• TEAM: Stockton Ports
• HOME: Banner Island Ballpark, 404 W. Fremont St., Stockton.
• HOW TO GET THERE: From I-5, northbound, take the Pershing Avenue exit. Make an immediate right onto Flora Street. Turn right onto Orange Street. Turn left onto Fremont Street (ballpark is on the right at the corner or Fremont Street and Lincoln Street); From Highway 99, exit Highway 4 (Crosstown Freeway) heading west through downtown Stockton, exit El Dorado Street. Go north on El Dorado four blocks, turn left on Fremont Street.
• PARKING: $5 at designated lots.
• INFORMATION: Log on to www.milb.com for tickets, schedule, stats and game-day features.
Other nearby Minor League facilities include:
• John Thurman Field, 601 Neece Dr., Modesto – Home of the Colorado Rockies’ Class-A (Advance) affiliate Modesto Nuts. Fans enter the park along a very spacious concourse that runs behind the seating bowl. This ballpark may not be flashy nor have a lot of the amenities. But it makes up for that in atmosphere. “The atmosphere is really what makes John Thurman Field a great place to see a game…it’s very lay back with little to distract the fans from the game on the field,” said Merzbach. From Highway 99, take Tuolumne Boulevard exit and head west, turn left on to Neece Drive.
• Raley Field, 400 Ball Park Dr., West Sacramento – This is one step away from the Show. The Class-AAA team Sacramento River Cats of the Oakland A’s is equipped with players on the 40-man Major League Baseball roster. This $46.5 million stadium was completed in 2000 and includes 11,093 permanent seats, and the grass berm in both right and left field made for an additional 14,000-plus seating. From Interstate 5 north, take the Jefferson Boulevard / Fifth Street exit, keep right to exit Fifth Street. It’s best to park in Old Sacramento and walk across the Tower Bridge or take regional transit (Sacramento Regional Transit System at www.sacrt/com).
STOCKTON - When Banner Island Ballpark opened some eight years ago, I quickly found Home Run Hill to my liking, especially on those warm summer evenings.
Back then, the Stockton Ports, a Class-A (Advanced) affiliation of the Oakland Athletics, had Travis Buck in the outfield, Daric Barton at first, and Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. All three became the first wave of young talent from this edition of the Ports to make the jump to the Show.
Over the years, I’ve sat in various locations throughout the park, including Section 107 next to the visitor’s dugout. Paul Goldschmidt, currently with the Arizona Diamondbacks, wowed the local crowd when he was with the Visalia Rawhide.
Other notable visitors included Buster Posey during his days with the San Jose Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt on a rehab assignment with the San Francisco Giants.
Many of the players on the A’s current roster were former Ports – try third baseman Josh Donaldson (then a catcher), relief pitcher Sean Doolittle (a former first baseman), and starters Bret Anderson, Dan Straily, and A.J. Griffith, to name a few.
If I were to catch a game this weekend – plausible since the Ports host the Modesto Nuts – my preference would still be the right-field section known as the Metro PCS Home Run Hill. On the other side of that is the Deep Water Channel, where even a slight breeze over the water could make for a rather pleasant evening along this grassy area of the park.
While it’s not the ideal place to see, say, highly-touted young shortstop Addison Russell, Home Run Hill is still the place to meet and socialize during the game. The denizens here are Little League players, families, and teenagers.
As a park, Banner Island received a favorable write-up on www.ballparkreviews.com.
“The park follows the familiar template of having the concourse over the field and wrap around the entire park,” said Brian Merzbach, who visited 443 different minor league stadiums over the past 20 years.
“The concourse is covered from first base to third base, but no luxury boxes are stacked on top. Instead, the luxury boxes are located at the concourse level on the first base side. Seating extends from one foul line to the other, meaning that no seats are too far from the field, but that some are aways from the infield,” he added.
Merzbach also favors the reasonably priced concessions, the “Back Porch” in right field featuring 50 rocking chairs, and the batting cages located along the first base concourse.
By VINCE REMBULAT