Blind Fan completes Ballpark Journey
At around 7:05 CDT on Sunday night April 29 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, , the unthinkable journey of a lifetime began, a journey to every ballpark in Major League Baseball. At just past 4:30 CDT Monday afternoon May 28, the dream baseball trip of a life time came to a fitting conclusion, a very nice running catch of a pop fly ended the Cubs 11-7 win over the Padres at Wrigley Field and so to ended the 30 day, 30 ballpark tour that swung back and forth across North America.
Why I did not write long pieces on this blog and focus on short Facebook updates on the Blind Baseball Traveler Page, it was simply a lack of time. Most days, between spending countless hours waiting on cabs, local trains, or in a couple cases buses to shuttle me from hotels to ballparks and back, doing the same going from a local hotel in one city to an airport or train station, then repeating the process upon arrival before then doing the same round trip to and from the game, well you get the idea. Several nights were filled with a lack of sleep, I had many nights of 5 or fewer hours rest, a couple nights I managed no more than 2.5 hours. Factor in a nasty head cold that came upon me during the day May 20 after I had arrived in Denver from Detroit, well I think you get the picture.
In the coming days, I will relive the journey as I go more in depth about some of the highlights and lowlights that such a major travel undertaking presents. The stories here and in the book that almost seems a required project at this point, will say many great things about the baseball teams, will be mostly positive about the ballpark experience, but it will frankly paint a negative picture of the travel business. Sure these things happen to others, not just me, but the picture that has been painted for me is rather dark and disturbing, though two companies are not on my crap list if you get my drift. Amtrak and Southwest get high marks, I’ll leave it there for now.
Among the quick items of interest, I missed the Josh Hamilton historic performance by a night, his four homer game was May 8 at Baltimore, I was in Philadelphia that night, Baltimore was my stop the night before. Justin Verlander nearly threw another no-hitter in Detroit, coming two outs short on May 18, I was in Toronto on that night and the next afternoon as fate would have it, Detroit was the scene of my visit and #21 overall.
We had one rain delay of an hour 51 on May 11 at Minnesota, but no games were lost due to weather or other issues. We had only one shutout and it did not come until the 27th game at Pittsburgh, Pirates over Cubs 1-0 on May 25. One game ended on a double play and it was the same game that featured the only grand slam, May 24 at Cincinnati as the Reds knocked off Atlanta 6-3. Another no-hit game was thrown during my tour, May 2 at Anaheim while I was at St. Louis. Other chances at historic baseball accomplishment or even common accomplishments avoided me for 30 straight games as well, no cycle, no triple play, no inside the park homer, no three homer game by any player, no back-to-back-to-back homers by any team, no complete game for a starting pitcher, no extra inning games, no games ending with a walk off in the bottom of the 9th. IN fact, in only one game did the outcome change hands in the 9th inning, Yankees blowing a 1-0 lead and falling 4-1 at home against the Rays May 9.
Personal highlights for me along the way. Rangers, walked on the field along the warning track covering the entire field with my friend Heather Compton, tour of other stadium facilities. Astros, meant and was photographed with the Houston Mascot, participated in the in-stadium contest called Stros Verses Joes, I named 34 states in 15 seconds, the designated Astro named 19. Braves, took in batting practice on the field near home-plate, tour of other stadium facilities, joined friends at all of the afore mentioned games.
Cardinals, upgraded to lower level seats behind home plate. Royals, complete ballpark tour, sat in the high end lounge. In this case, it was a package I could purchase and the Royals were first class in every way. Met several Royals players, Jeff Francoeur may be the nicest guy in baseball. Also met the Royals announcers on radio and TV, Rex Huddler is great and the quote of the trip came from Denny Matthews. He asked who my travel agent was, I responded that I did this all on my own. He paused for a brief second, then simply said, “damn”.
Rays, Mets, and nationals, no involvement with these teams, though I did meet some very nice fans at all three stops.
Orioles, full ballpark tour, on the house. Later that night, joined Lorna’s cousin Jane and her husband Less for the game, they are both very nice.
Phillies, no involvement from the team, did TV interview however, also met the student who I had assisted with a project, which his group based part of on my stadium tour with my blessing.
Yankees and Red Sox, no involvement here, though I did manage to get a photo on the infield track in Boston following the game, thanks to my friend Lubna and her husband Andy for that one.
Twins, met Joe Mauer, took in BP on the field near home plate and got a tour of the facilities. Had a wonderful time with Scott, a Twins season ticket holder during the game.
Diamondbacks, another ballpark tour and the fourth outfield I got to see, ran the bases, joined by my friend Mary Kate for this one.
Athletics, no involvement from the team, met some nice fans though who became followers of the FB page.
Giants, full ballpark tour, checked out the unique outfield, threw a pitch off the mound! Met a very cool set of fans at this game as well.
Dodgers, appeared no involvement from the team, though they did come by and recognize me with some gifts before the game started. Had a lot of fun with two older female construction workers, now there is a different kind of girl for ya, die hard baseball fans too, Jenny and Linda rock.
Padres and Angels, joined by my friend Liz for both games, you were a joy to be with Lizzy. No involvement from the Padres, I really wanted to see Petco, the Angels on the other hand did present me with some things from their club and I got an on field photo near home plate as well.
Toronto, they offered me a full field tour. I had to cancel, was just too tired from the overnight flight from LA. They came to me when the game started and presented me with some gifts from the organization and they were true to their Canadian nature, very kind and gracious.
Tigers, call this the unfortunate mix-up. I had what appeared an arrangement to see the field after the game, but when the day came, no one from the organization came to me at any point during the game. I received an email a few days later, when the community relations coordinator I had worked with realized her mistake. She offered to let me come have the same experience when I am in Detroit again, and I thanked her for that offer, but who knows when I’ll make it back. I think the next goal, get Lorna to all 30 ballparks, but that will be a 3, 4, at most 5 ballparks per year effort spread out during the next 7-10 seasons.
Rockies, no involvement from the club, though I did meet a very nice woman for this game who is a fellow ballpark traveler, Meggan, you were great even though I was falling ill later that day and just not my usual self.
Mariners, I would have taken the public tour but because I was under the weather, I slept all afternoon in Seattle after a rough ride from Denver early that morning. That night, they brought me some gifts from the club, did a video feature about my journey that ran on the scoreboard after the 4th inning, the Seattle experience was one of the best and that was on a night when I certainly did not feel my best.
The Brewers, again still fighting the cold, I had a very sleepless night, but held up through the game at Miller Park. I got a quick look at the outfield after this game and I apologized to the Brewers for not being more excited about the experience, I was running on one fuel cell at that point.
The Indians were another major team experience, met Shelly Duncan, what a nice player he is. I got to tour the entire facility, checked out the outfield, even went to the press box and talked with the radio crew between innings. While the cold was gone, it had created other problems, mainly a cough and the resulting loss of my voice to a degree, a condition which stayed with me the remainder of the way. Best of all, I was upgraded to a dugout suite and a hand full of season ticket holders were also upgraded to join me that night.
The Reds, another great experience similar to Cleveland minus the radio visit. While not upgraded to a suite, I was down in the very lower level right behind home.
The Pirates, no involvement from the team, but I had a great interview from a newspaper reporter and his piece was one of the best of the entire trip. I also met my friend Beth and her husband Mike for this game, we had a lot of fun. That day was hard though, little sleep and a lost set of baggage, thanks Greyhound, wheels fall off the bus.
Marlins, no involvement from the team, but again had a nice experience.
Cubs and Sox, both involved in some way, Sox take the edge here though. I got photographed on field at both games, met the Cubs owner, while with the Sox, upgraded to a seat that was 10 feet from the netting behind the plate and here too like Cleveland, I met the radio broadcasters between innings.