I am not exactly sure how my baseball bucket list adventures began, but I can backtrack the trail to Homer Bailey’s second no hitter on July 2, 2013.
I am sure you are wondering,
“How in the world can he be certain?”
Well, it started with Maribel, my late mother-in-law. She was up at the lake, and she wanted to listen the Cincinnati Reds game. Unfortunately, neither the Reds radio network nor the Reds television broadcast served norther lower Michigan. That area was Detroit Tigers territory. She was a Reds fan and she watched or listened to the Reds ballgames at home in southwestern Ohio.
I signed up for MLB TV and we watched and listened to the ballgame using my computer in her bedroom. That night I signed up three times for MLB TV and I didn’t catch my mistake until my credit card billing statement arrived the following month. Thankfully, MLB TV was understanding and cancelled the two additional accounts. I’ve been renewing the package ever since.
About that time, my favorite team, the Houston Astros began to play better and since, I’ve been paying more attention since. Thank you, Maribel.
Since last summer, I’ve travelled to twelve cities and thirteen new ball parks in addition to the two ballparks in Chicago. I’ve met many people in my travels. I’ve attended all but one of those games by myself and each time I sit down to watch the game, I meet new people.
What I love about baseball is that I realize that it is truly America’s game. By attendance it is the most popular sport, but the baseball season is 162 games long and each team plays half of their games at home and the other half on the road. In 2022, over 64 million people watched a major league baseball game in person, attendance is down almost 10% compared to 2018.
This past year MLB made rule changes to the game to speed up play and make the game more exciting. At first, I was apprehensive, but with four months (and seven games in a ballpark) into the season I agree. The game is more exciting and on average a ballgame is almost thirty minutes shorter this year compared to previous seasons. This season’s average is 2 hours and 39 minutes compared with the 2022 season average game length of 3 hours and 6 minutes.
As I’ve travelled to different cities, I’ve enjoyed meeting new people who share a passion for the game.
Last week in Denver, I met a couple from Iowa who had traveled to Colorado on vacation to hike and see a couple of ballgames. I sat beside them for the Tuesday night game, and we talked about baseball. Their favorite team was the Colorado Rockies, but they root for the Chicago Cubs, too. I caught up with them at the Wednesday game and learned the husband is a retired high school science teacher and the wife continues to work as medical lab technician.
At the beginning of the season in Minneapolis, I met a man who had decided to change jobs in mid-life. He had been successful working for a health insurance company but decided that he needed more. He quit his job and is back in school preparing to be nurse. He was at the ballgame to see his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, in their season opener. It was his tenth consecutive home opener.
In Cleveland last summer, I ran into a family from Las Vegas who were travelling across the country visiting ballparks. They wore t-shirts showing off the ballparks they had visited and the ballparks they had yet to visit. Their favorite team is the New York Mets.
As I was walking to the ballpark last Wednesday, I ran into a fellow Astros fan. He and his son were from Los Angeles and Wednesday’s game was their fifth consecutive Astros game. They had watched three games against the Los Angeles Angels (Friday through Sunday) and then travelled to Denver for two more games. They showed me how to catch a ride (free) on the bus to ballpark and we parted at the front gate before the game. After nine innings, I ran into them on their way out. Their seats were fifteen rows below my seat.
In Seattle this past May, I ran into a fellow Astros fan who had traveled to Seattle to see the game. He was from the Houston area and as we talked and watched the game, we learned we had attended the same high school at the same time, but never met. Small world.
Or last week sitting in the ‘mile high seats’ and overhearing a couple of women explaining to their Italian co-worker who was watching his first baseball game how baseball weas played. The two women were patient and thorough and he was listening and asking questions.
Before the Seattle game, I asked an usher the best place to get pre-game dinner and he directed me to place that served brats. He was right, my brat was delicious. I asked him how long he’d been an usher and relied ever since his wife had passed away ten years before. He started as way to stay active, and he fell in love with job helping people like me find their way in the ballpark.
At this past Sunday’s Cubs game, I sat next to young family from Grenada, Mississippi. They were Atlanta Braves fans but were visiting Chicago for the week and were attempting visit all the ballparks, too. I have driven past Grenada several times on my way to Vicksburg and the Baer House. After the game, their children got to run the bases at Wrigley, something my kiddos had done in my blog’s first year.
In June I was in St. Louis, and I sat in the behind home plate – three rows back and nine rows off center. Best seats I have ever had for baseball game. I sent a text to my brothers and a few minutes later I got a photo of the television broadcast with me – lone orange dot in see of red. I had been talking baseball with the person sitting next to me, JP, and I showed him the photo. At the end of the game, we took a group photo. I had a good time sitting next to him and his friends.
And last Wednesday in Denver I was walking up the steps after the game to the exit and I ran into a young Rockies fan. He was dressed in Rockies purple and had oversize Rockies necklace and I complimented him on it. He was adamant that I was wearing the wrong shirt and supporting the wrong team. His friend tried to explain to him that it was okay to support the other team, but he kept telling me I was with the wrong team. After a few minutes of talking with him and his friend I learned that he loves baseball, he’s a Rockies fan, and the two of them attend Wednesday day games together when they can. We did however agree that there was no better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon, than watching a baseball game at the ballpark with a friend. He was kind enough to let me take a photo with him.
I could continue with more stories of people whom I’ve met along my travels in ballparks. I finished re-reading Shoeless Joe in July, and I was struck by the quote,
“….The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.” (J. D. Salinger / Terrance) Mann from Shoeless Joe, W. P. Kindle
I’ve two more baseball trips with five ball games planned before school begins in four weeks. That’ll bring my total to twenty-seven ball teams and twenty-nine different stadiums. I plan to finish the bucket list trip next year.
Today there is baseball on the radio or television, or maybe looking at the box score after the game or in the morning. Today is going to be an amazing day, I know it and I can feel it. So, I had better finish editing the text, formatting the photos, and adding the videos, then press publish. Making the days Count, one day at a time, meeting new people everywhere I go.
Do you meet people ‘along your way’ when you travel?
Finally, at every ballgame I create a video of my experience. It began in New York last year with he recording of the song sung during the seventh inning stretch. Every baseball stadium is a little different. The videos have changed to include more media from my visit to the ballpark. Below are this year’s videos.
Busch Stadium: St. Louis Cardinals 6/27-28
Coors Field: Colorado Rockies – 7/18-19
Wrigley Field: Chicago Cubs 7/23/23
T-Mobile Park: seattle Mariners 5/7/23
Target Field: Minnesota Twins – 4/6/23