• 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.
• TICKETS: Individual game tickets can be purchased on line or at the stadium box office. Cost is $12 for MVP seats and $9 for field box seats. Group rates, season tickets, and mini plans are available (see: Information below).
• INFORMATION: Log on to www.milb.com for tickets, schedule, stats and game-day features.
STOCKTON — When it comes to the Stockton Ports, there’s history and then there’s History.
The latter goes back to the days of baseball in its infancy. The sport first came to Stockton in 1860s – historians credit Abner Doubleday for inventing baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839 – and, 20 years later, came the earliest incarnation of a team playing in the California League.
But it wasn’t until 1888 that Banner Island, a place once known as Mudville, gained fame thanks to Ernest Thayer. A journalist for the San Francisco Examiner, he was inspired to write his memorable poem, “Casey at the Bat.”
Today, Banner Island Ballpark is a 5,200-seat stadium that opened in 2005 as part of a revitalization waterfront project. The Ports, a Class-A (Advanced) California League team and Minor League affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, have called it home since the relocation from Billy Hebert Field.
In recent years, the A’s have prospered from the talent pool that came through Stockton. Travis Buck, Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton were among the first crop of Ports to make it to Oakland.
When the A’s made their improbable playoff run last fall, former Ports such as Brett Anderson, Sean Doolittle, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffith, Josh Donaldson, Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington and Chris Carter were among the key contributors.
Suzuki (Washington Nationals), Pennington (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Carter (Houston Astros) have since been traded, joining the likes of Trevor Cahill (Diamondbacks), Vin Mazzaro (Pittsburgh Pirates), Fautino de los Santos (San Diego Padres), Tyson Ross (Padres), and Andrew Bailey (Boston Red Sox) – all former Ports – are currently on MLB rosters.
Top prospect Addison Russell, a shortstop and Oakland’s top draft pick in 2012, appears ticketed for Stockton this year. Other top picks to make similar stops include outfielder Michael Choice, infielder Grant Green, first baseman Matthew Olson and pitcher Sonny Gray.
The ballpark is equipped with a concourse that overlooks the field and wraps around the entire park, received a “B-plus” grade from www.ballparkreview.com.
“Overall, Banner Island Ballpark is an adequate facility,” the website said. “The ‘back porch’ and viewable batting cages are nice touches.”
Over the years, the Ports had MLB affiliations with the Texas Rangers (2003-04), Cincinnati Reds (2002), Milwaukee Brewers (1979-83, 1985-99), Seattle Mariners (1978), California Angels (1972), Baltimore Orioles (1959-71), St. Louis Cardinals (1958), Chicago Cubs (1953-54), St. Louis Browns (1952), and Chicago White Sox (1949).
The Ports open the 2013 season on Thursday, April 4, against the Bakersfield Blaze at 7:05 p.m.
Fans can choose between MVP seats ($11 in advance, $12 day of game) and Field Box seats ($8 in advance, $9 day of game) for the 2013 season.
Fans can purchase tickets at the Ports ticket office, online at www.stocktonports.com or by phone at (209) 644-1900. The Ports ticket office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the season.
— VINCE REMBULAT
209 staff reporter