The baseball stadium tour knocks it out of the park Reporter Patrick Bales talks about his quest to visit as much Major League Baseball as possible, including stops in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and Milwaukee.
1 / 4 Sunset from the general admission section of Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago during the Chicago White Sox game against the Seattle Mariners on Monday, August 21. Nine days, eight new 45s, seven states and provinces, six legs, five hotels, four ball games, three stadiums, two countries and one concert later, my feet are firmly back in my usual road spots. There really is no place like home. You may be wondering why I interrupted a perfectly good August for such a grueling run. The answer is right in the middle: four ball games and three ball fields. Like thousands of people across North America (and, as I found, the world), I started chasing the stage. But why? Why should you put 4,000 kilometers on a rental car? (It needed brake work before going out and needs it now.) Why spend a decent amount of money traveling through the Midwest instead of going somewhere exotic for probably half a dime? And why am I on this trip to watch a game at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums? That last part is what I’m trying to figure out. Let’s start from the beginning. A writer, left, sits next to a statue of “Mr. Baseball” Bob Uecker in the top row at American Family Field on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, in Milwaukee. | Patrick Bales / photo My earliest sports memories are of a baseball game – October 15, 1988, Game 1 of the World Series. Kirk Gibson steps up to bat and pushes himself into the history books with an improbable home run. As a six-year-old, I don’t know anything about it, but I know I’m in love.
My Los Angeles Dodgers fandom dates back to that moment. But I don’t know what Dodger Stadium is now, let alone where the other teams play. So that’s not it. I can’t tell you when my first baseball game was. It was at Toronto’s SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre), that’s for sure. It could have been against Milwaukee, but it could easily have been against Texas, Boston or Detroit. Maybe Cleveland or the Yankees? It was the early 1990s and there was a McDonald’s in the stadium. It was heaven on earth. This moment isn’t either, because clearly, why would I ever want to go anywhere else? It’s not the first time I go to another stadium either. Boston will face the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so I picked up tickets for game 4 in Detroit to cheer on my beloved Bruins. The night before, my traveling companion texted me that the Tigers had a game of the day against the White Sox that afternoon.
Our departure time had just been changed by about five hours. But this mission did not begin on April 24, 2014. Neither on July 24, 2018 (Los Angeles in Philadelphia), nor on July 12, 2019 (Los Angeles in Boston). Even if I count those four parks on my list, I think I can count them all before a night in Pittsburgh earlier this year. Once again my dodgers were in town.
Through the kindness of a good friend and her husband, I was shown remarkable hospitality at PNC Park. In this game, I was very fortunate to be on the field watching batting practice. I was within 10-20 feet of some of the best players in the game today: the incredible Mookie Betts, the rich Freddie Freeman (whose parents were both Canadian), and of course, the first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably the best. left fielder. ..the pitcher of his generation, Clayton Kershaw.
After batting practice was over, I started walking around the ballpark taking in the sights, sounds and smells around me. Then it hit me that all the stadiums I had been in before, each one had something that brought a smile to my face. In Detroit, it was a stark contrast between that “new” stadium and the renamed Rogers Center, which in the 20+ years since my first visit had become less heaven and more echoing concrete pit. Philadelphia smelled like I dreamed a stack smelled. And Fenway, well, it’s a dump, but it’s a historical dump and the center of a district that lives and dies with its teams. As George Will said, “Baseball is just a game. Really. And the Grand Canyon is just a hole in Arizona.
And this game is located in 30 unique locations with their own flaws, absurdities and shortcomings that make them the coolest places in the world for about three hours a day, 82 times a year. If the five I have seen so far can give me such joy just by being there at the same time as me, it stands to reason that the other 25 would do the same.
I have to see them all, I thought. Almost as soon as I got home from Pittsburgh in the spring, I started looking for roads.
What started as another trip to see the Dodgers (this time in Cleveland) turned into four games in three cities — Toronto at Cincinnati (twice), Seattle at the White Sox and Milwaukee, Minnesota — trying to get high. Thunder Bay to pick up my partner from his short summer vacation and return to Southern Ontario before the school year starts. It was a storm. But I was right.
Every place had something. In Cincinnati, I walked a lot around the stadium for both games and found that in a park that, like Pittsburgh, is on the river, it’s not a bad place to watch the game, but unfortunately without the PNC view.
In South Chicago, I took advantage of one of the better general admission deals, sitting in center field with a comfortable chair to lean back and rest my pint on the rim in front. with Milwaukee,