It’s not often that Sports Travel and Tours travelers get to see our company’s home base, nestled in an all-New-England kind of town in western Massachusetts with roughly 3,000 residents. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen in June as part of 2019’s Major Minor Northeast tour.
Since 2011, tour guide Gary Laprade has been working alongside Sports Travel and Tours Founder Jay Smith to create trips that incorporate stops at both major and minor league ballparks. After guiding a Major Minor tour on the West Coast last year from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, Gary and Jay will bring this year’s trip back east with stops in all six New England states, starting and ending in Boston.
“A lot of people come to see Boston, but they don’t see the rest of New England, so we put this trip together to cover more ground,” Gary says. “We’re at the mercy of the schedule of the teams because we want a nice flow where we’re not on the road too much.”
Gary and Jay considered starting the trip in Burlington, Vermont, but decided it would be easier for guests to fly into Boston. A trip reception will kick off on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, giving returning guests a chance to reconnect as well as meet new travelers.
“This is the eighth year of Major Minor, and we’ve developed a core group of 20 to 25 people, so I expect there will be some regular faces,” says Gary, who has been a tour guide with us since the 1990s, back when Sports Travel and Tours was called Sports Tours. “Meeting new people is always great, but it’s also nice to reconnect with people I’ve met before. It’s our little family.”
Gary, who is a retired postal employee, lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts and works part-time jobs as a middle school crossing guard and at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. He knows well how to incorporate travel with Sports Travel and Tours into a family experience. His 25-year-old son, Tim Haggerty, helped him lead the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Induction trip this year.
Many of the Major Minor travelers are Sports Travel and Tours Stadium Hall of Famers who have visited all 30 major league ballparks and are searching for a new challenge, Gary says. Guests see parts of the country they wouldn’t see on our regular trips, such as Burlington, Vermont, the second stop on the Major Minor Northeast tour.
Over the past seven years, Gary says Major Minor travelers have visited 27 minor league parks.
In Burlington on Wednesday, guests will go to a game between the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Hudson Valley Renegades at Centennial Field before heading south to Hartford, Connecticut, on Thursday for a game between the Hartford Yard Goats and the Bowie Baysox at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Hotel accommodations for Thursday and Friday will be in Springfield, allowing Gary to stay close to the Basketball Hall of Fame, one of Friday’s destinations.
Gary will be right at home there as he shows guests more than 40,000 square feet of basketball history. Next stop, Sports Travel and Tours’ offices in Hatfield!
“We’ll have a barbecue at the office,” Gary says. “Everybody will get to know the people they’ve only talked with on the phone—in person.”
Then it’s off to Norwich, Connecticut, for a game between the Connecticut Tigers and the Lowell Spinners at Dodd Stadium. In addition to a Pawtucket Red Sox game on Saturday against the Indianapolis Indians in Newport, Rhode Island, guests will also witness the exceptional elegance and stunning architecture of the Newport Mansions.
“Seeing the mansions in Newport this year is the equivalent of visiting Cannon Beach in Oregon, which was featured in the movie ‘The Goonies,’” Gary explains. “That was one of the side attractions for our West Coast version of the Major Minor trip last year.”
After spending the night in Rhode Island, it’s time to head north for two more minor league games, both involving the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who will take on Trenton Thunder at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Sunday, and the Portland Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine, on Monday.
Guests have plenty of time to experience Portland, as well as the nearby coastal town of Kennebunkport, with both a city tour and leisure time. Take your pick of lighthouse tours and whale watches, or enjoy the lobster that Maine is known for.
The trip’s final day of events, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, marks a return to Boston for the one major league game of the Major Minor Northeast tour. It’s a pairing of the Sox, when the 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox take on the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park, the cherry on top of the otherwise minor league baseball experience.
Learn more about the Major Minor Northeast travel package.