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Day 72 “The Cheap Seats!”

tigerI arrived at Clemson University about two hours before game time, the Tigers were taking on the “U” (Miami).  I was looking forward to the game since both teams were ranked in the Top 20.  I have found that college baseball in the south is a great venue with many knowledgeable fans who have no problem supporting their team, while making sure that the umpires and opposing players know that they are there!  As I pulled into the gorgeous Clemson campus, the love of sport was on full display, all the athletic facilities were in the same area, but they were not just “clumped” together. Each facility is spaced so that each has enough area, all have been nicely landscape. The vast green areas were complimented with water, the view blew me away. I instantly fell in love with this campus!  The football stadium was up on the hill surrounded by other campus buildings with greenery all around.  A short walk away was the baseball stadium which was surrounded by beautiful “grass” parking areas with a a river off to the left, lazily flowing it’s natural course.  I instantly felt my heart fill with Tiger Pride, what you say?  Clemson is a small university with about 15,000 students in a town of only 12,000 permanent residents but this place just felt right. I knew I would meet alum and student alike that were and/or are proud to attend this wonderful university. For some reason, I felt apart of it.

In the parking lots were many people tailgating before game time, tents were erected. People were walking all over.  I parked my car, approached a tent to inquire who and where I would find the best people to speak with about the fan experience.  The group of twenty something’s immediately told me that I should talk to the people down by the river; and, in particular the “Cheap Seats”.  Initially, I didn’t understand what they meant by the “Cheap Seats”.  I was excited to see all the campers and instantly thought of the experience I had at LSU.  At LSU everyone parked in RV’s and partied all weekend long as they attended baseball games. (I was told numerous times, “That was nothing.  You should come during football season”.)  Here it was the same type of setup but with a wonderful view incorporated into the experience.  Going back to my car, I selected a new place to park, under some trees, on the corner next to the river beside a large camper.  I approached a few guys to inquire about their baseball experience here, they immediately supplied me with a cold refreshment and explained to me about the “Cheap Seats”.  I was very excited to hear what they were about to tell me. I asked if I could profile them and they didn’t know what to say at first. There was a lot of their group who were down near the lake at that particular moment. And, some were on the lake which was near by.  A lady, who wants to remain nameless came into the area and was introduced to me.  She was  very confident and quite welcoming and she explained that tickets are hard to come by for the “Cheap Seats”, since there are only 40 issued. Now the section is referred to as “a suite”, she said with a chuckle.  She told me she would see what she could do to get me into the “Cheap Seats”.  She talked with another of the group and came through with a ticket. I was very gracious and blown away by her hospitality.

cheap seatsThe “Cheap Seats” is a mini-bus that was transformed into a tailgating spectacle of legendary proportions. This “legend” was started in January 2003 by Dave Topham, Frank Murphy, Bryan Griffiths, and 15 other Clemson students. The bus was equipped with a wooden deck on its roof, a classic Clemson paint job, plenty of lawn furniture and at times the occasional old couch to accommodate 20 comfortably, and, of course, a grill.  The students used to drive this “spectacle on wheels” to the baseball games and park it behind the outfield wall. At the time the wall was 10 feet tall, so they needed the height of the bus. Through the years, concerns arose of about safety. So, to stay in line with OSHA standards, the athletic department let them build scaffolding around the bus. The stadium was renovated in 2009, with the decision to incorporate the bus into Doug Kingsmore permanently.  Currently, the bus is situated behind the right field foul pole, it has aluminum decking built on top and around it.  This new addition can hold 40 easily. Behind the seating is a bar and grilling area for “tailgating” during the game. (I chowed down on some very good chicken and corn on the cob).  I was given a front row seat by the “Cheap Seat” patrons.  These were not just any old seats, these seats were from the old Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha (where the College World Series is played for the uninitiated). Someone said that have good “Karma”, another person said, “…and we need all we can get since we have never won a baseball national championship. We have been to the championship, but are holding second place for the most appearances without winning it” (Florida State holds the #1 spot in that category).

I was equally blown away by how beautifully manicured the baseball field was. It was so perfect the turf looked artificial, but greener and was REAL deal. Regular readers know I don’t like the artificial turf that Texas Tech and Texas utilize, I just think it takes away from the game.  John Scketa explained to me that Clemson has an unbelievable turf management program at the school.  He pointed out to me that a famous professor on the subject and volunteers helped to maintain the field between innings.  I spoke to John, who is retired from Clemson (26 years, 4 months, 9 days employed).  He was in charge of the fan experience at all the different sporting venues and explained how everything has evolved during the years.  “Years ago you couldn’t play the music the way you can today”, he said. He began incorporating that 10 years ago pushing the limits, since the fans really enjoyed this type of thing the NCAA. Then, school relented. (The old adage, “If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em!”)  One thing John says he was able accomplish was to always report the weather in Omaha, Nebraska, just to remind everyone what the goal was – Home of the College World Series.  I had a great conversation with John. If I write a book about this experience, I will share some of the boundary pushing things and inside jokes they did.

bugleI was pleasantly surprised that they throw the ball out to the right fielder between innings (great tradition and fan interaction), like they do at Southern Miss. I didn’t ask if I could do it, there wasn’t as much room for error like there was at Southern Miss.  I was not disappointed with how they treated the right fielder from Miami.  They, too, were on him from the get-go regarding his constant “priming and primping” of his uniform. These guys were not quite at the level of Colorado Mesa, but they were close.  Molly Schaefer told me of a time when Miami was in town a few years before.  One of their pitchers didn’t get along with their right fielder. He gave them all kinds of information about him, needless to say it was a very long and frustrating weekend for that player. “The more information we have the more dangerous we are”, Molly stated proudly.  I was chuckling most of the night at what was being said to the player. But, their cajoling was always in the spirit of the game, and I enjoyed it very much.  The “Cheap Seats” also wave this giant flag when they score a run.  I missed it the first time they scored since I was having a lot of fun and was taking a lot of notes. Soon after the missing the flag waving, I was in the correct position to hear the bugle player.  I was told that once the he was lubricated enough, I would get to experience this performance. Sure enough, towards the end of the game he was blowing the horn quite a few times. I loved it! I was also told that when he indulged a little too much you can’t quite make out what he is playing.

The players and coaches love the “Cheap Seats”. When they won the Super Regionals a few years ago, the players rushed the “Cheap Seats” to celebrate. When they reached them, the Champaign showers commenced, with the players climbing the fence and the party was on!  To view – click, You Tube video.  On this particular night Miami beat Clemson in 12 innings, 3-2.  I had a great time at the game and was included in another Clemson tradition. After the game, the fans and players sing the school song.  I walked backed to where everyone was camping and stayed up talking about my trip with all the wonderful people I met.  They were so gracious to me and made sure to feed me with the 12:30 a.m. taco making extravaganza!  I have to say this is one of my favorite experiences so far on this trip and I would love to come back again!  Thank you “Cheap Seaters” for sharing your experience with me, I will forever be grateful!! By the way, the “Cheap Seats” are no longer cheap. They are some of the most expensive seats in the stadium and there is a small waiting list to get them!  Also, like LSU, I was told to come to a football game to see how crazy it gets.

NOTE:  I updated by biography since I hadn’t really touched it in three months. Click here if you would like to check it out: “biography“. That will get you where you want to “look”.  If you have read it before, just scroll down and look for the update from this past week.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 182 “Saving Tradition!”

left fieldI have gained a very unique perspective during this trip, I have witnessed first hand what is happening at the ballpark all over the country.  What is working and what isn’t working.  I am understanding the business side of running a baseball stadium, why the majority of the minor leagues teams have a “baseball entertainment complex” in mind when they pursue and get a new ball park.  I know immediately which teams understand the word hospitality, which ones are working towards educating all of their team members and the ball clubs that have no idea what the word means.  Within five minutes of arriving I fully understand the entertainment I will be receiving.

I have not done a study and this is a total guess but I would say that 75% of the minor league teams have variations of the same “fan” experience, the stadium, the mascot, the routines between innings, the videos on the scoreboard.  A lot are incorporating the “bouncy” houses and basketball courts for the kids, throw in a water feature to run through, etc…  you get the idea.  I am not saying this is a bad idea, I actually like it, Martie Cordero from the Omaha Storm Chasers changed my opinion.  99.9% of baseball fans will never do what I am doing, they will just go to the local teams game and thus will think this is unique to their team.

With the minor league teams it has to be entertainment for the entire family in mind, the baseball game might be the center piece but most young kids will get bored after a half inning, they need additional entertainment so their parents can either watch the game or socialize with friends.  Ball parks have become part amusement park for all the different ages.  The more people you can draw the more money the team makes, it isn’t really about the baseball game, as one team President put it to me the other day, “Our fan isn’t going to remember how we did last July, like they do about the top club, bottom line is revenue generation”.  Get the fan hooked on the fun mascot and the great looking gear!

I won’t argue that it needs to happen in the minor league game, players I have talked to have stated that the winning feels different, you still root for your team but it is just different.  Most fans feel the same way, favorite players come and go during the season.  However, I feel there are venues that need to not cave to the pressures of the “baseball entertainment complex” mentality.  Places like Helena and Bakersfield, they need to continue to embrace what they have, improve where they can but not to forget about the traditional baseball experience.  There are many more beautiful minor league experiences that have perfected this, if you are ever in San Jose make sure to get to a Giants game, I loved the fact that they upgraded without killing the history, they utilized the old park.  Vancouver is upgrading but not tearing down what they have, they are trying different things before going the rout of a new place.

I have traveled around the country I have been able to see first hand that as a country we have gotten kind of homogenous in the majority of regions with all the Starbucks, Wal-Mart’s, Applebee’s, Olive Gardens, etc…  sometimes I look around and have to ask where I am because it could be Milwaukee or Seattle by the ubiquity of the stores.  I have talked about everything above for a reason; the best fan experience I have had at Mississippi State, the Left Field Lounge, is going to be changing.  It makes me sad, the Left Field Lounge (as goofy as this will sound) is breathtaking.  There has been nothing like it, Clemson and Southern Miss were similar.  The powers that be, probably lawyers and administrators, fearing a lawsuit and wanting more revenue have decided to present a plan that on its face is very nice, they came up with the “Left Field Lofts”.  As nice as this is, MSU will now become as sterile an experience as the rest of the teams that have created these clean and organized complexes.  Fans will still come and support their teams, LSU fans come to mind.  But what it does is take away from the tradition and independence of what these fans had.  Mississippi State fans love their baseball team and their allegiance won’t change, but it is hard for me to believe that their rabidity won’t diminish.

Clemson incorporated the “Cheap Seats” bus into their new field, it is a fun experience but it is not like it used to be, Southern Miss has the “The Roost”, to me they have the go to experience if things change at MSU.  The author John Grisham wrote about a time a player from another team stood in wonderment and was speechless besides mouthing “unbelievable” over and over when he first saw and was brought back to “The Left Field Lounge”, I had the same experience. Click here for Grisham’s story. I am an outsider, I am not an Alum, I understand the allure to something “new” but it will be the same experience with a slightly different twist of places all over the United States.  I would urge the “power” brokers to reconsider changing Dudy Noble.  Mississippi State has set all the attendance records in modern college baseball, I personally think that will change.  Fenway Park improved when upgraded, Wrigley Field needs upgrades, it can be done.  However, currently in my estimation there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way Dudy Noble is, we worry way to much about things that can happen, we then change them into sterile experiences…  The Left Field Lounge is one of the most authentic experiences I have ever been a part of, the MSU fans some of the most welcoming, I didn’t pay much attention to the game until the end, I made some friends that I still stay in contact with, I will come back to MSU no matter what happens.

I just want some tradition to be preserved, I was looking forward to bring some of my northern friends to MSU to witness one of the best spectacles in sports and to meet some of the most fun loving fans, it will be a harder sell without the Left Field Lounge…

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014″, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 73 “The Drive”

Yesterday, I went to the Greenville Drive versus the Lexington Legends game.  I decided to “keep book” since I was extremely tired.  I was up late with the Clemson fans, I slept in my car on the campus, my car alarm went off at 3:33 in the morning. I sprang up and hit my head on the ceiling, then struggled to fall back asleep which finally came at about 5 a.m.  When I final came to, it was about 9:30, I got up and said good bye to all the wonderful people I met the night before. They were up making breakfast (bacon and pancakes). I was still full from the 12:30 a.m. tacos. I was given a couple of “Cheap Sheets” t-shirts (I will wear them proudly, wearing one currently).  I drove around the campus and took some pictures of the football field. I wanted to see where they run down the hill, “called the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” Running down “The Hill” began out of practicality: “The football team dressed at Fike Field House, ran from there to the gate and down the grassy hill onto the field at the start of each game.”  This is also where Howards’ Rock is located. The players rub it before heading down the hill.

fluorI went to a Starbucks in Greenville and spent 4 hours writing up the story on the “Cheap Seats”. The time I spent at Clemson was such a fun story I wanted to make sure I did a decent job with it.  I am not making excuses but it is tough to do semi-decent writing every day. I usually publish my first draft, edited daily by Beth Chapman with a touch here and there making it flow a little better. She does this everyday, you don’t know how much I appreciate this. She makes me look like a good writer! So when I finally finished, I didn’t have much time before the game started. I rushed over to Fluor Field and was quite surprised at how awesome the stadium was. This is the home of Boston’s Single-A team. I don’t expect a lot from Single-A stadiums (Bakersfield is what I think of). But, this was one of the best at this level (so much better than the Triple-A Huntsville site). The Stadium had an old look but, in fact, was relatively new.  It was constructed of brick that looked like it was recycled, with condos and restaurants located behind the outfield that matched the exterior of the stadium. There was a mini green monster, the playing surface was in the same category as the Clemson turf (Clemson’s was still better).  There was a lot of kids and teenagers at this game.  I chose to sit in the left field grassy area in front of the kids play area (which was entirely fenced in, top also, good move since the little ones wouldn’t be paying attention to foul balls).

I tried tuning in the radio station that broadcast the games but to no avail. I decided to listen to music and “keep book”, it was actually quite enjoyable until a football game broke out!  Greenville won the game 21-6, three times they batted around and almost a 4th time. It was hard to keep up!  I was wishing I had Eggo with me to ask him some questions. My scorecard had all kinds of notes and scribbles by the end of the game. Sitting in the outfield watching all the kids dressed in their baseball attire, trying to persuade the players to throw a ball their way – was a lot of fun, also. I was wishing Larry, another friend and a photographer was there. He would have gotten some great shots of the kids reaching for the balls that were thrown their way. I loved seeing the hundreds of arms going into the air. How all of them would swarm after a foul ball. To me that is one of the best things about these games, the interaction with the fans and players.

My blog has been gaining in popularity lately and fun for me to see the “following”. I am grateful to everyone that have been reading and to everyone that has just begun to read my blogs. I am having a great time on the road.  I need to say that college baseball have had some of the most interesting fans. Colorado Mesa’s “The Pit” has been big supporters of mine they really have spread the word! Clemson fans really jumped on “the bus” the last couple of days, Texas the college and Texas the state were huge supporters before my interview there. “The Roost” at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg has jumped on and have been vocal.  Of course all my friends in the Milwaukee area, but a huge “shout out” needs to go to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin!  They have been unbelievable with their support, I love that place. I am so happy to be an Oredocker!  I am heading to a high school game tonight in Columbia, South Carolina, then heading over to Charleston tomorrow.  I try to plan out the trip 7-10 days in advance. My “map”, click here. to see the games. I will continue to search out great stories while I’m learning a lot about baseball, people that follow baseball, and how much people are more alike than they are different.

NOTE:  I updated by biography since I hadn’t really touched it in three months. Click here if you would like to check it out: “biography“. That will get you where you want to “look”.  If you have read it before, just scroll down and look for the update from this past week.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 198, 199 and 200 “What I remember…”

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I am happy to report that I accomplished one of the goals I had when I began this journey.  I wanted to get to a game in each of the continental 48 States. I complied a list of the first game I saw in each state and what I remember about the experience.

Alabama-AL Game 73, played April 21 in Birmingham. A Double-A MiLB game between the Tennessee Lookouts and Birmingham Barons. The Lookouts beat the Barons, 10-5. It was a day game and I got a home run ball!

Arizona-AZ Game 45, played March 25 in Phoenix.  A Cactus League Spring Training game between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers.  I met my buddy Jared and his family at the game.  The Giants beat the Brewers, 4-3.  The Brewers are my hometown team and of course my favorite.

Arkansas-AR Game 94, played May 12 in Little Rock. A Double-A MiLB game between the NW Arkansas Naturals and the Arkansas Travelers. The Naturals beat the Travelers in extra innings, 6-5.  The game finished about midnight and I had to drive about three hours and it started storming as I was running to my car.

California-CA Game 50, played March 30 in San Diego.  This was Opening Night of the MLB season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately the Padres beat the Dodgers, 3-1.  (I am a Dodgers fan…)  This was also my very first opening day anywhere.

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Colorado-CO Game 63, played April 12 in Grand Junction. A NCAA D2 college game between Metro State (Denver) and Colorado Mesa. Colorado Mesa won, 10-3. This was the first game of a doubleheader and I met “The Pit”, one of my top experiences.

Connecticut-CT Game 210, played August 25 in Norwich. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Lowell Spinners and the Connecticut Tigers.  The Spinners beat the Tigers, 7-3.

Delaware-DE Game 211, played August 26 in Wilmington. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Potomac Nationals and the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  The Nationals beat the Blue Rocks, 3-1.

Florida-FL Game 1, played February 14 in Port Charlotte. A NCAA D1 college game between the University of Auburn and Indiana State. Auburn prevailed 4-0.  This game was the official start of the Baseball in America Tour 2014. It was also Valentines Day!

Georgia-GA Game 75, played April 23 in Suwanee. A high school game between Johns Creek HS and Lambert HS. Lambert prevailed, 9-3, and at the time they were the top ranked high school team in the nation. I was walking around acting like a scout and I remember being impressed with Johns Creek catcher.

Idaho-ID Game 185, played August 3 in Boise. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Vancouver Canadians and the Boise Hawks.  The Hawks beat the Canadians, 3-2. This was a Sunday afternoon game where I got two foul balls.

Illinois-IL Game 132, played June 15 in Chicago. This was a MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. The Royals beat the White Sox, 6-3.  It was a Sunday afternoon game, I was tired from the day and night before in Milwaukee.

Indiana-IN Game 101, played May 19 in Evansville. A high school game between North HS and Mater Dei HS both of Evansville, a rivalry game.  Mater Dei beat North, 7-3.  This game was played at Bosse Field, one of my top stadium choices.

Iowa-IA Game 141, played June 23 in Des Moines. A MiLB game between the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Iowa Cubs.  The Cubs beat the Isotopes, 4-3.  I was tired and it was a day game. There was lots of kids in the stands from the local day care facilities.

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Kansas-KS Game 98, played May 16 in Manhattan. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Texas and Kansas State. Texas destroyed K-State, 12-0.  It was a no hitter, raining and I found a practice ball under the bleachers.

Kentucky-KY Game 102, played May 20 in Lexington. A MiLB Single-A game between the Hagerstown Suns and the Lexington Legends. The Suns soundly defeated the Legends, 11-3.  I was reading a book before the game near the bullpen and almost got hit by a warm up pitch that was overflown. The pitcher allowed me to keep the ball.

Louisiana-LA Game 42, played March 23 in Baton Rouge.  It was a college game between the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University.  LSU won, 2-1. I slept in Tiger Stadium parking lot and was amazed at the turn out for a college baseball game.

Maine-ME Game 154, played July 5 in Portland. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Portland Sea Dogs.  The Sea Dogs shutout the Rock Cats, 4-0.  I changed my schedule for this one on the spur of the moment so I could I could get Maine checked off the list. It was the first game of a doubleheader.

Maryland-MD Game 219, played September 3 in Baltimore. A MLB game between Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles won, 6-0.  This completed the goal of getting to a game in all of the continental 48 states during the Baseball in America Tour 2014.

peter gammons
Peter Gammons

Massachusetts-MA Game 152, played July 3 in Hyannis.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. The Red Sox beat the Harbor Hawks, 8-2.  I was very excited to be at this game; however, traffic was a nightmare! Loved the atmosphere of the game and it is one of my top experiences.

Michigan-MI Game 133, played June 16 in Detroit. A MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers. The Royals beat the Tigers, 11-8. I remember sitting in the last row behind home plate on a beautiful night for baseball. I had a great view of the city.

Minnesota-MN Game 117, played June 2 in Mankato.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Wilmar Stingers and the Mankato Moon Dogs.  The Moon Dogs won handily over the Stingers, 10-2. The night was cloudy and I enjoyed a fish fry at local bar even though it was Monday. And, a plus of the day, the waitress was very attractive.

Mississippi-MS Game 72, played April 20 in Hattiesburg. A NCAA D1 game between Louisiana Tech and the Southern Miss University. I was treated like a “Rock Star”, I was interviewed on the local TV station and I got to meet Hall of fame punter Ray Guy. I had a great time in “The Roost” on Easter Sunday.

Missouri-MO Game 99, played May 17 in Kansas City. A MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. The Royals won in a great pitchers dual, 1-0.  The pitcher for KC was perfect through 6 2/3 innings and I also got to meet the KC Super Fan.

Montana-MT Game 170, played July 20 in Billings. This was an American Legion game between Medicine Hat (Canada) and the Billings Scarlets.  Billings hung on to win the game, 9-7.  It was the first game of a double header and I was interviewed by the local newspaper.

Nebraska-NE Game 136, played June 19 in Omaha. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Texas Christian University (TCU).  Ole Miss won over TCU, 6-4.  This was at the College World Series. I changed my schedule to come early to the CWS and I had a Press Pass for the next day.

Nevada-NV Game 56, played April 5 in Las Vegas. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Las Vegas 51’s.  The Grizzlies scored 7 runs, with two outs on the board, in the top of the ninth to win, 8-6. This was Opening Night for MiLB. The Wisconsin Badgers got beat by the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

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Press Box at CWS

New Hampshire-NH Game 212, played August 27 in Manchester. A MiLB Single-A game between Harrisburg Senators and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The Senators beat the Fisher Cats, 9-6.  I was interviewed during the fifth inning by the Fisher Cats play by play announcer.

New Jersey-NJ Game 205, played August 22 in Lakewood. A MiLB Single-A game between the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Lakewood Blue Claws. The Blue Claws had a shutout over the Shorebirds, 4-0. This day got switched around. I was suppose to go to Montclair, but changed it to Trenton since it was closer. When I arrived, I realized they were out of town, luckily Lakewood was close by and playing at home.

New Mexico-NM Game 66, played April 14 in Albuquerque. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Rainiers were triumphant, 8-6, over the Isotopes.  I remember having my first funnel cake made by the great ladies on the third base side, along with being impressed with the guy making Banana Foster behind home plate.

New York-NY Game 151, played July 2 in Utica. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Elmira Pioneers and the Utica Brewers. The Pioneers defeated the Brewers, 4-0, in a rain shortened affair. I was interviewed by the local news.

North Carolina-NC Game 106, played May 23 in Charlotte. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Charlotte Knights. The Indians hammered the Knights, 15-6.  The stadium was new and beautiful. I was also interviewed by the local news.

North Dakota-ND Game 122, played June 7 in Fargo. This was an Independent Professional league game in the American Association between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Fargo Morehead RedHawks. The RedHawks outlasted the Goldeyes, 4-2.  I was surprised at the size of the crowd for the game and there were lines of fans because it was “Jersey” night.

Adam and Anthony
Adam and Anthony

Ohio-OH Game 108, played May 25 in Cincinnati. A MLB game between the St Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.  The Cardinals defeated the Reds, 4-0, behind a great pitching performance by Adam Wainwright. Charlie Sheen was at the game and I was interviewed by ESPN in front of the stadium.

Oklahoma-OK Game 95, played May 23 in Oklahoma City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Colorado Sky Sox and the Oklahoma City RedHawks. The RedHawks beat the Sky Sox, 1-0. It was a day game and I was interviewed by the play by play announcer for his pregame show. The stadium was packed with school children.

Oregon-OR Game 179, played July 28 in Salem. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Eugene Gems and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Volcanoes defeated the Gems, 5-3.  I sat on a picnic table near the bullpen on the third base side. I was impressed with the amount of merchandise in the team store.

Pennsylvania-PA Game 149, played June 30 in Erie. A MiLB Double-A game between the Akron Rubber Ducks and the Erie Sea Wolves. The Rubber Ducks destroyed the Sea Wolves, 9-1. I sat in the Press Box, “Geeked the Game” and parked directly across the street.

Rhode Island-RI Game 214, played August 29 in Pawtucket. A MiLB Triple A game between the Syracuse Chiefs and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Red Sox beat the Chiefs in a close game, 2-1.  I gave blood before the game.

South Carolina-SC Game 78, played April 26 in Clemson. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Miami and Clemson University. Miami beat Clemson, 3-2.  I sat in the Cheap Seats and camped out on campus with a great group of people.  We had late night tacos. One of my top experiences.

South Dakota-SD Game 167, played July 17 in Sioux Falls. This was a Independent Professional league in the American Association between the Laredo Lemurs and the Sioux Falls Explorers. The Lemurs squeaked out the win over the Explorers, 1-0. I was interviewed by a local tv station and by the play by play announcer.

Tennessee-TN Game 76, played April 24 in Chattanooga. A MiLB Double-A league game between the Birmingham Barons and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts outlasted the Barons, 5-4. The stadium was on top of a hill, with an outside escalator and there was pollen on everything!

Texas-TX Game 43, played March 23 in College Station. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Florida and Texas A&M. Texas A&M wins over Florida, 4-3. It was a chilly windy Sunday afternoon game and the students kept yelling something when the Florida catcher patted the pitchers ass. (“You need a cigarette?”)

models

Utah-UT Game 61, played April 10 in Salt Lake City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Salt Lake Bees. The Grizzlies hammered the Bees, 11-4.  I remember that an outfielder slide head first into the wall and the ambulance had to come on the field.  Also, the walk back to the motel was a bit unnerving with meth heads and house everywhere.

Vermont-VT Game 217, played September 1 in Burlington. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Tri City Valley Cats and the Vermont Lake Monsters. The Valley Cats beat the Lake Monsters, 3-2. I loved the old stadium and the downtown area.

Virginia-VA Game 203, played August 20 in Richmond. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. It wasn’t much of a game the Rock Cats won, 7-0.  The stadium was built in the early 80’s. I sat in the Press Box and was treated exceptional well by Richmond.

Washington-WA   Game 174, played July 23rd in Yakima.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Bellingham Bells and Yakima Valley Pippins.  The Bells held on to defeat the Pippins 5-4.   I was interviewed by the play by play announcer.

West Virginia-WV Game 204, played August 21 in Princeton. A MiLB Rookie league game between the Greenville Astros and the Princeton Jays. The Jays held to get the shutout over the Astros, 1-0. This game started late because of rain and I was worried that it won’t be played. This was the only day I was scheduled in West Virginia. I helped take the tarp off the field.

Greg Brock
Meeting Greg Brock

Wisconsin-WI Game 110, played May 27 in Milwaukee. This was a MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers beat the Orioles, 7-6.  It was the first time I was home during the trip, I went to the game by myself.

Wyoming-WY Game 169, played July 19 in Casper. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between Sterling and the Casper Cutthroats. The Cutthroats pulled out the win in extra innings, 6-5.  I was interviewed by the local TV station and watched a lot of the game with the owner of the Cutthroats.

That is my ‘collection synopsis’ of memories at each game I attended, what I saw or did, in each of our 48 States. It took me ten hours to compile this; so, if you read all the way down to here – I “thank you!”

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Day 84 “Asked & Answered!”

April28th 1075I was in New Orleans last night and watched the Zephyrs crush the Iowa Cubs, 9-1.  There are times I am finding that I have become very obsessed with the game that I want to concentrate on certain things.  I purchased a stop watch yesterday and I was timing the pitchers from the moment they step on the pitching rubber to the moment they released the ball, about 9 seconds for both when they didn’t have a base runner. Timing was all over the board when there was someone on base. I did this ‘timed set-up with release’ for two innings. I know it is weird and it serves no purpose but I was enjoying it. I also was referring back to the book “Watching Baseball Smarter” on different things.  Needless to say, I was self absorbed and didn’t really talk to anyone, so I thought I would put together a list of frequently asked questions.

I get asked a lot of questions, since I am picking up a lot more followers lately. I am going to create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page on my website, but I figure I will utilize the blog to let everyone know about it!

  1. Are you independently wealthy, how can you afford to do this?  I am not independently wealthy. If that was the case I won’t be sleeping in my car as often as I do.  I am able to afford to do this trip since I don’t have a home or a rent payment, I packed all my stuff up and it is being stored at my sister Meg’s house and my ex-wife Jane’s storage locker.  In addition, I received large donations from Bruno Independent Living Aids, my brother Chad’s family and many small donations on my website.
  2. If you don’t have a house, where is your mail sent?  My ex-wife has been gracious enough to let me have my mail forwarded to her home.
  3. You AREN’T married are you?  I am not married nor am I dating at the moment. I like how it is assumed that I am not, that one always makes me laugh.
  4. Why are you doing this? This is a complex question and I don’t always know where to begin with my answer.  I suppose the main reason is that “life is short” and I am not getting any younger. I am blown away at how fast life has flown by since I graduated from high school. I think I’m like most wanting to make a mark in life, but I never really knew in what ‘occupation’, or how to accomplish my mark.  A lot of people just know and they go about living their plan. I was lost for a very long time. I am very much a “daydreamer”, but I let my fears and other peoples societal constraints dictate to me.  I wanted to fit in for a very long time, but I was always attracted to people that lived on the fringe.  When my Dad had his triple by pass it affected me. I didn’t like seeing my Dad that vulnerable. The thought of losing him never occurred to me because he always seemed young to me. I knew that one day, possibly I would possibly be ‘in his shoes’. Spending time together and our conversations about life, I knew it was time to start doing things that I “needed” to do.  That is the short answer. However, there is more depth to my reason(s).
  5. Are you a writer or journalist?  I am neither, but I do like to write. I thought it was painfully obvious, since my grammar is bad and I use to many commas. I have been told I have a very unique writing style, I know my sister Debbie really likes how I write.  My Mom said I was very good writer years ago.  I have always wanted to write a book (I think a lot of people do).  However, when I read what I write, I don’t like it most of the time or I don’t think it makes sense. I have learned that I will always be my own worst critic and I will never be perfect.  Writing is a process, I am trying to enjoy it as I go along. Some of my stuff will work and some won’t, it is what it is.  I have to say that I am blown away that people are actually reading what I have written.  I have to thank Beth Chapman for editing my posts, I usually post my first draft and she will go in later and clean them up a bit!
  6. What has been your favorite experience so far?  I have had so many great experiences, I can’t lump them together however.  My favorite story so far has been Day 43 “Who replaced Steve Garvey?”.  The most fascinating person I have met has been Day 76 “Mr. Willie”.  The most entertaining experiences have all been at college games with my boys at Colorado Mesa Day 58 “The Pit”, at Southern Miss Day 66 “The Roost” and Clemson Day 72 “The Cheap Seats”.  I have enjoyed speaking to everyone that I have met along the way.  I think in the beginning I was learning and getting comfortable.  I will probably classify the stories when this is over. (check back these may change, I am only a third of the way through)
  7. What kind of car do you drive?  2004 Lexus ES330.  How many miles are on it?  Currently 185,000. How many miles have you put on the car this trip?  17,000 (as of May 9th).
  8. Do you have any kids?  I have one beautiful daughter Sami.  She is finishing up her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She wrote a very touching paper about me and this trip. I shared it before the trip started, click “My Daughters Speech”, for a fantastic write-up.
  9. What do you plan on doing when you get done? I have not given it much thought. Obviously I would love to continue with something in baseball, but will be just fine if that is not in the cards. I truly have no expectations about this trip or how it will affect my life after.
  10. Can I come with you?  I don’t have very much space in my car and besides I don’t think your husband will be to happy about it.
  11. Do you get sick of baseball?  No, I am getting more obsessed with it.  Currently reading: “The Knucklebook” by Dave Clark, “Watching Baseball Smarter” by Zack Hample, “The Physics of Pitching”, and Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook.  I have been reading some historical stuff also, learning to keep the scorebook properly, and tuning into to the radio broadcasts.
  12. Do you get scared sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots? In the beginning it was a little nerve racking but like anything you get comfortable.  I have met some very interesting people, so I am grateful for those experiences.
  13. Do you get lonely?  Yes, it can get lonely, especially when I am driving late at night and I wish I had someone to talk too!  I do get texts from a fair number of friends and family so that helps.  But during the day I am actually quite busy.
  14. Are you a Buddhist?  No, however I did go to India where I attended a 10 day Introduction to Buddhism retreat.  Even though I like a lot of things about it, I use what I feel benefits me and leave the rest. I believe we can learn great things from all cultures.

A question that has never been asked…

  1. What is your favorite music to listen to on this trip?  70’s music! There are some songs that get to me and I will sing along. Think Tommy Boy when they are singing “Superstar” by the Carpenters, that is totally me when  “Everything I Own” by Bread comes on.  I love the soft pop songs of the 70’s the most, I am no longer ashamed of it!  Oh!! If Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive” comes on you can bet I am all over it!  (I no longer like Tiffany, Rob Dwyer.)

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

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Day 133 “Outlaw Baseball”

I am sitting at a Café on Halsted in Chicago. I have already attended a Cubs game today and will be attending another one in a couple of hours.  After tonight’s game, I will get a jump start driving over to Toledo.  Parking was $30 down here, I was prepared to pay $20. When I pulled into the lot it said $10 so I thought I got lucky!  Well that was for only for an hour, after I argued with the kid he said “good luck dude, Cubs are playing a doubleheader and Pride Fest is happening, there is no cheap parking”, I paid the $30…

foggyLast night I was down in Joliet attending a Frontier League game.  The Frontier League operates mainly in cities not served by Major or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. The league was formed in 1993, and is the oldest currently running independent league.  Teams must recruit and sign their own players, which usually consist of undrafted college players or one-time prospects who have been released by their teams. Frontier League rules limit teams to three “veterans” (those with three or more years of professional experience), two two-year players and seven one-year players (those with at least 150 professional at-bats or 50 innings pitched). The other half of the 24-man roster is confined to rookies. Players cannot be older than 27 as of January 1. Pay in the Frontier League is minimal, as each team has a salary cap of $72,000 and the league minimum is set at $600 per month. Due to the low pay, players typically live with host families.

I was surprised at how well attended the game was. There had to be at least 4000 fans to watch the Joliet Slammers hosting the Gateway Grizzlies.  The Grizzlies dominated the game and won, 8-3, but the fans were into it and the stadium was very nice.  It was a Friday night and they had a great fireworks show afterward.  I have said it in the past, baseball has figured out how to entertain Friday through Sunday. They need to work on filling the seats Monday through Wednesday. Thursday is for beer drinking at most stadiums (Thirsty Thursdays).

Thursday night I was at another independent league, the American Association League.  There are a few of these independent baseball leagues. These professional baseball organizations are located in the U.S. and Canada. They aren’t operated in conjunction with either a MLB or MiLB team. Being independent allows teams to be located close to major-league teams without their consent. They have been around for many years and were once known as “outlaw leagues” due to their position outside the rules of affiliated minor league baseball.

What I like about these leagues is their independence from Major League Baseball. I think most fans of baseball view MLB as the final say on how baseball should be played and how it should be marketed.  So I recommend that you get out and experience some of this baseball “lawlessness”.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014″, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

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Day 62 “This is for Eggo…”

Last night I went to the Texas Rangers game against the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers won in dramatic fashion scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth after two were out!  The Mariners had this “one in the bag” but committed a very costly error on a underhand toss to second by the shortstop that would have ended the game. Same thing happened at Texas Tech the prior day. Dallas Baptist had the game wrapped up but made a costly error on a routine ground ball to third. Just goes to show that you have to have it “between the ears” to be successful in this game!

My set up for last nights game!
My set up for last nights game!

People that have been reading regularly know that I am struggling a little bit with writing profiles. I haven’t done them consistently for awhile. Yesterday I took the pressure completely off myself and decided to go to the game, get a cheap ticket, listen to the game on the radio while I kept “book”.  I have never listened to a game on the radio while I was at a game. My friend Brian Roberts told me he always does it. In addition, I have never kept score of a game while there, I didn’t see the point, the scoreboard had all that information. I have seen guys doing this for as long as I can remember at games (I thought they were baseball dorks, nerds, cupcakes).  Well, I wanted to experience a game from their perspective. I have kept “book” when I was younger at softball games and recreational basketball leagues, but I got a small stipend to do it.  In all my “dorkiness”  I purchased a game program, was given a pencil, I found my seat (nose bleed central) and tuned my IPod to the correct FM station. My IPod doesn’t do AM (that or I don’t know how to tune it in) I was relieved that the Rangers broadcast over FM.

I listened to the pregame show and liked what I heard from Ron Washington manager of the Rangers on what he was looking to accomplish in the game. Now I was going to pay attention to that, he said it was going to be a pitching duel between Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez. I could have told you that but as a “simple” fan and not knowing the Rangers intimately, I didn’t know that Darvish has not gotten any run support in his last 2 starts. When I say no run support, I mean the Rangers haven’t scored any runs while he pitched, a big NOTHING BURGER!  I made a mental note to “will” some runs for Yu.  I had to get myself situated in my seat, make sure things were dialed in and writing utensil was sharpened (was worried about how small the box was that you kept score in for each player, I write big, had to adjust). I wasn’t prepared for the first pitch, I hadn’t filled out my scorecard with lineups, I was going to do it as I went along since I didn’t have a good view of the scoreboard, it was to my right so I only saw it at an angle.  I had moments of panic initially because I forgot how to keep book.  The program gave some directions but for the most part you were on your own.

As the game went on and I was hearing what the announcers were saying on the radio, I got more comfortable with my book keeping skills. I became engrossed in the game, figuring out what to look for and checking up-coming batters.  I felt like I was in the “zone”.  I didn’t pay attention to anything that was happening around me, except when the fans started doing the wave, “amateurs” I thought to myself. I was becoming a professional baseball fan, “sit down” I wanted to say. Plus, the rude interruptions when they went to get their $1 hotdogs.  The Rangers didn’t think about guys like me when they planned that promotion!  I saw the funny looks, the goofy smirks, but I didn’t care, this game was all about me. I could tell the dude with the” hot” girlfriend how many pitches Yu Darvish threw last inning, that rookie Nick Franklin of the Mariners stuck out twice, once looking!  Yeah, I can see why guys do this. The game was flying by, but I was frustrated by the lack of space I was given in my program. I daydreamed about purchasing my own score book, one that I could get really detailed with. I loved the fact that I knew what a backward K meant (if you don’t know,  it means that the batter struck out looking, now you know).  Yeah, I could be a “score keeping cupcake” this was useful data, teams need guys like me. Reality set in when I realized that my friend “Eggo” knew how to utilize all this back in high school. He can quote stats inside, outside, and backwards.  I finally understand his enjoyment of it all.

I will definitely keep “book” again at a baseball game. I enjoyed it a lot. Listening to the radio announcers at the game is highly recommended, I loved every minute of it!  “Eggo”, I sincerely understand your love of tracking stats and keeping book. You probably know how to utilize the information more than I ever will.  To all the baseball “dorks” I have made fun of as I have seen you scribbling away at a game, I apologize. We are now brothers of the score keeping universe. My final thought, make sure that you have a three or four sharp pencils if you are going to attempt to do this saving one as a potential weapon in case the wave gets out of control and you can’t see the game.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!