day, sports travel and tours, baseball trips, baseball travel, baseball vacation package, MLB road trips

Opening Day Is Finally Here!!

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 05:30 PM

April 2010 (Repost) - I know that ESPN bills last night's game as opening day but the purest in me just can't except that "made Group in Orioles dugout on a private stadium tourfor TV" hype. Admittedly, I watched the game last night but still believe that the season doesn't officially open until today. Opening Day, after all, should be comprised of day games, shouldn't it? Parades, presentations, fanfare, too. If it was up to me, Opening Day would be a national holiday.

Today's the day that every team is tied for first and believes that they have a chance to stay in the hunt this year. Today's the day that we realize that we will have professional baseball played everyday until the first of November. Today's the day that summer begins in my book.

So enjoy the day today. Catch your team's opener. And get ready for another summer of baseball and taking baseball travel tours to see your team all summer long!

Tags: Opening day, baseball games, baseball tours, big league tours

Twin Cities Getting Pumped about Target Field

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 05:00 PM

One of our greatest joys is to visit baseball stadiums in their inaugural seasons. We've been able to do this for the new Busch Stadium, Nationals Park, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. This year, we're heading up to Target Field in the Twin Cities on one of our early MLB tours to see the Twins in their brand new ballpark. Columnist Rick Shefchik writes today on TwinCities.com about the increase in demand to visit Minnesota on group travel tours this year.

Here are a few excerpts:

Frank Miles of Jacksonville, Ala., is a stadium counter. A 76-year-old baseball fanatic, Miles has been in every major league ballpark — except Target Field.

Like hundreds of other baseball stadium tourists around the country, Miles will check Target Field, the brand-new Twins ballpark, off his list this summer. He loves the old classics like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, but he likes the new ones, too, including recently opened PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Citi Field in New York.

"I've seen 'em all, every major league ballpark — all the new ones, except this one," Miles said. "I've not heard much about it, but I'll be there this year on a tour." 

Glenn Dunlap, owner of Big League Tours in Indianapolis, said he'll be bringing a group into Minneapolis this summer for the first time in his company's five years of operation.

"The Metrodome was not much of an attraction," said Dunlap of the Twins' former home. "We didn't have a lot of demand from baseball fans to come up to the Metrodome."

Increased tourism to Minneapolis for Twins games is bound to have a positive effect on surrounding businesses. As Dunlap points out, baseball is only part of the lure for ballpark tourists. They like to come early, stay late and thoroughly explore what the ballpark and the city have to offer.

"People are interested in the walleye-on-a-stick and the s'mores they're offering there (at Target Field)," Dunlap said. "State Fair food — that's great. It's part of what people enjoy about visiting different stadiums — the influences on local food and what's in and around the park.

"Target could be a great park. The part that makes a ballpark interesting is what the city does around it. Look at a Coors Field, right in the heart of Denver. That was in a district they've since built up around it, and it has become a great destination spot for the city."

Conversely, Dunlap said, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., is in an area that needs to be developed.

"They've got a long way to go before people will go hang out there," Dunlap said. "It's what's around Target Field, what's welcoming to baseball fans, not just Twins fans.

Want to visit the new Target Field on one of our baseball vacation packages? Click here for details about this tour and all of our sports travel packages. You'll be glad you did!

Tags: Minnesota, baseball tours, Twins, Target Field, Minneapolis, MLB road trips

Planning for Road Trips

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 04:13 PM

USA Today recently printed an article, "How to Plan Your First Road Trip." The author provides nine pointers that would be a good idea for you to incorporate if you're taking family tours or sports vacations of any kind. Here's are the highlights:

Overview
The iconic road trip seems to be reserved for young people, heading out with a few buddies and nary a care in the world. But first road trips can occur at any age and can last from a couple of days to an entire summer. Planning any trip requires a little care and consideration, but in the case of a first road trip, it is especially important to be thorough and leave leeway for the unexpected.
  • Step 1 - Purchase roadside service insurance.
  • Step 2 - 
Bring your car in for a once-over.
  • Step 3
 - Keep a small kit of safety supplies with you.
  • Step 4
 - Buy a paper map.
  • Step 5
 - Make a list of places you want to see and prepare a realistic time line.
  • Step 6
 - Plan overnight stays.
  • Step 7 - 
Record a hefty playlist for your MP3 player.
  • Step 8
 - Keep a small cooler stocked with beverages and a couple of snacks.
  • Step 9 - 
Allow time for the unexpected.
This looks like a great list if you have time to do this on your own and you're interested in looking up all the details for your baseball road trips. But what occurs to me is that we've already done all this work for you at Big League Tours when you purchase one of our baseball vacation packages. That's one of the things our clients tell us they love the most - the fact that they can show up for the tour and everything is taken care of for them.

Tags: sports travel and tours, baseball trips, baseball travel, sports vacation

Big League Tours on BusinessWeek.Com

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 04:11 PM

It's been awhile since we were included on Business Week's Most Promising Startups list, but I just realized that I didn't share this with you. Click here to be taken to the BusinessWeek site. Here are some excerpts:

Glenn Dunlap grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan in Summitville, Ind., but when the marketing consultant looked for baseball vacation packages to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, all he found were of the overcrowded "bus and ticket" variety. By the start of the 2006 season, Big League Tours was booking deluxe trips to famous ballparks, including meet-and-greets with former players (like those with Ron Kittle pictured to the left), close-in seats, as well as private-bus travel, meals, and four-star lodging.



East Coast Here We Come

Posted by Big League Tours on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 04:10 PM

June 12, 2011 - Our group arrived in Philadelphia on Friday from their respective homes to start the longest of our MLB tours for the season, our East Coast Tour. This is the granddaddy of all trips with games in Philly, Baltimore, DC, both teams New York, and Boston. We'll also have a free day in DC to explore the nation'sThe Liberty Bell after the Polanco grand slam capitol and we'll make a trek to the birthplace of baseball, Cooperstown, New York.

A few of our guests arrived early enough to take in the game on Friday night (because six games in 8 days isn't quite enough!!). So we shuffled out of our downtown Philadelphia hotel to Citizens Bank Park to see the Phillies host the Cubs.

The game seemed like the Phillies were going to runaway with it quite easily, especially after Placido Polanco hit a grand slam to make the score 7-0 and light up the liberty bell in center field.

But the Cubs made the game interesting by scoring five runs in the seventh and giving the Phillies fans reason to get even roudier. Ultimately the Phillies held on for the win. (Box score and wrap up here.)

As with all the baseball tours I host, I'll keep checking in from the road to let you know how things are going. Should be fun!

Tags: Washington D.C., Boston, Citizens Bank Park, Baltimore, baseball trips, Phillies, baseball tours, baseball travel, Yankees, Yankee Stadium, Cubs

Nationals Park in Washington, DC

Posted by Big League Tours on Tue, Jan 03, 2012 @ 05:38 PM

Guests arriving at Nationals ParkJune 16, 2011 - Not to jinx it, but so far we've managed to dodge the rain for all the games on our tour. In fact, as we left our hotel in Washington, DC to go to Nationals Park, it started to rain slightly and then the skies opened up and poured. But the rain stopped about an hour before game time and allowed the teams and groundscrew to get ready for the game on time.

While we've had other baseball tours to NationalCenterfield bar at Nationals Parks Park over the last couple of years, I personally haven't been back since it's inaugural year in 2008. The community around the ballpark, while it still needs some work, has improved immensely in the 3 years since my last visit.

Here are some photos of our guests arriving at the ballpark and some photos from around the stadium. Couldn't help but take some photos of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument from inside the park, too.
Capitol Building from inside Nationals ParkWashington Monument from inside Nationals Park

Tags: Washington D.C., Nationals, tour operator, sports travel and tours, baseball trips, ballpark tours, big league tours, group tours, Nationals Park, Baseball

The Bucket List Winners Are...

Posted by Big League Tours on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 @ 04:45 PM

November 11, 2011 - Thanks to everyone for taking our survey and letting us know what is on your baseball bucket list. We will be using the info to put together our baseball vacation packages for 2012 and look forward to releasing our schedule very soon.Green Monster at Fenway Park

Here are 10 of the top baseball destinations as selected by you.
1.  Fenway Park                                                
2.  Yankee Stadium
3.  Baseball Hall of Fame
4.  Miller Park
5.  Wrigley Field
6.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards
7.  Target Field
8.  Citi Field
9.  AT&T Ballpark
10.  Busch Stadium

Have another favorite or stadium that's still on your bucket list to visit? Drop us a comment and let us know. We'd love to hear from you!

Tags: Citi Field, Miller Park, bucket list, baseball vacation package, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, AT&T Park, Busch Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Target Field, hall of fame, Baseball, Oriole Park, Camden Yards