Quest to visit stadiums across the country

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Labor Day has passed, and the summer vacation season is over. For me, it wraps up another season of my hobby: touring the country in a pursuit to visit every Major League ballpark.

No, I’m not crazy. And yes, I do work for a living. Allow me to explain.

Most of us are e fortunate enough to get to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park or to take in a Mets or Yankees game in the Big Apple. I’ve been jackpot lucky.

It all started back in 2003, when I visited San Francisco with a friend who had a connection with the Giants. The ballpark (then called Pac-Bell, now AT&T) was phenomenal.

A year later, the same friend and I visited Tampa, again, with a connection. Ken Macha, then the manager of the Oakland A’s and now of the Milwaukee Brewers, was kind enough to leave us tickets for a game against the Devil Rays.

While I was never sold on the idea of indoor baseball in Florida, I was now captivated by notion that I had now visited parks on opposite ends of the country.  It was that 2004 trip to Tampa that officially marked the start of my mission.

Since then, a combination of good friends, free time, thrifty travel deals and good fortune has brought me many baseball memories.  I sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at Minute Maid Park in Houston, almost caught a foul ball behind the Indians’ dugout in Cleveland (I should have had it!), walked a mile high in Denver and picked the winner of the “Sausage Race” in Milwaukee (the Italian had it all the way).

Not every trip works out perfectly. Last summer, my friend and I visited our nation’s capital.  Unfortunately, so did violent thunderstorms.

The 7 p.m. Saturday night game in Washington, D.C. was delayed by 7:30. The game resumed two and one-half hours later. The game ended at about 1 a.m., and there were about 1,000 people left in the ballpark that can claim they saw the Nationals beat the San Diego Padres.

I’ve been to parks that no longer exist; so long, Metrodome in Minnesota. I can’t wait to get to Target Field, the Twins’ new home.

Each game has allowed me to see different superstar players of the last decade. I’ve seen Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals’ electric first baseman, homer in Wrigley Field. I watched home-run king Barry Bonds (then of the San Francisco Giants) swing for the fences at Shea Stadium in New York. I saw Seattle Mariners hitting machine Ichiro Suzuki’s sweet swing in Seattle.

I’ve learned a few things along the way, such as:  Every city is different. The nicest people live in Missouri—St. Louis and Kansas City. The best ballparks don’t have the best teams—ask people in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.  I’ve learned what real heat is—Texas in August.

While I’ve made it to most of the parks, there are still a few left: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, Miami, the new Minnesota ballpark, San Diego and Toronto. With some luck, I’ll get to each one. If I don’t, that’s okay, too.

Most importantly, I’ve been able to visit some of the most unique places in our country to watch my favorite sport.

Some strive to climb Mount Everest, run a marathon or swim the English Channel. I don’t mind driving 300 miles to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Kansas City Royals on a Monday night. You tell me what’s crazier. Better yet, please don’t.