Road Trip: Béisbol in Ventura

Any excuse to ride the train is a good excuse. Last Saturday we took the Pacific Surfliner four hours north up the coast to check out the Museum of Ventura County‘s Béisbol: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues exhibit, which runs through November 30.

Admission to the museum is $5 for adults 18 years and older; $3 for seniors, students, and AAA members; and $1 for children aged 6-17. Kids 5 years old and younger get in free. Despite my best tantrum, I did not pass for 5 or younger.

The exhibit is small and can be viewed in 30-40 minutes, but if you love baseball history, it’s well worth the time and cost. There are two components to the exhibit. One celebrates the tradition of baseball in Ventura, as played by Mexican-American immigrants dating back to the early 20th century. The other takes a more global look at the Latin-American influence on the game as we know it today.

The local history part includes photos, old flannel uniforms, bats and gloves, and descriptions of the people who played the games and where they played them. All offer a glimpse into Ventura’s past and provide a welcome reminder that despite MLB’s having become a huge monolithic industry, baseball remains at its roots the people’s game.

One player highlighted is Ventura native Carlos Luis “Charley” Hall, who pitched for four teams from 1906 to 1918 and won 15 games for the Boston Red Sox in 1912. I snapped a photo, but it’s not as good as the photos in this slideshow of the exhibit. Hall, affectionately nicknamed “Sea Lion” due to his hoarse voice, also has a SABR biography that is worth reading. (If I’ve counted correctly, he threw five minor-league no-hitters, which is pretty darned cool.)

The global part consists of a video that contains interviews with current and former MLB players, coaches and managers, and front-office personnel. Several have ties to the Padres, including Roberto Alomar, Sparky Anderson, Carlos Baerga, Ozzie Guillén, and Omar Minaya. They talk about the game’s Latin-American pioneers, such as Roberto Clemente and Juan Marichal, with vintage footage of those players interspersed.

If you go by train, the museum is a 10-minute walk from the station. From there, a quick jaunt down Ventura’s Main Street gets you to a plethora of bars, restaurants, and shops. We enjoyed an excellent seafood lunch at Lure Fish House, decent but not great beer at Anacapa Brewing (sorry, San Diego has spoiled me), and some of the spiciest Thai food (my palate runs very spicy) I’ve ever had for dinner at Rice by Mama.

We also walked past several boutiques, used bookstores, and thrift shops. One place we visited specialized in infused oils and distilled spirits, offering samples of each. Although we did not partake during our brief stay, we made a note to return and give it a try.

If you’re looking for an excuse to ride the train and enjoy a little baseball history, now you have one. And as ways to kill a day go, you could do a lot worse.

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