Perhaps he heard a voice whisper, "If they build it, you will come." Whatever the reason, contributing editor John Morthland was happy to spend much of the early part of the year visiting the state's new minor league baseball diamonds for this month's guide to the eight Texas teams in the Texas, Texas-Louisiana, and Mexican leagues (see "Play Ball, Y'all," page 138, and "A Big Hit," page 143). Morthland and senior editor Joe Nick Patoski split up the state: the former took Round Rock, Midland, Amarillo, San Angelo, and El Paso, while the latter focused on San Antonio, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley. Although it was the off-season, Morthland enjoyed visiting the dormant ball parks for their variety. A lifelong fan of the sport, the 52-year-old played shortstop in his hometown of San Bernardino, California. And while his career didn't last much beyond Little League, he continues to pursue his love of the game — particularly the minor league version. "There's an intimacy when you're right on top of the action," he says. And there's the opportunity to see future stars on their way up. He recalls, for instance, seeing Juan Gonzalez at a San Antonio Missions game: "He hit a fly ball harder and higher than anyone I'd ever seen — dead into a strong wind."