How to visit a Major League Baseball stadium for less than $80 and save time by skipping all the long lines.
The “what to collect from every baseball stadium” is a guide on how to visit every MLB Stadium in the United States.
Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Alon Mass. He is a fourth-year medical student at New York University School of Medicine, and he is now looking for a urology residency post. Alon is a photographer who enjoys cycling in New York City and holds the Guinness record for the Fastest Backwards Game of Labyrinth.
Alon spent the summer following his junior year at Cornell University exploring the nation with a boyhood buddy. Alon was able to collect almost $6,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Cancer Association, and Harlem RBI by touring 30 MLB stadiums and 22 national parks in 81 days. Here’s how he went about it.
In terms of logistics, it’s difficult to plan a trip to see a game at each of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in one summer. Adding 22 National Parks, earning over $6,000 for charity, receiving free tickets from more than half of the teams, scheduling interviews with television programs, radio talk shows, and newspapers–all while still having time to test out different “Man vs. Food” eateries–was even more difficult. Taking over 9,000 photos and writing over 50 blog pieces takes a lot of time. This wasn’t a quick vacation that we planned over the weekend; it required months of planning, many hours of figure crunching and phone conversations, and several difficult choices.
But, hey, if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it well. Isn’t it important to do it right the first time?
In this essay, I’ll show you how to make your idea a reality for all of you dreamers out there. Yes, I was once in your position, a high school student with big dreams. “Hey, man, let’s go on a Major League Baseball road trip!” That’s most likely how it began. However, most individuals stop there. My pal Neal and I, on the other hand, went all out.
Despite the fact that Neal and I attended separate institutions, we both managed to keep the whole summer of 2007 free of other commitments. We’d previously prepared a mock road trip itinerary for the previous four seasons and had a solid sense of how to approach the nation once the 2007 MLB schedule was revealed.
So, after significant and painstaking preparation, my buddy and I travelled 20,500 miles in 81 days, attending 30 Major League Baseball games and scoring at every MLB stadium in North America–missing not ONE pitch.
Accomplish you want to do it on your own? Continue reading and I’ll reveal the secrets…
Who Should I Travel With?
What’s my advice? Take a childhood buddy with you. Someone who shares your enthusiasm for baseball as well as your sense of adventure. Someone with whom you will never run out of topics to discuss. Someone who appreciates you as a person, complements you, and contributes to the conversation. You don’t want to do all of the work, all of the driving, all of the decision-making, and all of the baseball team calling. You’ll need someone you can trust to wake up at 8 a.m. and say, “Dude, let’s get going, we’ve got an 8-hour journey ahead of us today.” Someone who will move the vehicle out of the parking lot while you pay for your pizza. Someone who will keep track of all shared expenses such as petrol, meals, lodging, tickets, and beverages.
Alon and Neal are a couple.
Keep in mind that you’ll be on the road for nearly SIXTEEN  days, in the same vehicle with the same person! That’s correct, if you sum up the time spent travelling between places, Neal and I spent precisely 16.33 days in the vehicle. That means by the conclusion of the trip, your companion will know all there is to know about your personal life. So find someone with whom you can talk about your sex life, family troubles, childhood phobias, and other topics. So, first and foremost, I’m serious about this–find a solid co-conspirator.
Don’t get me wrong: there were moments when tensions rose, but in the end, our friendship and shared history (I’ve known him since I was four years old and we grew up with) triumphed.
Listen, you can finish this project in around 50 days (people have done it, and I have read their accounts). But why is there such a rush? This journey isn’t only about checking off a bucket list item–visiting 30 MLB parks–also it’s about seeing America the Beautiful and taking in everything that our lovely nation has to offer. Neal and I traveled for 81 days, which is the equivalent of a complete summer college break. After school concluded, I went on the road for a week before returning to school a week later.
In Beth’s Cafe, a “man vs. food” establishment in Seattle, WA, I’m eating a 12-egg omlet.
Why waste time if you don’t have to? There’s a lot to see. Relax a little, put your feet up, and take in the vista from Crater Lake in central Oregon, a rain-water-filled crater caused by a blown-out volcano. Slow down, use your wits, and construct a fast Lego automobile at the famed Mall of America–then race your buddy on the Lego ramp. Meet up with some college pals and get to meet their friends from back home. Take a two-day diversion to Vegas (again) in order to win $100 on craps and have your favorite sushi roll at Nobu in the Hard Rock casino. Say “OK!” to one of those strange roadside signs, such as the “Famous Corn Palace!” in rural South Dakota.
Make a schedule that will not let you down.
Rain Out is a two-word phrase. What if you only had one day to watch the Royals play at Kauffman Stadium, and the game was postponed due to rain? Kansas City is about a five-hour drive from any other baseball town. You can’t get back from Texas, and you can’t get back from Colorado either. You’re completely doomed. You viewed 29 out of 30 teams and were unsuccessful. The game is done. You must ensure that you have AT LEAST some flexibility while planning your journey. Spend 5 days in Chicago (believe me, there’s a lot to see and do), and make sure to see both of the home stands (usually, two teams in the same home city will not be home at the same time, i.e. the Cubs will be on the road when the White Sox are in town). If you need to waste some time, take a day trip to the legendary Field of Dreams, which is just a four-hour drive from Chicago, trek up to Lambeau Field, and stop at the Mars Cheese Castle along the route for some incredible sausage and cheese. Take the elevator to the top of the John Hancock Building, have a deep dish pizza, and see your reflection in the Bean on a day trip to Chicago.
Also, make sure that your timetable is tailored to your specific needs in order to maximize your prospects. For example, we made it a point to attend the 2007 MLB All-Star Game in San Francisco. While we didn’t attend the game, we utilized our kayaks [See Area: In the Car, Stay Sane] to join the celebration in McCovey Cove, an unofficial name for a section of San Francisco Bay beyond AT&T Park’s right field wall where Barry Bonds hit many home runs during his time with the Giants. It was a whirlwind out there, and we were thrilled to be a part of it.
Each game should be prepared for.
Every stadium had a set protocol for us. Before we arrived, we would learn about the stadiums (neighborhood pubs, ballpark history, fun and intriguing activities and facilities inside the parks, renowned sculptures, and so on…). This book is highly recommended by me: Joshua Pahigian and Kevin O’Connell wrote The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide to Major League Stadiums. We were prepared when we arrived to the stadiums since we had done our study and knew what to anticipate as well as where to locate the finest pubs, stadium cuisine, and other places of interest. We were aware of several amusing customs, such as Bernie Brewer (the Brewers’ mascot) sliding down a beer mug-style slide if any of the Brew-Crew members hit a home run. Before our game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, we knew we had to stop by the Cubby Bear bar. In San Francisco’s AT&T Park, we knew where to grab some garlic fries. Before our game in Pittsburgh, we knew we have to eat a Primanti Bros. sandwich. We planned our route around Houston’s Minute Maid Park to get a good glimpse of Tal’s Hill in center field. In Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum, we knew not to expect anything extraordinary.
Coors Field, Denver, CO, as seen through Neal’s sunglasses
Also, when we arrived at the stadiums, we made sure we had at least an hour before game time to check out every corner, angle, and scent the fields had to offer. We went to the highest deck, directly behind home plate, in each of the 30 stadiums and shot a panorama-style image of the whole stadium. We snapped a photo of the two of us behind home plate in each of the 30 stadiums to verify that we were there.
“Home Plate photo” at AT&T Park in San Francisco
We’d then head to the team shop and get a bumper sticker or something like. We ended up with a collection of 30 artifacts from each of the 30 stadiums. We would then get a program, a team pencil, and a score sheet. We’d find our seats (and, more often than not, upgrade to better ones) and settle down to watch the game. We’d use the team pencil to record our scores on the team score sheet, and we didn’t miss a single pitch all summer (between the two of us). So, whenever Neal had to go to the bathroom, I took the lead. Neal would take score if I went out to fetch a brat (beer-soaked sausage in the Midwest).
Create a Stadium Rating System
Neal and I sought to figure out which stadium was the “best” in terms of overall performance. But, since there were so many distinct parts of our experience that needed to be taken into consideration, we decided to construct a scoring system. For each stadium, we scored the following criteria (see table below) on a scale of one to one hundred (one hundred being the best), and then averaged the results. Bonus points were also awarded for “post-game fireworks spectacular” (2.5 points), “team offered us free tickets” (+2.5 points), and “interviewed on the field during the pregame show” (+5.0 points). You get the idea–just be creative with it, and you’ll have a blast.
The following were our ranking categories (with examples from each):
Yankee Stadium is the home of the New York Yankees
|Entertainment inside the game||
By the way, my favorite stadium was AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Our scores were obviously subjective, but they helped us organize our thoughts and were a lot of fun in the vehicle after the games. It also allowed us to compare stadiums and argue which ones we believed were the greatest and worse based on numerical data. Overall, I believe stadium ratings are an important part of the journey.
Teams should be contacted months in advance.
Alone with Jim Leyland, the team’s manager.
Initially, we contacted the teams to see if they might assist us in raising funds for our charity initiative. Finally, they were unable to assist us owing to a variety of legal difficulties and the fact that each squad already had an official cause that they supported. But then, without our permission, a couple teams gave us complimentary seats. I eagerly accepted the offer. Then I made sure to call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call, call
Finally, 15 teams offered us free tickets, which was fantastic since 1) it saved us money and 2) it allowed us to sit in excellent seats! In Baltimore and Houston, we sat in the premium skybox, at Los Angeles and Texas, we sat behind home plate, and in the other stadiums that gave us with complimentary tickets, we had really excellent seats.
Second, we asked teams if they could take us on a tour of the stadium from the inside. Many teams agreed and went above and above to make us feel welcome. For example, in Philadelphia, we had the opportunity to meet Harry Kalas, a well-known radio commentator, and to hold the 1980 World Series Championship Ring. We also got an inside tour of the stadium in Cleveland. In San Diego, we were welcomed by a courteous club official, given a gift package, and led to the field during batting practice, where we were interviewed by a Fox News Channel station on the field. We even had the opportunity to meet Ricky Henderson!
Ricky Henderson, the Man of Steal, is introduced.
We were given a tour of the stadium by a Red Sox agent two hours before the gates opened to the general public in Boston. Then we were interviewed on the field and in the stands, and the film was utilized in a 10-minute segment on a local Boston television station called “Red Sox Stories.” (Yes, I did the TV interview wearing my Yankees cap.)
All of these benefits were a direct consequence of the time and effort I put in before to our trip–I spent tens of hours phoning team officials and did not give up when I was turned down the first or second time.
How to Get in Touch With Teams
Go to the official team website and click “Front Office” under the “roster” section. There will usually be a phone number here. Every team has a department dedicated to community relations or public relations. For example, on the Pittsburgh Pirates website, you may find the team phone number (Tel: (412) 321-BUCS) at the top of the page, followed by the names of the persons you want to reach (Vice President, Community & Public Affairs, Patty Paytas…OR… Director, Community Relations, Michelle Mejia). You get my drift. You may sometimes obtain their e-mail addresses by searching for their names on Google. The more ways you utilize to communicate with them, the less likely they are to ignore you or “forget to call you back.”
So, take a chance, pick up the phone, and ask the secretary to put you in touch with that exact individual. You’ll receive a voicemail message half of the time, but they may pick up on occasion. Then just identify yourself, explain what you’re doing, and ask if there’s anything the club can do to 1) offset your expenditures or 2) provide you with a unique experience while you’re at their stadium. You’ll be astonished, as I was, to learn that the majority of these individuals are really accommodating.
I came up with the idea to start a charity months before we left on our vacation. It was a simple concept, but it required a lot of effort. First and foremost, Neal and I agreed to raise funds for three charities: the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Harlem RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). My nonprofit was called “The Home Run Fund,” and the name alludes to how we would raise funds. We reached out to family, friends, instructors, and acquaintances, as well as bringing a placard to every game we attended (I would stand up and hold the sign between innings, advertising for our charity). We encouraged individuals to give a specified cash amount, which they would then multiply by the number of home runs they watched over the 30 games at the conclusion of the tour. My uncle, for example, agreed to donate $3 to Harlem RBI. He handed us a check made out to Harlem RBI for $3 x 66 = $198 at the conclusion of the summer since we witnessed 66 total home runs throughout our road trip. The cheques were subsequently distributed to the organizations. In the end, we raised almost $6,000, and I am really pleased of our achievement. “While We Are Living Our Dream, Help Us Help Others Fulfill Their Dreams,” was our motto.
Finally, this isn’t something you have to do — planning and taking a road trip is already a lot of effort. However, if you have the time and motivation, I strongly advise you to pursue this sort of side project.
Make Sports the Center of Attention
The Land of Hope and Glory
As I previously said, the purpose of the road trip was undoubtedly to attend baseball games. But, being die-hard sports fans, Neal and I couldn’t pass up a few stops. First and foremost, we visited a variety of other baseball-related locations: The Baseball Hall of Fame (we contacted ahead, explained what we were doing, and were given a phenomenally informative behind-the-scenes tour; for example, we saw the counter check that sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees); the Field of Dreams (without a doubt, this was my favorite day of the trip. The weather was great, the scenery was breathtaking, and you could sense you were in a unique location. On the field, Neal and I made a catch and sprinted the bases. The Louisville Slugger Factory (This is a wonderful place–you get to experience the process from raw material to bat, and it was well worth the 4 hour one-way drive from Chicago); For Father’s Day, Neal and I each got our fathers a personalized bat with an engraving).
We also visited the following well-known sporting venues: Lambeau Field (Fortunately, I had a good friend who was kind enough to prepare us lunch that day, so the trip from Milwaukee was well worth it.) I enjoyed getting a tour of the ultimate football stadium); Churchill Downs (I like horse racing and often attend the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, but I had never been to Churchill Downs. This location is a mecca of horseracing mythology, and it was a great way to spend a day); Pauley Pavilion (home of the UCLA Bruins basketball team); The Los Angeles Lakers practice facility (we met a man on a road trip a few years before us who happened to be a Lakers employee. He was kind enough to take us through the Lakers’ practice facilities as well as their championship trophies, which was fantastic!).
You get my drift. Seek for sites that pique your interest–this is likely to be one of your few chances to see places like this in your life, so prepare early.
Look at America.
We had a lot of time to discover America since we took things slowly. In fact, every break we had in between games was well arranged. We visited Disney World, Universal Studios in Los Angeles, explored Bourbon Street in New Orleans, toured San Francisco, spent a few days in Texas with friends, and so forth.
Above all, we were able to tour 22 National Parks in the United States and Canada. Apart from baseball, our visits to these clean and magnificent jewels strewn around North America were by far the most significant and fascinating. Most National Parks, in my view, are essential stops on any tour throughout our nation. I can’t begin to express how breathtaking these sites are in words or pictures.
Two of my favorite scenes are seen here.
The first is Lake Moraine, which is located approximately an hour west of Calgary in Banff, British Columbia, Canada. The beauty of this lake comes from glacier runoff, which gives it a distinctive and pristine turquoise hue. The muck from northern Canada’s glaciers flows into the lakes, giving them that strange tint. This lake is surrounded by 10 majestic peaks.
This following photo is a panorama of the Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in eastern Utah, which I captured (it’s really 13 photos stitched together).
Hundreds of arches, constructions carved out naturally by the wind, can be seen throughout the park, with the Delicate Arch being the most well-known owing to its sheer magnificence. A two-hour journey to this natural landmark was both bizarre and beneficial to my health. Going to National Parks was really helpful for our health in general–hiking for hours in each park offset the unhealthy stadium food and lack of exercise we’d get from hours of commuting in the vehicle.
Where Should You Stay?
We were on a restricted budget for the vacation, spending roughly $5,500 apiece. We were able to save money by staying with a large number of friends, camping, and finding inexpensive accommodations. We spent roughly 40 of the 81 nights in friends’ homes (we were lucky, as we both had friends from college scattered all over the country). But we weren’t shy about inviting ourselves over, either. When going on a vacation like this, you have to be willing to be outgoing, which involves asking someone for a bed or sofa to rest on, even if you don’t know them very well. We also purchased an amazing tent from Quechua that practically erected itself when thrown into the air. So we’d pull over to one of these KOA campsites (which, by the way, are all over the nation for around $15 a night and include showers, power, and other amenities), pitch our tent, and we’d be good to go. We would literally pack the tent up in a few minutes in the morning, chuck it in the vehicle, and be on our way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t stay in a hotel for more than $60, and this only occurred a few times. You won’t need to reserve any hotel rooms or campsites ahead of time. Additionally, you will never know where you will be on any given night. For example, we had no clue when we would grow weary and want to bed for the night when travelling from San Diego to Bryce National Park. So, when we were weary, we’d program our GPS to see where the next highway hotel or KOA camping was, and then head there. In conclusion, be assertive with friends, adaptable, and thrifty!
Stay Sane in the Car
We were in the automobile for a total of 16.3 days, as I already said. It was difficult to keep sane at times, as you may understand. We used to take turns sleeping at night. The driver would listen to the radio to remain awake (talk radio is more engaging, and helps you stay awake).
Unless we were going to a baseball game, we seldom had a particular plan to follow throughout the day. We were able to go to various parts of the United States as a result of this. One piece of advise I strongly suggest is that you each get an inflatable kayak, which is quite useful in terms of: 1) not taking up much room in the vehicle (it’s about the size of a compact suitcase), and 2) being instantly accessible since all you have to do is inflate it (with the help of an electric pump that can be plugged into the car). We would drive down to a dock, inflate our kayaks, and go for a nice kayaking session anytime we were near a huge lake. It was fantastic–we kayaked on several beautiful lakes, had a terrific bicep/tricep exercise, and were able to break up a long day of travel with a relaxing sport.
“Twenty Questions” was another game we used to play in the automobile. On the journey, we encountered a lot of strange, amusing, unusual, and fascinating individuals (who we dubbed “characters”), and we’d want to speak about and remember them. We used to play a game where one player would imagine a certain “character” and the other would ask yes/no questions about the person until they received an answer. Also, we invented a fun game called the “Hall of Fame,” in which we would give one of those slow claps and then induct a “character” into the HoF if they were mentioned in a game for the second time. So, at the conclusion of the journey, we had a starting lineup based on the folks we met, and it was a terrific method for us to remember and document these people.
We utilized the automobile time for phone calls (to teams, media, friends, and family), blog writing (we made a blog post every day on our website mlbroadtrip2007.com), and recorded our kilometers travelled and money spent, in addition to reviewing the day’s activities. We maintained a three-ring binder in which we recorded every single purchase (to the cent) and kept track of how much money I owed Neal and vice versa. We also had a part where we recorded every stop we took, as well as the time each leg of the journey began and ended and who drove. This enabled us to keep track of how many miles each of us had driven, our average miles per hour, and the names of the places we visited. “Start: Gas station in Cheyenne, Wyoming, time -1:42 PM, driver: Neal,” for example. Stop at KOA Campground in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at 7:05 p.m., for a total distance of 406.7 miles.” We also had a huge Road Atlas of America, and we would use a black sharpie marker to write down each road we drove on so that at the conclusion of the journey, we could match our book to the map and see precisely where we had gone.
Most essential, make sure you have a stable power supply in the automobile that can accommodate a computer’s standard 3-pronged connector. You may use your computer and other equipment in the automobile in this manner.
The whole summer was the most unforgettable period of my life. I like traveling, documenting my adventures, reminiscing about good times, shooting photographs, visiting new and intriguing places, and meeting strange and unusual people. Baseball is one of my favorite sports. I adore the outdoors. I am a huge foodie. I like giving it my best in everything I do, and I hope you will as well, particularly if you decide to take a Major League Baseball Road Trip throughout the United States and Canada.
Please feel free to contact me at [email protected], and I’d be pleased to answer any questions you may have or just share recollections from my journey with you. Thank you for taking the time to read this!
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