My name is Al and I’m the Minor League Geek.
It’s hard to say for sure what my first exposure to Minor League Baseball was, but I have a few vivid memories from childhood. My older brother collected baseball cards, and among his many thousands of MLB cards, he had a handful of minor league cards–most notably, 1991 Impel Line Drive Triple-A and Double-A. I remember looking at them and being stunned by the existence of teams like the Albuquerque Dukes, Tidewater Tides, Hagerstown Suns, and El Paso Diablos. It seemed like a window into the vast and granular nature of America–almost a geography lesson. You could, for example, look at the back of a Topps Tony Gwynn card and see his stats for Walla Walla, Amarillo, and Hawaii. I loved the concept of farm systems and affiliates, and longed to be able to have a comprehensive understanding of every team and every level, as impossible as that was for a kid in the early nineties. Another memory I have is my best friend telling me about going to a Kane County Cougars game and showing me some memorabilia. I was insanely jealous. There was this whole world of baseball out there, and I didn’t know how to access it.
Each team identity that I discovered was a new revelation, and my interest was piqued at a time period when a big wave of creativity was cresting. I remember my dad taking us to an MLB game in the mid-nineties and seeing a vendor selling the ubiquitous minor league caps of the day–the Carolina Mudcats, Chattanooga Lookouts, Durham Bulls, etc. It was like the world had stopped and I wanted nothing more than to have a Beloit Snappers cap.
A major turning point for me in my minor league fandom was when I saw an ad in the back of a magazine (likely a Beckett price guide) for a free catalog selling minor league caps. I took the initiative to call the 1-800 number and got a copy of the 1998 Star Struck catalog. I spent an unhealthy amount of time that summer studying every detail of that catalog. Though I haven’t seen the catalog in twenty years, and haven’t been able to find another copy online, I still remember exactly how the catalog was arranged. A page would display graphic renderings for caps of an MLB team at the top, then Triple-A below, then Double-A, and so on; with every level represented and each cap available for purchase. Under the cap would be the team name, state, league, and level. Mind you, this was in the days when the Internet was still a novelty phenomenon; featuring AOL CD-ROMs, Netscape Navigator, and Webcrawler search engines. Before Google and Wikipedia and Baseball Reference, information on something as obscure as Minor League Baseball was hard to come by. Since I wanted to know which teams were in which leagues, I completed the tedious task of creating an index card for each league, and then adding teams to the cards as I pawed through the pages of Star Struck. I still have these cards. Here’s a sample:
Though I did pony up for a Snappers cap and a few team-issued sets of cards that summer, I quickly burned out of new material for my hobby. I turned to other less wholesome pursuits in my teen years, and it wasn’t until my late twenties that I rediscovered my old passion for the minors. Now I’m a graying millennial who can follow the latest news, take my kids to games, spend too much money on memorabilia, and create this website. Thank you very much for visiting and I hope you enjoy what I have here at Minor League Geek.