A Field (Trip) of Dreams: 30 Baseball Stadiums in Less Than 3 Months
College student Kyle Friedman (disclosure: my nephew) recently rolled through town with his father, taking in a Seattle Mariners game as part of a summertime tour of all 30 baseball stadiums. That’s a lot of hours of baseball. While Kyle is blogging his entire experience, I had a chance to interview him to get the inside story of his spectacular trip, and specifically about his stay in Seattle and thoughts about Safeco Field.
How did you get the idea for stadium-touring?
When I was home from spring break, my dad and I were thinking about traveling to some of the stadiums we hadn’t been to yet. We were originally thinking of doing 8-10 max—some of the Midwestern ones—then when I went back to school, my dad thought about it and said that if we were going to do it, we might as well do it right and try to do all 30. I was all for the idea.
What’s it like traveling with your father?
We’ve always traveled together, but it’s weird because we’ve never done any traveling without my sister. It’s only the beginning right now, so I guess we’ll have to see how it goes, but I think it will be good.
Which places are you most looking forward to visiting?
Stadium-wise, I’m definitely excited to see San Francisco’s park. And there are a few others I’ve heard are nice, like Milwaukee. There are a bunch of other places we’ll stop in between, like New Orleans, the Field of Dreams in Iowa, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m pretty much excited about every city I haven’t been to yet, and every stadium, as I know each one will be really unique.
It has to be pretty complicated to figure out the travel schedule. How do you make a plan like this?
All that credit should go to my dad. I remember when we were first thinking about the plan, I had my computer out and he had his, and we would look at the schedule on the MLB website. I would list, day-by-day, which teams are home and he would make a little spreadsheet to figure out which order we could go. My dad definitely figured out the best routes to take. We have three big trips planned where the teams line up well….It was definitely tough. For cities with multiple teams like Chicago and LA and NY (well, not NY, since we live in that area), we had to make sure to choose back-to-back days when the teams would switch being home, because they’re not usually home at the same time.
This is a big commitment with a lot of baseball. What do you like about baseball? After all, some people find it boring to spend three hours at one game, let alone this many games.
I hate hearing that. I’ve played baseball pretty much all my life, and I think anyone who plays will appreciate it more than anyone who hasn’t. I appreciate how much skill is needed for every aspect, from fielding to pitching to hitting. Think about hitting: It’s the hardest thing to do in all of sports, where succeeding 3 in 10 times is considered good. That’s something you can’t take for granted.
What about watching baseball live?
It’s just a completely different atmosphere. I can watch it on television all day long, but being in the stadium seeing it live—I don’t want to be cliché—but it’s America’s pastime. What’s exciting is the whole environment…everyone interested in the same thing, especially when it’s the team you’re rooting for.
What’s been especially interesting or unique?
Fenway Park. How old it is, how much history it has—it’s 100 years old this year—the whole layout of it. How it’s right in the middle of the city…that’s one of the coolest things about it I love. In Baltimore, it’s the warehouse in right field, which is such a staple landmark of the ballpark and the city, too. It’s cool to see how big of a factor a baseball stadium is in a city, and how people love to appreciate their stadium.
It’s the first stadium with a retractable roof, so that will be really interesting to see. I can’t really tell from television how high it is, and I think no one’s ever hit the roof. I’d love to see how the roof actually retracts, how that technology really works. How did they get to the point of making that?
Even though they haven’t been the best team over the past decades —maybe I shouldn’t say that here—I’m looking forward to seeing the Mariners. I’m really excited to see Felix Hernandez pitch. And Ichiro. I always appreciate how hard of a worker he is and I think it will be great to see him play. You and I saw him together when the Mariners came to play in New York, and I remember you pointed out how he’s always stretching between every single pitch and getting ready for whatever happens next. That’s something I really appreciate, especially compared to many American professional athletes.
As a food writer, I’m curious about the food at the ballparks. What’s been interesting?
Food is my favorite part of this experience. At the New York Yankees game, I had an awesome prime rib sandwich which was amazing. But the thing that grossed me out and made me curious about the taste was the Yankee Donut Burger. It’s a cheeseburger patty but instead of a bun there are two glazed doughnuts. Unfortunately, I was already full, otherwise I would have loved to try it. I’ll have to go back to Yankee Stadium to eat it. And it’s not just the food at the parks. We try to get a little bit of the city into each visit, so in Baltimore we stopped to get blue crabs after the game. We were there for almost two hours eating two dozen crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning, and that was some of the best food of the trip so far.
What do you find yourself learning most during this trip?
I’m learning to appreciate the game for what it is, more than just rooting for a specific team.
Post-game postscript from Seattle: How was Safeco?
Even though the stadium was almost completely empty, I still got the feeling of intense devotion from a good number of the fans, especially the “King’s Court” crowd [of Felix fans], which was pretty fun to watch. And it was awesome to get a chance to see the roof actually retract…I’ve never seen such a massive piece of machinery move like that…that was definitely my favorite aspect of the stadium itself. And as for the food, I had to wait until the later innings because of how full I was from dinner at your house, but I tried a grilled salmon sandwich from Ivar’s which was surprisingly great.
And my own postscript: These guys were lucky enough to be at the stadium in San Francisco last night watching Matt Cain throw a perfect game!
Photos courtesy of Scott and Kyle Friedman.