Book tour features local minor league baseball teams

YORK, Pa. - There are about 250 minor league stadiums across the country.

John and Vicki Hoppin have been to 160 of them, and they turned their experiences into a book about minor league baseball titled "Ballpark 2 Ballpark."

"It's fun, it's affordable and it's all about family," John Hoppin explained.  "So that's why we did what we did."

Their journey included all three of the minor league baseball teams in Central Pennsylvania -- the Harrisburg Senators, the York Revolution and the Lancaster Barnstormers.

While the Hoppins explored a wide variety of leagues and skill levels, the overall theme remained the same.  They realized that minor league baseball is about much more than just what happens between the white lines on the field.

"What we tried to do was capture the heart and the spirit of minor league baseball, which is just kind of crazy and silly," said Vicki Hoppin.  "But it's mostly community and the people's hearts.  If you fall in love with a player, if he's really good, he's not there for very long.  So you better fall in love with your community."

Husband John Hoppin agrees.

"It's the stories of the people inside the game and inside the stadium," he said.

"You have Cannonball Charlie here in York.  People make a lot of noise in ballparks, but that's one of the loudest noises we've ever heard in a ballpark."

The idea was hatched in 2013.  She wanted to travel by RV around the country.  He wasn't interested until she sweetened the deal with baseball.  She likes to take pictures, he likes to talk to people.   Four years later, they had a book.

The Hoppins did some research and learned that other books about minor league baseball concentrated more on numbers and statistics.  They wanted their book to be different.

"Ballpark 2 Ballpark" isn't really about the teams, the players or even baseball.  Instead the book focuses on the minor league experience from a fan's perspective, touching on everything from concessions to mascots to all the wacky things that go on during a minor league game.

During their ballpark tour, the Hoppins saw many unique promotions, such as the attempt to set a record for the biggest banana split.

They met some very interesting people, too, like the woman who said she wore a velcro suit and hung on an outfield wall many years ago.  Then if she caught a ball, the team would give her a prize, such as season tickets.

Out of all the 160 minor league stadiums the Hoppins visited, they only found one mascot that speaks -- Roscoe, the talking rooster for the Princeton Rays in West Virginia.

The book also includes some of Central Pennsylvania's favorite traditions, like the Harrisburg Senators dancers, which Vicki Hoppin remembers vividly.

"The front office staff dresses in the loudest, most obnoxious suits, and they go out on the field and they dance," said Vicki.  "Nowhere else have we seen that.  We've seen a lot of dancing, but never the front office staff."

There are two volumes of the book, focusing on different parts of the minor league baseball experience.  Volume 1 starts off with things that fans might encounter when they first walk into a stadium, such as concessions and merchandise.  For Volume 1, the Hoppins interviewed ushers, vendors, general managers, league presidents, etc.

Volume 2 picks up with additional aspects that might happen during the game itself, like mascots and entertainment.

As John Hoppin says, "After the game starts, that's when the fun begins."

Volume 1 of "Ballpark 2 Ballpark" was published in March of 2018, while Volume 2 will be released in October.

The current volume is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, from the publisher Black Rose Writing or by directly emailing the authors at ballpark2ballpark@gmail.com.