I’ve loved baseball for as long as I can remember, but my first real vivid memories of it are of the 1969 Miracle Mets. The first game I ever attended was in August of ’69 at Shea Stadium. Mets rookie pitching star Gary Gentry vs Milt Pappas. The Mets beat the Braves 6-5 on a Jerry Grote walkoff HR in the 11th inning.
The euphoria and excitement of their playoff run that year and their improbable victory in the World Series over Baltimore had the whole NY metro area caught up in Mets fever and made a lifetime fan of the game out of yours’ truly.
Every year I get a rush of excitement when Opening Day nears, or the trade deadline, or the post-season or the Winter Meetings.
I love baseball because of the feelings of stability, comfort and normalcy that it evokes. The sport is ingrained in the fabric of America and is such a huge part of its history and lore. Baseball’s iconic presence has been a part of America’s stories, songs and movies for generations. Since the major leagues were formed and baseball became our national past-time close to 120 year ago, the nation, in fact the world has become a starkly different place.
Over the years, traditions, trends, culture, attitude and values have changed significantly. Innovation and technology have affected virtually every aspect of our lives, but baseball has remained constant. The same 16 teams that made up the major leagues back in 1901 still play today (along with an additional 14 that have joined since). The game's rules, the parks dimensions, the players uniforms and all of the customs and idiosyncrasies of the game are essentially the same as they've ever been. The same can be said about the team rivalries and the fan’s enthusiasm and loyalty.
Baseball also bridges cultural and social gaps. Two people with distinctly different backgrounds, beliefs, affiliations and status, who have absolutely nothing in common, can find common ground and harmony on their love for baseball.
For reasons that are debated, baseball has seen a dip in popularity over the last 30-40 years and has been supplanted by NFL football as the nation’s favorite sport. But starting in the early ‘90s, there was a renaissance of major league ballparks as they moved out of the ugly concrete structures that were shared residences of football teams and into new ‘retro-designed’ baseball-only ballparks situated in their cities’ downtown area. This started with Camden Yards in Baltimore with just about all others following suit in the years after. This brought fans back out to the parks and stoked the game’s popularity.
A live baseball game is my ‘happy place’. Especially at a day game, in early Summer when it’s a little breezy and just the right temperature. Maybe a mid-week game where the crowd is decent, but not too much. Baseball. Beer. Hot Dogs. Summer. Very nice.
Attending a game at every park has been on my list for some time. In 2015, I was determined to visit them all in one year. I’ve read where people have been crazy enough to see a game at all 30 parks in 30 days (or less). That kind of kills the point for me. It’s like trying to chug a $300 bottle of wine, it shouldn't be rushed. So, I mapped out my ‘journey’ to be 5 stadiums or less per each trip, spread out across the course of the season. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked with other priorities and had to finish the last 7 stadiums in 2016, but that just gave me something more to get excited about as the next spring drew near.
This journey also gave me a reason to visit some cities in the US that I otherwise would have no reason to visit. Places like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, St. Louis and Cleveland aren’t on vacationers ‘A-List’, but they and all the others I went to had so much more to offer a visitor other than baseball (ok, maybe not so much Detroit).
The trips were all so much fun and gave me so many nice memories. The adrenaline rush upon seeing a stadium for the first time, all of the great people I met along the way, all of the interesting experiences. When it ended, it actually got me a little depressed, so I decided to ‘keep the fun going’ and see a game at every NFL venue. This is a little harder to pull off and therefore is part of a ‘5 year plan’. As George Carlin pointed out, the differences between football and baseball are significant. Almost as significant are the different experiences between attending a baseball and football game!
City - San Francisco
Ballpark - PNC Park
Food - Petco Park
Fans - Kauffman Stadium
Game - Walk off win at Safeco Field OR Near no-hitter in Tampa Bay OR Zito vs Hudson in Oakland OR ?
Home Team Record on my trip = 18-12
OVERALL RATINGS RECAP
The A+'s - PNC Park, AT&T Park, Petco Park
The A's - Fenway Park, Kauffman Stadium, Oriole Park
The B+'s - Safeco Field, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Busch Stadium, Marlins Park, Progessive Park, Comerica Park,,Wrigley Field
The B's - Yankee Stadium, Chase Field, Target Field, Nationals Park, Great American Ballpark, Citizens Bank Ballpark, Citi Field, Dodger Stadium
The C's - Globe Life Stadium, Angel Stadium, Miller Park, Turner Field, Rogers Centre, US Cellular Field
The C-'s - Tropicana Field
The D's - O.Co (Oakland)
Attending a live MLB game is not the cheapest day out, but by comparison, if you consider the value, I'll argue you get more of your money's worth than for a movie these days..
I thought people might be interested to see difference in price from park to park. The seat quality for baseball was more or less the same - between home and 1st/3rd within the first 15-20 rows
It's not apples-apples since some were 2015 and others 2016. Also variable pricing based on day of week and opponent. But the key difference is the avg price I paid for a baseball ticket vs a football ticket. And the variance between the highest to lowest price baseball tickets vs the same for football.
For baseball, the avg price was $98 with the high/low range being $170/$58.
For football, the avg price was $262 with the high/low being $420/$119.
I should point out that that average and range would be even much higher if I didn't settle for an upper tier nose bleed seat for the Patriots opener. I paid $420 for the top of the frigging stadium! Seats down low mid-field were going for over $2,000. For a football game!
Likewise - Hotel prices in popular football cities tend to soar and sell out quickly on game days. For example, for Green Bay opening day 2017, for a lousy Quality Inn 1.5 miles away from Lambeau, the cost was $240 a night! For some of the mid-west , mid-season, mid-week baseball games, I stood at 4 and 5 star hotels for less than half that.
Baseball may be expensive, but football is ridiculous.
I was born and raised in NJ and have bounced around the state a bit, but have lived here all my life. I grew up a Met fan but have grown to love the Yankees as much. I was lucky enough to have a job that afforded me a lot of international travel but was there was still a lot of the US that I've never seen.
Now that I'm nearing retirement, my focus is shifting to my bucket list.
There is plenty on that list, but one that I was really eager to do was these baseball trips as it combines two of my favorite things , baseball and travelling (and food and beer,etc.)
The title of this site , My 7th Inning Stretch, is kind of a metaphor.
Yeah, it’s about my baseball roadtrips – but it’s also about being a man of a 'certain age'. In a baseball game, the middle of the 7th is a point where most of the game is over – so you get out of your seat to stretch, sing and maybe reflect on what’s happened in the game so far and what you'd like to see happen the rest of the way. Although it’s almost over – some really good things may still be yet to come. Maybe the best moments of the game still haven’t happened yet.
So, I am stretching and reflecting like so many other guys my age. There are a number of things I am learning or hope to learn or am doing or hope to do.
And I feel this is a good a point as any to pursue these things. It is certainly never too late to learn and do new things. Even if it is the middle of the 7th inning.