We first started traveling to baseball games on a fairly regular basis around 2005 when it was cheaper to fly to Baltimore to watch the Red Sox than to pay for parking and tickets at Fenway Park. On at least one occasion, my buddies and I flew from Manchester, NH to Baltimore to catch an afternoon game, and flew home that same night.
My wife, Nan and I have two sons, Paul and Chris, both of whom played sports in high school, and are big fans of all the local Boston teams. The day after each of them completed their junior year in high school, that son and I would fly Southwest from Manchester to San Francisco and start a three-week adventure driving across the country in a Mustang convertible on two-lane blacktop highways to visit colleges, national parks, landmarks, cities, small towns, and ballparks. On the second trip, in 2006 with my son Chris, we saw games at the Major League Baseball parks in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St, Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. The following spring all three of us were in New York City for a Celtics vs. Knicks game, and we took a drive out to Queens to take a look at Citi Field. On the drive out there, my son Paul asked, “How long would it take us to see all the Major League Baseball parks?” He knew exactly what he was doing when he asked, and I immediately replied “Let’s find out.”
There is a great book called “30 Ballparks in 30 Days” where two guys created an algorithm so that they could see games in all 30 parks in 30 days by car. It was fun to read their story, but we decided on a more leisurely and comfortable pace. We have tried to visit two parks per year, within one trip, when possible. For example, we flew Southwest to Denver for a game, and the next day flew to Kansas City where we saw a few games and visited family. In other trips we have flown to Houston and then on to Dallas, or to Tampa and then on to Miami, or to Chicago and then to Milwaukee. Years ago, in one trip we saw games in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit, but drove between cities—that’s when we made the decision to always fly between cities.
Last year we went to Atlanta and stayed for three games, and the year before that we saw three games in Minnesota. We try to see the Red Sox play wherever we can. We also buy our tickets from the local club’s website the day and minute they go on sale, to be sure to get decent tickets at face value.
On every trip we meet interesting people and usually find nice people that are doing the same thing we are. Based upon the number of books and websites dedicated to visiting every park, it is obviously a very common hobby; or as I keep telling my wife “We are not crazy”.
We do our best to visit a national or state park in each city, and visit other important landmarks or sites; and also find some of the more interesting local cuisine and breweries. Not every restaurant is a homerun, but on average we have done very well. We recommended our friends who were lucky enough to have tickets to the Super Bowl to make a reservation at Butcher and the Boar in Minneapolis. We still dream about the smoked meats from Dallas and Atlanta, and laugh about the grilled oysters outside Houston. We also sample the food specialties inside the parks, and we highly recommend the Lobel’s roast beef in Yankee Stadium and everything by Andrew Zimmer at Target Field. Try to avoid the Bacon Challenge in Cincinnati.
One of our more memorable trips started in Chicago for a White Sox game and included a Chicago River cruise, lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern, a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, and a few other stops. We also drove to Milwaukee and went on the Miller Brewery tour, spent the afternoon at the Milwaukee Brewfest (which has to be the best brew festival in the country), and then we were off to Miller Field.
My brother-in-law and his buddies from New York are also visiting every MLB park, and we have coordinated some of the trips together. One year they were heading to Cincinnati, and they had extra game tickets so they called me about a day before the trip. I booked my flight on Southwest and beat them to the hotel. The spontaneous trip reminds me of one of my trips to Cleveland to meet Chris (who was attending college at Penn State) for a Red Sox vs. Indians game. The morning of my flight there were some weather problems that had delayed some flights, including mine. I was dressed in a Red Sox shirt and hat and explained to the Southwest Customer Service agent at the gate in Manchester that I needed to get on any flight that would get me to the Sox game on time. I was the last Passenger to board the next plane, and I got to Cleveland ahead of schedule.
We have booked our flights to Seattle for this June for a five day trip to see the Red Sox play the Mariners, and enjoy some of the local sites, food, and events. Next year we will go to San Diego and Anaheim and visit my 30th park. In the following years, we will visit the few parks that my sons did not see with me, and click off more games at big time college football stadiums.
Thank you Southwest for helping me show my sons the country, Major League Baseball Stadiums, and National Parks. Your one-way tickets, flight options, and amazing Customer Service will keep my family coming back.