For sluggers in the Houston Astros' organization, a trip to the big leagues holds the promise of playing in one of the majors' most notorious home run-hitting ballparks, Minute Maid Park.
But for most, the trip to the majors goes through Salem Memorial Stadium, home of the Class A Carolina League Salem Avalanche, where the fences are 20 feet high, a stiff wind blows in, and home runs are hard to come by.
Only two players, designated hitter Mark Saccomanno and outfielder Luke Scott, have hit more than three home runs this year for the Avalanche. By contrast, the Potomac Cannons, who are in the midst of a four-game series against Salem at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, have five players with more than three home runs.
"It's possible to hit the ball out [in Salem]," Saccomanno said. "If the wind's blowing out, it's not that bad. . . . There isn't anything you can do about it, so I don't think about it much."
Salem is third in the league's Southern Division with a record of 25-23.
While the balls may not be flying out of the park, Saccomanno and Scott, who have seven home runs apiece, have been the main cogs in Salem's offense.
Saccomanno has a team-high 36 RBI, tied for fourth in the Carolina League with Potomac's Tony Blanco, and 53 hits, third in the league. In the Avalanche's 7-4 loss to Potomac on Thursday, Saccomanno had two hits and three RBI to lead Salem. He was the Carolina League player of the week for the week ending May 16.
Scott is ninth in the league in slugging percentage, knocking 10 doubles in addition to his seven home runs.
"Sometimes you'll hit a ball that might seem like it would have been a home run at another park," Scott said. "But it doesn't change what your goals are at the plate."