I’d always thought of Round Rock as sort of an extension of Austin, a northern neighbor with no other identity separate from its urban mother ship. But I was intrigued when I heard of its self-proclaimed title as the “Sports Capital of Texas.”

Despite not having any major professional or collegiate teams, the city claims this crown because of the number of amateur, recreational, and high school sports played there. The Games of Texas, the statewide version of the Olympics, will bring an estimated 10,000 athletes to the city in July of 2006 and 2007. And each year, high school athletes vie for University Interscholastic League championships here.

That said, minor league baseball is Round Rock’s biggest attraction. Nolan Ryan’s sons Reid and Reese are part owners of the Round Rock Express, the only Triple-A team in the state. And Dell Diamond is the club’s impressive stadium (voted one of the best in America in 2003 by Baseball America magazine) where you can catch the up-and-coming players—and those more well-known Astros who find themselves in a slump—and eat dollar hot dogs on Monday nights during the season. Tickets cost as little as $5 for lawn seating in the outfield, near the carnival-type activities that are sure to keep the kids engaged all nine innings. The Express regular season runs from April to September.

The city’s title as “Sports Capital of Texas,” however, is a relatively new revelation. “We’re not trying to say that we’re the capital for professional sports,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re good at hosting tournaments and events—baseball, softball, soccer, flag football—or having people come out and play recreational sports.”

Yawn cites three main reasons for Round Rock’s claim to fame: lots of options for dining and lodging, which provide space for athletes and their families; its central location within a two and a half hour drive from ninety percent of Texas’ population; and great facilities, including the Dell Diamond and the 570-acre sports complex, Old Settlers Park. Also a year-round cultural venue, the park offers a hundred-acre, fish-filled lake, playscapes, fifteen baseball fields, 22 practice softball fields, five softball fields, two football fields, nine practice soccer fields, five regulation soccer fields, two youth soccer fields, twelve tennis courts, two volleyball courts, and a disc golf course.

It follows that the city is equipped when it comes to breakin’ a sweat. This year alone it hosted several tournaments including Quickfoot and Kick-It soccer, Hoop It Up basketball, Let It Fly flag football, the Texas Senior Games, and the Outlaw Trail 100 Cycling Tour, a non-competitive bicycle ride featuring 10- to 100-mile loops for riders to tackle.

Since there were no tournaments the weekend we visited, we stuck mostly to the recreational side of Round Rock’s offerings. Our weekend began with a little “Galactica” bowling at Interstate Lanes. Judging by its packed appearance, it’s apparently the place to be on Friday night. The alley is smoke-free and family-friendly, so everyone from small children to college guys came out in droves to bowl for prizes amid black lights, a disco ball, and glow-in-the-dark pins. They throw in some loud music for additional ambiance.

On Saturday we decided to sample one of area’s many golf courses, which include Teravista, Pflugerville’s Blackhawk, and Avery Ranch. It’s at the northwestern edge of Austin and home of the Dennis Quaid Charity Golf Tournament. We opted for Forest Creek, which was ranked Central Texas’ number-one public golf course by Golf Digest and hosted the 2005 Central Texas Amateur Championship. I don’t play golf, but my husband was more than happy to check out the course, while I watched from the safety of the cart.

Of course, you can’t go to Round Rock without hitting an Express game, which we enjoyed on Sunday night. Most evenings there is a special promotion at the Dell Diamond; just check out roundrockexpress.com for ticket information and game schedules. We happened to arrive in time for the “bobblehead” giveaway, a fitting souvenir of our sporty weekend in the ’burbs.