Sunday, August 31, 2008
Today is the first of what will be many flights that help me accomplish my task of getting to all 30 ballparks in 45 days. I get up before 6:00 which is something I normally only do when I go deer hunting. OK, I actually have never gone deer hunting so I NEVER get up before 6:00. The 7:45 flight of LAX puts me in Oakland around 9:00 so I have a LOT of time to kill before the 1:00 p.m. start. After finally getting kicked out of the magazine shop for reading every magazine there without buying one, I head to McAfee Coliseum about 10:30 to find some A's fans. I end up at two amazing tailgates and sample the beer, brats and ribs along with other delicacies while also managing to interview a few of the fans for the movie. Mike- leader of tailgate number one- also gives me a free ticket and I join him and the crew in a luxury box! I am pretty tired from all the food and lack of sleep and actually doze off for an inning or so in a VERY comfortable chair. I do want to check out the rest of the stadium, so I say my goodbyes in the sixth and use my amazing security-dodging skills to sample a few different close seats during the last few innings. I take the $3 BART bus back to the airport and doze off before, during and after my return flight to LAX.
The best part about today is that it isn't yesterday and that I actually I have about 6 hours of sleep to get me through the day. The worst part about today is that I watch my Michigan Wolverines take one in the chin from Utah on opening day at home under new coach, Rich Rodriguez. I leave San Diego about 4:15 for the 6:05 game in Anaheim because I watch the whole football game. I arrive about 5:40 and talk to a few people before checking out the ticket situation. The situation is bad: there are a few single tixx available for the lowest price of $45. I am not interested. But then again, there are no scalpers and it would kind of suck if I missed this very important game....I wander around near the big helmet before a young lady asks if I need one. I get it for $10 and enter the stadium. Security is tight for the lower sections but I do my patented 'fill your hands with lots of crap AND put the cell phone on the ear' move to sneak past my security friend. I sit in the 12th row next to a very enormous man whose body spills over into my seat. Highlights include trying to pop a beach ball, seeing a suicide squeeze, getting invited in for free food at the Coors Light party in center field, getting my photo taken coincidentally by a Utah grad sitting behind me and the fact that enormous man is wearing deodorant.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
You truly have not lived until you drive through the Mojave desert in August with no AC after not sleeping for even one minute the night before. Today should be day 21 of the trip but in my eyes, it is still day 20 because I never went to bed last night. I sweat through my shirt as I head south on 15 for San Diego. Good things happened in Vegas. Bad things also happened there. I am glad to put it behind me. I am afraid that traffic will keep me from reaching the game, but fortunately it does not get bad until I actually reach San Diego. My AC also mysteriously returns when I pull into SD after returning from its 3 day vacation while I needed it in the deserts. I buy a bleacher seat and am pleased to find out it is 'Elvis Night' at Petco Park. The San Diego Friar is dressed to the nines in Elvis gear when I meet him on the concourse for this fabulous photo. About three different women stop me in the park to comment on my coral shirt. I need to wear this more often. The Padres lose but the Park is my favorite so far. The fans are laid back and the fish tacos delicious. I end the night (and extended day) with a few drinks in the Gaslamp District with my friend, Dave. I know it's time to go home when I start falling asleep as I walk between bars. I hate you Vegas- I hate you! The good news is I am halfway done- 15 parks down, 15 to go!
Friday, August 29, 2008
If I told you that Vegas was on the way to my next ballpark, I would be lying. Quite frankly, it isn't even close and probably cost me many hours and a few extra tanks of gas. No normal person would drive 900 miles for 13 hours -crossing through two time zones in the process- in one day by themself UNLESS the destination was Vegas. I get to Vegas about 9:00 after endless Texas, New Mexico and Arizona driving. Early on in the day, I realize that my AC is officially broken. I try to ignore this by pretending I am am auditioning for a play called 'Welcome to Hell' and sweat my way through 4 states. At some point in New Mexico I also realize my windshield is cracked. Being alone and bored, I also see the crack as a sign from God as it is in the shape of the number 7. The message is clear: I MUST play the number 7 in roulette once I get to Vegas. After checking in at the Rio, I head straight to the blackjack table, however, where I lose $300 in about 2 hours. I then take out another $300 - about 8 red bull and vodkas to the wind at this point- and stumble past a roulette table. I remember my vision from God so I put $30 worth of chips on number 7. The dealer spins... It lands on 7. I am stunned. I have just won $1000! God Bless America! I immediately decide that my good fortune must be celebrated with a lengthy visit to the Beautiful Olympic Gardens which has quite the nice foilage this time of year. About 5:00 or 6:00, I return to the Rio for more Blackjack and more winning. I write this post as the sun blasts through my window at 7:30. I have to be up by 10:00 to head to San Diego. Vegas is so underrated.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Do NOT let the Verizon commercials fool you about that 'network' business. As soon as I leave Houston, Verizon and its network abandons me opting to stay in comfy confines of Houston. GPS is not my friend today either as there is no network to connect with, so I actually have to use a map again and am NOT happy about it. A highight of the 600 mile drive is picking up a cowboy hat at a gas station and having air conditioning for approximately 75% of the ride. I arrive in Lubbock about 8:30 and head to my friend Chap's house, where I am staying. After some food at a good N'Awlins restaurant I play (and win!) in beer pong against 20 year-olds (2-0) and hit the Texas Tech bars for a night out we won't soon forget. I do need some rest, though, as I have an 850 mile ride tomorrow to a VERY special place!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"Broken air conditioner night" at Minute Maid should be the promotion tonight but instead it is Powerarde night. Bring a label from a Powerarde and get two tickets for $2. I don't think I have ever had a Powerade before and none of the shops near the stadium seem to sell it. I find a guy giving away two tickets and I let him know that the price is right. I try to confuse him and ask for $5. He does not bite. The foot long chili dog is the best of the trip and I hear the orange juice is killer, but I don't see any for sale. Highlights include getting a picture with The Little Pumas in centerfield, dropping my bottle cap on to the field by accident, sneaking past security to the 20th row and posing for another belly laugh shot (see above) in front of some very confused Texans. The good news is that Ron Jeremy seems to have fixed the AC in the Jeep. The bad news is that I think he used my Jeep for a movie shoot of his own this afternoon.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Here's some advice: NEVER drive from Dallas to Houston in the middle of summer in the middle of the day when your air conditioning doesn't work. Of course I am in denial about this (even though I am sweating profusely) until popcorn I bought yesterday at the Peanut Shoppe starts popping in my front seat. Damn it! The AC comes on for about 10 minutes halfway through the drive if only to taunt me: "I'm still here. I'm just making your life miserable on purpose. Goodbye." Oppressive heat then returns. I arrive at my friend Ted's apartment at 4:30 and immediately start two weeks worth of laundry and also shave the animal that has grown on my face. We find a mechanic who resembles Ron Jeremy and he agrees to look at the AC tomorrow. I pray that his skills under the hood are half as good as his twin brother Ron's are in the bedroom. We end the day with some good times (maybe not as good as our staged 'belly laugh' photo might indicate) at El Tiempo in Houston. I am pleased that the photo comes out at all as I cracked the LCD screen yesterday so every shot from here on out will be done blindly. As I write this post and prepare for bed, I check the business card from the mechanic. The name of the place is Ron's. I kid you not....
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I am going to write this post like an Old Johnny Carson routine. I'm really not going to tell you anything specific, but am going to throw a few things at you and you will have to guess. My apologies to Carnac the Magnificent.....No-line day at Six Flags over Texas, GPS plus Indian Reservation equal bad, 2 hours of 'sleep' at gas station, belligerent trolley driver, team security and local police and the ambush of Tim, 100 degrees in the shade, Peanut Shoppe and the hot cougar in Oklahoma, Marshmallow Coffee, Super 9 Motel, Batman & Wonderman & Tim, another broken camera, HoJo, lost driver's license and did I mention the ambush? I got in the game. That's all I can say with full certainty. I still have not been able to assess this day with a clear mind. I may never be able to.....Until tomorrow. P.S. I promise myself right here in writing that I will remember to check the time the game starts BEFORE I embark on my next 10 hour drive with no sleep in a rush to make the 1 p.m- oops- 7 p.m., start.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Starting the day with Waffle House is never a horrible thing to do so my Saturday begins in the plus column. Losing AC and satellite radio on the 4 hour drive from St. Louis to Kansas City is two in the minus column.....However, things quickly head back in the positive direction when I meet some rowdy tailgaters in the parking lot on 'Christian Family' night in KC. If drinking LOTS of alcohol and cursing like sailors before first pitch is the Christian thing to do, then this group should be sainted. They give me a beer and a free ticket to the game. Score another one in the plus side. I next stumble upon a Bachelorette party (automatic six on the plus side) dressed in Royal Blue who teach me the finer points of Hillbilly Golf. Maye is especially talented and talkative fun to stand next to....By the time I meet my new rowdy friends in section 138 in rightfield (I had ACCIDENTALLY been sitting in 128 for two innings.) the good times are rolling. One guy yells something quite Yankee-bleacher-like, but is quickly shushed by a friend due to the abundance of Christian families within 20 feet of him. I leave in the fifth to grab a seat (given to me by Mike from group one) to sit 10 rows behind the plate. Great view! I actually think I sat in the same seat 10 years ago! With the Royals comfortably losing to the Tigers in the 8th, I leave. I am determined to hit Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q first, though (where I am writing this now.) The Ribs and service are unmatched. I'm off in a few minutes for a LONG drive (550 miles or so in 13 hours with some sleep (I hope) factored in) to Arlington, for the Texas Rangers tomorrow afternoon....Until then.
I pay $30 to get in as game time approaches just because I am a little nervous about ticket availability. I ask a woman at concessions what the house special is and she tells me to get the nachos grande. Well, if 'special' means stale chips, grade D meat and cheese that would make cheez whiz a champion in international competition, she nails it with these beauties. For the $8 I pay, the nachos should be served to me by one of the scantily clad girls who throw t-shirts off the dugout in the 6th inning. The good news is I get to see this t-shirt toss up close and personal as my friend's friend, Morgan, meets me on the concourse after the second inning and takes me to his seats in the SECOND ROW behind the Braves dugout! Morgan and his insanely fanatical friends are in town for two Bruce Springsteen shows and have decided to catch the Cardinals as well. From the second row I see the Cardinals thump the hapless Braves 18-2. Highlights for me are yelling 'Larry' as Chipper Jones walks off the field every inning, flicking a beetle in to the Braves dugout off the guy's back in front of me, staring at the girls as they throw t-shirts and running into the guys I interviewed in Cincinnati outside Busch Stadium. My seats are amazing, but nothing beats 'Patty O's' after the game. I feel like an intruder at a woman convention and dance the night away with endless women at the bar just steps from the new Busch Stadium. I grab a brat from the bar but the Miller Light's cloud my memory as to its taste. When you are drinking and get hungry, of course, slapping a a handful of snausages between two seat cushions and adding some 10w40 constitutes delicious. Next up: Kansas City. PS...The stadium is very cool.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
It's my last day in Chicago so I guess I should check out that place they call Wrigley Field. I think of skipping it, but I hear it's pretty cool. OK, it is very cool. Even though I visited 10 years earlier, I definitely am looking forward to coming again. I hit some snafus on the train ride over, but still arrive just after twelve. I am amazed how many tickets are for sale. It seems every other person I pass is selling tickets. I interview some old timers and take lots of photos. A local woman takes a photo of me (photo on blog). She has good camera skills but needs a dollar for the bus. Even though I know needing a bus ticket is just a line to get money, I help her out as this is the best picture taken by a stranger yet! Eventually I buy a ticket from a scalper for $7 under face value at $25. UNDER face value at WRIGLEY! Wow! I'm supposed to sit in the tier reserve but end up dodging an usher and sit about 20 rows behind home plate. I buy a couple of calzones from Connie's Pizza and boy are they delicious! The Old Style goes down like Poland Springs after a 10 mile run so I really keep that beer guy working hard. Carlos Zambrano pitches well and also blasts a homerun. This guy is a beast! Kerry Wood saves the 3-2 game and I fight the crowds back to the 'El'. The train ride is never-ending but I finally get back and pack up my stuff to head south on 55 for St. Louis. My parting thought about 4 days in Chicago is that A LOT of people there look like Al Bundy. Even some of the women....
I originally planned to go to Wrigley today but decided both the Jeep and myself needed a day to catch up and recharge. I get a haircut to start off the day and then take the Jeep to the Jiffy Lube on West Higgins Road. Of course I want to get out of there for under $30 but my windshield wipers are broken and the oil filter looks like a smaller version of the mattresses we slept on in my fraternity house (picture something not clean), so I have to spend a few dollars. The guys at Jiffy Lube are great so I'm giving them a shout out here....My oil, on the other hand, is not great. Apparently I have waited a little longer than the recommended 3000 miles as it's more like 6000 according to the receipt I find in my glove box. I ask the technician below the Jeep to describe my oil, he responds, 'filthy'. Well, truer words have probably never been spoken. I have a LOT of driving ahead in the next few weeks and with 145,000 miles on it, the Jeep needs every bit of help it can get. I spend the rest of the day working (yes, I do work) and then head downtown to meet and stay with my friends, Josh and Danit. Next up: Wrigley Field.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
As I pull into Milwaukee my first thought is of beer. My second thought is of 'Laverne and Shirley' and 'Happy Days'. I start to sing both theme songs to the best of my recollection as I pull into the expansive parking lot at Miller Field. I interview some locals who are very excited about the team. I poach a delicious brat from a tailgate and am informed that tonight is 'Fonz' night and that he and other Happy Days/Laverne and Shirley characters will throw out the first pitch! I eagerly enter the park and almost knock over a woman trying to get my free 'Fonz' baseball card. I am just in time to see the Fonz throw a strike! I pick up a brat at Gorman's Corner and meet my friend Joel. I try to order a Coors Light but for some reason they are unavailable at Miller Park. We walk around the concourse taking in the sites before sneaking down about 20 rows behind the dugout. Other highlights are a photo with a Milwaukee-loving Pat Morita cutout, stealing a 3 year old kid's foul ball (OK, I just borrowed it), and reminiscing about eating my brats.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I take the train down to U.S. Cellular Field from my hotel by O'Hare airport. I interview some great people outside the stadium (including the lovely ladies in the photo who I ran into again here in the stadium!) before picking up a single ticket at the window. Of course I don't sit in my assigned seat but instead settle behind the Seattle dugout about 20 rows up. I come the closest I ever have in my life to catching a foul ball, but was one row away and two seats over. If I can catch a foul ball on this trip my life will be complete. Really. The White Sox fall behind 3-0 in the first but erupt for a big win. The fans act like they just won the the World Series. The Italian Sausage from Eddie Collins' Brats and Sausage is even better than Grandma used to make!
Monday, August 18, 2008
I did not get to bed until 3:00 but am up by 7:00 for the trip to Cincinnati. I arrive about 12:30 and buy a ticket for $5 from a scalper. I interview people and some nice guys from St. Louis give me a ticket in section 115 for free. I'm pretty close to the field and get to see Volquez and Lohse pitch. Both pitchers throw at each other which is kind of funny. The park is beautiful and the river views breathtaking. The Reds break it open and I enjoy some fantastic Skyline Chili for Lunch. I also take a picture in some pretty cushy seats that a lucky family won for the game! The Reds win and I interview some old-timers outside the stadium before I head to the Jeep. A cop follows me around the city for 10 minutes as I try to find the highway. Damn you GPS! NJ plates in Cincinnati equal pulled over, but I do not get pulled over. Next up: The White Sox.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
We get up about 10:00 and run some errands. We head over to the park about 5:00. I interview some people including the peanut guy and a few old-timers. My battery is low and I forgot to bring an extra tape. Good thing I am so prepared! We find a CVS in downtown Detroit. (no small feat) where I haggle over the price of tapes. I had bought upper deck seats through the Tigers the other day, but it turns out they are in the last row. The last guy I interview on the street has some pull and gets us better seats. He does this the old fashioned way- slipping the usher a $20 bill. The view and comfort are top-notch! Comerica Park is beautiful and I especially like the Ty Cobb statue on the outfield concourse. I forget to eat because I am consumed with our very cushy seats and the beer. If anyone knows how the food is in Comerica, please send me an e-mail.
Next Up: Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I haven't been to an amusement park in a long time and I like to be amused. I do some work first then head to Cedar Point to meet a college friend, Barney. We ride the coasters and eat some bad food. It's a great time. The Top Thrill Dragster- CP's most famous ride- is insane. The belt on my shorts breaks from the force of the ride (not the hot dogs I have been eating I hope)- so I know it's intense. It was definitely worth the wait! I leave about 7:30 to head to Detroit in preparation for Saturdays game against the Tigers. I arrive at Larry's house about 10:00. We order some pizza and then head out for a beer. Both of us start yawning. I am also limping from sprained ankle and chaffed legs from walking the amusement park. I am too old for amusement parks and for stepping in potholes.
I leave Pittsburgh first thing and get to Cleveland by 10:30. I spend a few hours at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sprain my ankle stepping in a pothole on the street. Damn you Cleveland! I check in the Hyatt at two and spend the afternoon getting work done. A lot of people wonder how I can do this trip for six weeks. Fortunately I have my own business in which I can work from the road MOST of the time. So during the days I will edit my video projects, check e-mail, make phone calls and try to keep things going until I get back! I have other videographers that film for my company so there are jobs going on while I'm away as well. I get to Progressive about 5:30. I talk to some people outside the stadium and meet my web designer, Jason, at the game. He secures two lovely ladies for me to interview. They know nothing about the Indians. I interview them anyway. We get great, free seats from Indians- 4th row! We drink a few beers and eat a brat and some local custard. I am back to the Hyatt by midnight. Long day! Next up: Detroit's Comerica Park.
We wake up early in Rhode Island but not early enough. I fight traffic back to NJ to drop Mark off. GPS saves the day by getting me out of stand-still traffic! I have almost all of my stuff for six weeks at my parent's house. It takes me almost 3 hours to organize and pack for the trip. I am WAY behind schedule when I leave for Pittsburgh about 3:00. I don't get to Pittsburgh until about 8. It's the fifth inning already and I don't have a ticket. I argue with a scalper but pay $5 to get in. I ask the scalpers if I can interview them for the documentary. They pull out a knife and I take that as a no. I buy $1 hotdog and $2 pizza from the kiddie concession stand. I tell the people I buy them from that the food is for my son. I eat both as I walk away. I meet my friend, DeFrank, and his friends in outfield. I get photo with Pirate as well as some photos of the monuments that are on the concourse in the outfield. The pirates win and Jolly Roger Flag goes up. We have a few beers at bar across street- IC Lights- the local favorite. I spend the night at DeFrank's childhood home within the city limits.
Next up: Cleveland and Progressive Field.
I get some work done and run some errands in RI before game. I ruined my digital sill camera before the game at Shea yesterday as rain leaked into the Jeep and onto the dashboard where I had it set. I buy a new one at Staples and also make cards to pass out to people I meet with movie and blog names. I decide to call the blog 'BallparkTag.Com'. It has a nice ring to it and since I won't be spending six hours at each park- sometimes just an hour- my stops will sometimes be to 'tag' the park and leave. My primary purpose is to get to each park and watch at least part of a live game. I also want to try some of the local food, interview fans and check out the unique things that each park offers. I leave with Mark close to 4:00 for Fenway and we get there close to 6:00. I hate the Red Sox. I find a meter and don't have change. Fortunately I offer a homeless man who looks like Big Papi $3 for eight quarters and we both are happy. We don't have tickets either. It's raining off and on as I interview a few people. Still no tickets. I really hate this team. We get in line hoping to get tickets from those who did not sell on Stubhub. At 7:45 we get two standing room seats. It's 10-0 Sox already. I hate the Red Sox even more. We sit instead of stand. Great seats but very small. Texas actually comes back and pulls ahead 16-14 at some point. I am very happy. Boston wins 19-17, though, on a 3 run-HR by a jerk whose name rhymes with Dookalis. Most runs scored every in AL game. I hate the Red Sox. Did I mention this?
I get pulled over again on way back to RI. I'm not sure why, but I don't get a ticket. Not a good way to start the week and trip!
Next up: Pittsburgh's PNC Park.
We are up at 7:00 and on the road by 7:30 to get to NYC. I have lots of errands to run before game: take my dog to daycare, pick up new contact lenses and deposit some checks! Hail and rain make me think game might not happen. I can't afford for even ONE game to be canceled. That's how tight my schedule is to get to all 30 in 45 days! Two hours before the game it is pitch black and hailing. Perhaps I should quit right now. We show up at Shea and it's still raining. I interview people in the rain. I buy tickets for $5 each as the Mets have a special promotion today. I am with my brother for a few days, and he is a HUGE Mets fan. We settle in seats MUCH closer to the field! The Mets blow 4-0 lead and lose to Pirates. My brother is NOT happy. The other Mets fans are ready to jump off a bridge. I am a Yankee fan so I smile inside. I run some more errands in NYC and pick up my dog, Sammy. We head to Rhode Island to stay with friends Janell and Drew, who will also be taking care of him while I am away. Next up: Fenway.
I leave Philly at 8 a.m. to drive to my parents in NJ. I actually have a wedding shoot in NJ today, which is fun. We do a same-day-edit, which means we edit some of the footage from the day and show it during the reception as a surprise! I own a video production company in NYC focusing on special events like weddings and corporate parties so I'm used to having a camera in my hand. Making a documentary should fall right into the skill set I already have!
I get pulled over on the way home from the wedding for suspected DUI. I wasn't drinking at the wedding, so no ticket....So I guess being tired and driving on a rural road late at night is a bad combination!
I stay until 4:30 packing and getting work done.
Today is day one of what I hope will be 45 days cruising the country and visiting all 30 MLB ballparks. Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, right? Well, not exactly. I did the same trip 10 years ago in the same 1997 Jeep Wrangler. This time the route will be different as will many of the parks, but hopefully not the result. In 1998 I did make it to all 30 in about 7 weeks- barely- and am ready to do it again. This time I will make a documentary appropriately titled "Twice-in-a-Lifetime". Please buckle up and enjoy the ride with me!
I live in NYC but spent the past week in Delaware with a friend on a vacation planned LONG before the ballpark trip. The ballpark trip has been been in mind for over a year but really didn't come together for sure until about mid-July....We arrive in Philly about 4:00 and check in the hotel. We get to the ballpark about 5:30. I talk to some REALLY fired up Philly fans for the documentary. Many complain about the team EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE IN FIRST PLACE! This is going to be pretty good! We buy tickets from a scalper at 7:15 for $20 over face value because I hear a guy say "we only have a couple left." It would pretty much suck if I didn't get in the first game on this trip! The plan right now is I'm pretty much going to show up a most parks without tickets. This should make things a little more interesting....The people we are sitting next to sold the tickets we bought to scaplers for $20 BELOW face value. God Bless America! This is my first time at Citizens Bank Park and it lives up to the hype! There are many highlights but the amazing crab fries from Chickie and Pete's really stand out as does the cool area in the outfield for fans to hang out....
Next up: Shea Stadium, NYC.