Ty Cobb's professional baseball career began in Augusta, Ga., with the Augusta Tourists minor league team. Today, the Augusta Green Jackets are the Class A team of the San Francisco Giants, in the South Atlantic League.
In the Blue Ridge Country coverage area, there are at least 16 towns where all during this summer, the magic of minor league baseball will be unfolding most nights.
Here in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia where Blue Ridge Country is based, we're home to the Salem Red Sox, Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The Carolina League, where the local Sox play, has been a part of the development of any number of current major leaguers.
One particular fan – me – gets out to at least a few of the visits to Salem of another BRC-area team, the Frederick Keys, the Baltimore Orioles' squad in the league. Over the last couple of years we've watched hot-prospects Matt Weiters and Brian Matusz blow through here on their way to the big leagues.
Don't know those names? Hey, you will.
Not ready for the purely baseball aspect of minor league ball? Well, there's lots more to what MiLB has gone to great lengths to establish as a great family experience. Yes, there will be six or eight of us keeping score, but the rest of the crowd will be paying more attention to the contests, promotions, food-and-drink, silly announcements, each other and the pretty summer night than to the game itself.
Here's a state-by-state rundown of teams in our coverage area – places where you can go out and watch a cluster of young men hoping to become, if not the next Ty Cobb, at least the next fine major leaguer you'll be able to say you saw when…
Bristol White Sox. Appalachian (Rookie) League affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Box seats are $5! 276-206-9946.
Lynchburg Hillcats. Carolina League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Last year's league champs! 434-528-1144.
Pulaski Mariners. Appalchian League affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Quaint Calfee Park is the ninth-oldest in use in the minors. 540-980-1070.
Salem Red Sox. Carolina League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Mascot Mugsy loses the base-running contest every time! 540-389-3333.
Chattanooga Lookouts. Southern League affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. One of only two AA league teams in the BRC coverage area. 423-267-4849.
Elizabethton Twins. Appalachian League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. No losing seasons since '89. 423-547-6441.
Greeneville Astros. Appalachian League affiliate of the Houston Astros. There's a family section, as in many MiLB parks, with no alcohol. 423-638-0411.
Johnson City Cardinals. Appalachian League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The cluster of East Tennessee teams can make for a great roadtrip. 423-461-4866.
Kingsport Mets. Appalachian League affiliate of the New York Mets. Hunter Wright Stadium also hosts the annual "Hokie-Smoky" baseball game between UT and Va. Tech. 423-378-3744.
Tennessee Smokies (Kodak). Southern League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. How's this for a season ticket price for 70 games of AA baseball: $499. 865-286-2300.
Bluefield Orioles. Appalachian League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The 52-year relationship is the longest in baseball. Cal Ripken started here. 276-326-1326.
Princeton Rays. Appalachian League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Entire kids' teams get in for $2 apiece. 304-487-2000.
West Virginia Power. South Atlantic League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Appalchian Power Park is nestled in downtown Charleston. 304-344-2287.
Frederick Keys. Carolina League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Keys for Reading nights honor students who do just that. 301-815-9939.
Hagerstown Suns. South Atlantic League affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Maybe pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg shows up this season. 301-791-6266.
Asheville Tourists. South Atlantic League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.Thirsty Thursday, or something similar, is a promotion here and at many MiLB parks. 828-258-0428.
Greenville Drive. South Atlantic League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. West End Park was named Ball Park of the Year in '06. 864-240-4528.