When you have a league with seven teams in one division and five in the other, stretched over a 900-mile swath of the U.S. that spans from Georgia and Kentucky to New York, there is no easy way to construct a painless schedule with minimal travel.
Thanks to the fact that one team from the Northern Division must be playing a team from the Southern Division at all times leads to plenty of travel-induced complications.
But a look at the new High-A East schedule finds that MLB has managed to make the travel less painful than might have been expected. Generally, teams will be able to spend most of their time playing teams that are closer to home, with generally one, or in a rare case, two cross-division jaunts. Multiple league members said the schedule is better than they feared.
That is still counter to MLB’s professed goals of reducing travel. But compared to travel in the South Atlantic League, where many of these teams used to play, the new schedule is not really any worse when it comes to significant travel. Last year under the old format, Rome was asked to travel to Lakewood/Jersey Shore (850 miles) as well as three separate trips to Charleston, W. Va. (470 miles).
Aberdeen, the Northern Division team that is furthest south, is the one that will wear it the most on travel. They have two road trips to the Southern Division. Their first trip sees them go to Bowling Green (725 miles) and then to Asheville (325 miles from Bowling Green) followed by a 535-mile trek back home to Aberdeen.
Later in the season, the Ironbirds will become road warriors again, with a 550-mile trip to face the Greenville Drive. After playing six games at Greenville, the Ironbirds will have a much shorter 105-mile trip to play six games at Hickory. From Hickory it will be a 463-mile drive back to Aberdeen.
Brooklyn will get its travel out of the way early. It begins the season with a 697-mile trip to Asheville. A short 63 miles down the road gets the Cyclones to their next series in Greenville, but then it will be 719 miles to get back home to Brooklyn. But after that first two-series road trip, the Cyclones will never again have to venture out of the Northern Division for a trip.
Hudson Valley’s schedule has the opposite approach. The Renegades will spend almost the entire season in the Northern Division, but will take a 610-mile trip to face the Winston-Salem Dash in late August, before making a short trek over to Greensboro to finish off it’s one journey south. After that, it’s a 596-mile trip back home.
Jersey Shore gets the easiest travel of the Northern Division. It’s only foray to the South is one trip from Brooklyn to Winston Salem (546 miles) followed by a 520 mile trip back to Jersey Shore.
Wilmington finishes its season with a trip to Bowling Green (759 miles) and has a one-week midseason trip to Winston-Salem (430 miles).
The situations for the teams in the South Divisions is similar. Asheville hs a two-week trip to Aberdeen and Jersey Shore. Greensboro finishes the season with a two-week trip to Jersey Shore and Hudson Valley. Greenville finishes the year in Aberdeen. Hickory travels to Aberdeen in June. Rome makes an Aberdeen-Wilmington trip in late June/early July. And Winston-Salem has one trip to Jersey Shore.
The only team whose travel seems truly onerous is Bowling Green. That has nothing to do with trips to the other division–the Hot Rods visit Aberdeen and Wilmington in a two-week journey to the Northern Division, but that’s their only trip out of their division. But when you are 269 miles from your nearest travel partner (Rome), and more than 300 miles from all the other teams in your division–Asheville (318 miles), Greenville (369 miles), Hickory (392 miles), Winston-Salem (460 miles) and Greensboro (482 miles)–then every road trip is a long haul.
Being Bowling Green’s closest neighbor also has some drawbacks for Rome. Rome will make three separate trips to Bowling Green while also hosting Bowling Green three times.
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