They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step on your way to recovery. Well, I have been an addict for years and I don't see my "problem" going away any time soon. Just last night I commented to my wife, as we watched "I Survived A Japanese Game Show", "It would be fun to go to Tokyo, we could catch a game at the Tokyo Dome!"
My addiction started so innocently. It was 1977 and after a few months of listening to Seattle Mariner games on radio (as they were only on TV 1-2x a year those first several years), my Dad asked my brother and I if we would want to go to a game? OF COURSE WE DID! Our first game was vs the Yankees at the Kingdome and as we walked up and into the dome and could see the field for the first time, I was hooked! I know how people talk about their first ever game being at Wrigley or Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Tiger Stadium... mine was at the Kingdome and I loved it! The grass may have been fake, the sun certainly didnt shine on the field and you couldn't feel the wind blow, but it was a beautiful sight for a 4 year old, that's for sure.
Over the next 10 years we went to several Mariner games. My parents would take us up for weekend games where we would see the Saturday night game and double back for the Sunday afternoon game. We only lived an hour from Seattle, but we would stay in a hotel just south of Seattle on those weekends. I can still remember them like they were yesterday. Even after my father passed away in 1986, Mom would make sure we still went to games and did our weekends without fail.
In 1987 as we were visiting family in Northeast Oklahoma a group of us decided to go to Kansas City and catch a Royals game. It's a 3+ hour drive from Picher, OK to Royal Stadium and I couldn't hide my excitement. Until that day I had never thought I'd get to see a game anywhere other than at the Kingdome. The experience was incredible! It was hotter than blue blazes, but we had a great time. We sat in the front row, down the 3rd baseline directly by the foul pole. Bo Jackson was playing left for the Royals then and I got a great picture of him waving in our direction. I can remember the beauty of the ballpark vividly, but all I recall of the game is that the Royals beat the Twins and Dan Gladden hit a HR for the Twins.
Even though I got my first taste of another ballpark in 1987 it was 10 more years before I did it again. In June of 1997 I was in Dallas, TX with a friend attending a concert for a gal we did a web site for. We decided that the day before the concert we would go to Arlington and catch a game. I am so glad I did cause I love The Ballpark in Arlington! We sat up in the rafters basically and even though I developed a fear of escalators after taking a ride on the one there up to the upper deck, the "Escalator to Heaven" as I call it, I still loved the park. The design was so different than any of the other few I had been to at this point. The way they used the history of Texas in its design was incredible. I loved the green steel and red brick! It was that very night, June 14, 1997, that I decided I wanted to see all the Major League ballparks!
In 2000 I went to visit some friends in California and they took me to see my Mariners play the A's at the Coliseum. While the ballpark is a real dump (this coming from someone that loved the Kingdome) I loved being there. To see the park, to taste the local foods, to see how different fans react to the game. The M's won, spanked the A's big time! It was this trip that make me realize that I could go see other ballparks, that I could see them all... eventually.
In July 2000 I took my Mom to Austin to see family. We ended up going separate ways as she went north to Oklahoma for our family reunion and I went to Nashville for Fan Fair. We were to eventually meet up in Alabama a couple weeks later, but after Fan Fair I ended up back in Texas and decided to make th drive to Houston to see Enron Field. While I had seen countless games at the Kingdome with its roof (and Safeco Field after it opened the previous year), I never felt like I was watching baseball indoors, but at Enron, with the roof closed, it felt like we were watching a game in a warehouse. I really enjoyed my walk around the park, seeing how they used the old train station in its design and all, but that roof really spoiled it for me. It wasn't until the end of the 7th when they finally opened the roof and as you felt the rush of the hot air coming in from the beautiful Houston night, the game changed completely. All of a sudden we were watching a game the way it was supposed to be watched at night, under the stars. After eventually meeting up with Mom and the rest of my family in Alabama, I found myself with a few days on my hands so I decided to go to Atlanta, see Stone Mountain and go by Turner Field. As per my luck, the Braves were out of town that day and wouldn't be at home any day that I could catch them. I still made the best of it. Took the time to see the park from the outside and was sure to visit the remains of Fulton County Stadium, as I had watched a ton of Braves games from there since living in Oklahoma and the Braves via TBS was all we got on TV. This just fed my fire. I was so bummed I didn't get to see a game at Turner Field, that I vowed to make it back one day!! On my drive back to Austin I was able to take in a game at The Ballpark in Arlington, Mariners vs Rangers on July 3, 2000. The Ballpark is a great place to watch games. If it wasn't for the incredible heat of July, I would love to have stayed for a few more games. This was my 2nd game at The Ballpark and was strange to me to be back, but I loved it this time through just as much.
I was planning a trip to the Chicago area to see a friend for a few days in May of 2002 when I realized that while she was busy the first couple days, I could catch me some games! So I flew into Chicago and made the drive up to Milwaukee to catch a Braves vs Brewers game at Miller Park. It was awesome! The land of brats & kraut didn't disappoint! I was enthralled with the way their roof opened (having just had Safeco and its retractable roof for not quite 3 seasons yet). The sight lines are great, no matter where I walked, I could see the action really good. I even stayed in town that night and caught the afternoon game the next day before driving to the South Side of Chicago to catch a White Sox vs Mariners game at Comiskey Field. May 2, 2002, was the first day I ever went to 2 games in 2 parks in 2 states! What a thrill that was! 1 American League and 1 National League game even! To top it off, in the nightcap I got to see history made as Mike Cameron hit 4 HR's (tied 12 others for this feat and was only the 4th from the AL to do it and only the 5th in history to do it in 4 consecutive AB's... his last 2 AB's, he was plunked on the backside and in his last AB he hit a drive that had the right fielder literally against the wall reaching up to make the catch!) and Cammy and Brett Boone went back-to-back with HR's TWICE in the same inning for the FIRST time in MLB history! That feat still hasn't been beat or matched. One of the greatest parts of going to different ballparks, for me anyway, is meeting the people who go to those games. The couple that sat next to me at this game just happened to realize the White Sox were playing that night as they got to town on their drive to Iowa for a wedding and decided to stop early and catch the game. What a game they got to see.. MLB history! I had been warned by my friend about wearing my Mariners gear on the South Side, but I had no problems... actually had a great time kidding around with the White Sox fans and even 1 usher that kept dropping by to comment on the game.
July 2002 found me back in Oklahoma with family. After our family reunion, I was hitting the road on my first ever "Baseball Road Trip"! My addiction was getting the best of me. After careful planning I mapped out a route that would take me to games in Cincinnati (Cinergy Field), Cleveland (Jacobs Field), Detroit (Comerica Park) and a weekend of Cubs vs Cardinals in St. Louis at (old) Busch Stadium. 5 games in 4 ballparks in a week. This is what life is all about, yeah? It was incredible! But this just fed the appetite for my addiction and left me wanting more.
Later in 2002, a friend of mine, Bob, and I planned a trip we had wanted to do for a few years and that was a trip to see "The Field of Dreams". As we were planning this trip Bob told me to plan it all and put in as much as we can do in the few days that we had. So I naturally added a White Sox vs Angels game at Comisky Field and my 3rd game at Miller Park. I usually go to games on my own, so this was a treat to get to share other ballparks with a friend of mine and to show him what I liked and disliked about them. I even took him by Wrigley to see it, though the Cubs were out of town. We had a great time on our baseball weekend and I couldn't wait to do more.
My Mom asked me in early 2003 to take her to see family in Oklahoma, so I decided that I would drop her off and plan a trip that was bigger and better than I did the previous year. I spent days working on a schedule, getting everything planned out and when we hit the road on July 9th, I was ready to do it, even with a stop at Coors Field in Denver on our drive to Oklahoma. Before we could leave I had 1 last thing to do as I asked my brother if I could take my 16 year old nephew, Sean, with me. His wife agreed and he told me I could. I made sure to let him know its not just about the ballparks, cause while we are in town for games, we'll do other things, historical things. So July 15th we left for a trip that would have us seeing: The Negro Leagues Museum, Kauffman Stadium (no game), the Field of Dreams, Wrigley Field (no game), US Cellular Field (no game), Louisville Slugger Museum (did the tour), Great American Ballpark (Astros v Reds), PNC Park (Brewers vs Pirates), Yankee Stadium (Monument Park, Old Timers Day game and Indians vs Yankees, with my favoirte Yankee David "Boomer" Wells pitching), Fenway Park (Blue Jays vs Red Sox - 1st row Green Monster seats), Baseball Hall Of Fame (only 3 hours worth), Veterans Stadium (Mets vs Phillies), Oriole Park @ Camden Yards (Rangers vs Orioles), Turner Field (Marlins vs Braves) and Old Busch Stadium (Pirates vs Cardinals). 8 games in 8 different parks! It was amazing! My first trips to Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, I cried like a baby! Along the way we took in the Gettysburg battlefield, toured New York City and Washington DC as well. We also got to see both new and old Durham Athletic Parks as well as Shoeless Joe Jackson's grave. That trip was so incredible! I was so glad to get to share it with my nephew cause I know he will NEVER forget this trip! We did so much and got to see so much. It was awesome!.
While on the 2003 trip, in Philly at The Vet, is when I realized that I was going to marry my girlfriend. I even told Sean that and he just laughed. The day after I got back, I proposed to her and we planned a July 17, 2004 wedding. As we were thinking about our honeymoon she, Yvonne (who is not a sports fan, but goes to games with me occasionally at this point), says "We should go to California, we can split the trip between me showing you things I love and you can take me to the ballparks you haven't seen yet." I knew I loved the woman and she just proved to me again why I did! So for our honeymoon, along with Disneyland, Sea World and Sedona, we caught games at SBC Park (Padres vs Giants), Dodger Stadium (Padres Vs Dodgers), Bank One Ballpark (Rockies vs Diamondbacks), Petco Park (Giants vs Padres - got my 1st ever BP HR ball at this game!) and Angel Stadium (Mariners vs Angels) and even saw the Peoria Sports Complex, where the Mariners and Padres hold Spring Training. I am so addicted that even my future wife knew what I would want to do, though I would have never dreamed that we would do that on our honeymoon, we loved ever moment of it!
In 2005 my wife asked me if I would take her to do an East Coast trip so she could finally go to New York. I was game cause to me that meant more ballparks and she agreed! This trip found us at games at Oriole Park @ Camden Yards (D'Rays vs Orioles), Citizens Bank Park (Marlins vs Phillies), RFK Stadium (Mets vs Nationals), Shea Stadium (on 05/05/05, Phillies vs Mets), Fenway Park (roof box 1st baseline seats, Mariners vs Red Sox) and Yankee Stadium (a tour 1 day and Mariners vs Yankees the next). The games at Citizens Bank Park and RFK Stadium were the same day, an afternoon and night game. I just love doing that! Later that year in we went to Florida to see Yvonne's Nana for her 80th birthday, I took a day to go see 10 different spring training ballparks: Knology Park (Blue Jays), Bright House Networks Field (Phillies), Progress Energy Park (D'Rays), Legends Field (Yankees), McKechnie Field (Pirates), Ed Smith Stadium (Reds), Joker Marchant Stadium (Tigers), Chain Of Lakes Park (Indians), Osceola Stadium (Astros) and Champion Stadium (Braves) along with Tropicana Field. Later in that same run I got to take in the huge Dolphin Stadium.
For our trip in 2006 my wife really wanted to take her mom to see New York in December with it all decorated for Christmas. While I would have enjoyed that alot, going in December meant no baseball. She informed me she really wanted it to be a "Girls Trip" so I could go on a ballpark trip on my own if I wanted in exchange... WOOHOO! So I planned a run that had me seeing the rest of the parks I needed to see to complete my tour of all 30 current MLB Ballparks. I caught 2 games at the Metrodome (Indians vs Twins), Miller Park for my 4th game there (Astros vs Brewers), 3 games at Wrigley Field (2 Cardinals vs Cubs, and 1 Phillies vs Cubs night game), Comerica Park (White Sox vs Tigers), Rogers Centre (A's vs Blue Jays), PNC Park (Astros vs Pirates), 2 games at New Busch Stadium (Cubs vs Cardinals), The Ballpark in Arlington (Orioles vs Rangers - picked up my brother in Oklahoma and took him with me to this game, we BOTH got BP HR balls at this game, in our seats, didnt even have to try, they came right to us!) and Coors Field (Mets vs Rockies). I had seen all 30 Ballparks when I got to St. Louis on August 25th!!
Even though you have seen them all, when you are as addicted as I am, that don't mean you stop, that just means you get to enjoy those ballparks even more. When Nationals Park opened on March 30, 2008, I had another ballpark to see. I have not been able to do that yet, we are waiting for the 2 new ones in New York to open and we'll do them all on the same run. Besides, this year my wife wanted me to take her to see her Dad in Knoxville, TN for our trip. So I planned it, with stops at the Metrodome (White Sox vs Twins - where Tony Oliva left us his tickets for the game), 2 games at Wrigley Field (A night game and a day game vs the Brewers) and Rogers Centre (White Sox vs Blue Jays). I am so addicted that I made sure to show my wife US Cellular (no game), Comerica Park (no game), PNC Park (no game), Great American Ballpark (no game) and toured the Louisville Slugger Museum.
2 days before we left for our trip this year the company I work for, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, held our 'end of the tax season' dinner and awards banquet. It was then I found out that they were sending me to Orlando in August to the Jackson Hewitt Corporate Management Summit. My addiction is so strong that all I could think was "BASEBALL IN FLORIDA IN AUGUST! WOOHOO!" Needless to say our plans have us seeing games at Tropicana Field (Blue Jays vs Rays) and Dolphin Stadium (Mets vs Marlins) as well as seeing the other 7 spring training ballparks I need to see to complete the Florida parks.
My name is Ken and I am a ballpark addict...