A Road Trip Through the Phillies' Minor League Affiliates

While they might not be winning this year, fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have a lot to be thankful for on a year-to-year basis: A big-league team in a centrally located stadium, Citizen's Bank Park, that's not only one of the ten best ballparks in the game, but offers plenty of room for tailgating before games.

There's another thing Phillies fans can feel lucky about, especially if they follow what's going on with the team's farm system and the future stars who might have a chance to help out the big club in the coming years: Their two top minor clubs, plus two more lower-level ones, are located within driving distance of Philadelphia, a convenience that most major league teams don't enjoy. And two of the others are in the same location as the Phillies' spring training facility in Clearwater, Fla.

Here's where you can go to check out the Phillies of the future:

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Allentown, PA)
The Phillies have had their Triple-A affiliate in Pennsylvania for years. First, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons represented the Phillies in the International League from 1989 until 2006. After a year in Ottawa, the Phillies inaugurated the IronPigs as their top minor league club in the Phillies' championship season in 2008. The stadium is around 70 miles away from South Philadelphia.

The IronPigs play in Coca-Cola Park, which has 8,278 seats but can hold about 2,000 more fans in standing-room and picnic areas. In addition to baseball, the park has hosted concerts by the likes of Bob Dylan.

Reading Fightin Phils (Reading, PA).
The Phillies have had their Double-A team in Reading since 1967, which is a tie for the longest affiliation by a team in all of baseball. Known for many years as the Reading Phillies, or "R-Phils," the club has been known as the "Fightin Phils" since 2012. It's located 70 miles away from the Phillies' home base.

The Fightin Phils play at FirstEnergy Stadium, which like the team itself has been in place for a long time. It was built in 1951, and was known for most of its existence as Reading Municipal-Memorial Stadium. The ballpark has been through a series of renovations, most recently the 2011 facelift that added a new plaza and new offices.

Lakewood BlueClaws (Lakewood Township, NJ).
One of the Phillies' Class A teams is located just 70 miles away from Citizen's Bank Park, in Central New Jersey. The BlueClaws have been in New Jersey since 2001, and became a part of the Phillies' minor league system the same year. The stadium seats 8,000 for baseball.

Lakewood's stadium is also named for FirstEnergy, but it's called FirstEnergy Park rather than Stadium. The park, much like the team and affiliation, opened in 2001.

Williamsport Crosscutters (Williamsport, PA). One of the Phillies short-season teams is also located in Pennsylvania, about 185 miles from Citizens' Bank Park. The Crosscutters became a Phillies team in 2007, after serving as an affiliate for the Cubs and Pirates previously.

The Crosscutters play at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, which is minor-league baseball's second-oldest park, holding 4,200 fans. It is not the home of the Little League World Series; those games are played across the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport.

Clearwater Threshers/GCL Phillies (Clearwater, FL). The only place outside of the Northeastern U.S. where the Phillies have a minor league team is in Clearwater, Fla., which doubles as the team's spring training home. The Clearwater Threshers have been a Phillies single-A affiliate ever since their founding in 1985.

The team changed their name from the Phillies to the Threshers in 2004, when they moved into what's now known as Bright House Field. The stadium holds 8,500 people, including 7,000 in fixed seats. The Phillies have held spring training in Clearwater since 1947; Bright House is their third stadium. In addition, the Phillies' other rookie-level minor league team, the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies, plays its games at the Carpenter Complex, which was formerly the team's spring training headquarters.

Stephen Silver is a journalist who has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years. A father of two, his work has appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, New York Press, SB Nation, The Daily Banter, CSNPhilly.com, the Good Men Project, Chatterblast's The Lightning Strike, Splice Today, Screenrant.com and the Philadelphia area's Patch websites. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.