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Day 17 “The King”

Pirates vs Phillies
Pirates vs Phillies

As I sit and watch the Phillies and Pirates fans milling about I am adding up the cost of the game, besides the gas, tolls, and time in the car driving; I spent $10 for parking, $14 for a berm seat, and $3.50 for a hot dog, it is hot out and I am thinking a fresh squeezed lemonade for $6 will be purchased at sometime during the game, for a total of $33.50.  I don’t know if this is reasonable or not, the day before I paid $10 for parking, $12 for a ticket for an outfield berm seat, $4 for a hotdog and $4 for water at the Twins spring training complex, $30…  I will need to continue to look for ways to keep the cost down,  $10 for parking has surprised me.

I have asked 2 people to talk to me, an elderly lady that is laying on a blanket sunning herself who just looked at me, as if to say, “get away”, I explain to her what I am doing, she declines politely by saying “no thank you” very softly, she annoys me and I know why, she is the first fan that doesn’t inquire further, she doesn’t even want my card, she didn’t validate what I am doing and it hurts my ego. I just stand next to her for 5 minutes and scan the area, I spot an older gentleman with a baseball glove on who has already gotten a batting practice home run ball, he is in his mid 50’s, I ask if he would be interested, he takes my card and said that he would but he doesn’t have the time since he works for the Phillies and has to go soon, he however inquires about this project and loves the idea!  I ask about the ball, he says tries to get 5 during batting practice and then he sells them after the game to fans for $5, he likes to make people happy he says, he has worked around baseball for years, he has to go, I start fretting, it is the first time I am rejected twice, I go to the back fence and watch some of the Phillies prospects work on turning a double play on another field, they do this for 20 minutes over and over, they are quick and smooth.

Mike Baker
Mike Baker

Mike Baker, 62, came up to me and inquired what I was writing about, he thought I was a scout or with the media, I have been getting that a lot, I explain what I am doing and he agrees to speak to me.  Mike grew up around ball parks, his Dad played competitive fast pitch softball for 47 years.  Mikes dad was Eddie “The King” Feigner’s catcher, a 4 man (pitcher, catcher, first baseman, and shortstop) softball team that would travel around the country and take on all teams that challenged them, the challenging team played with a full squad.  On February 18, 1967, Feigner appeared in a celebrity charity softball game against many Major League players. In the game Feigner struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Maury Wills, and Harmon Killebrew all in a row.

Mike came to the game on a whim by himself, he has been going to a couple of the other parks also thinks he will hit 15 spring training games this March, he moved to Florida back in May from Indiana, has a son, Jamie who played baseball at Eastern Illinois University when Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys was playing football there, Jamie was looked at by the Milwaukee Brewers but had arm issues.  In 1998 Jamie was at a try out in Tampa at the Yankees Spring Training complex and Mike got to meet George Steinbrenner.  He, like me, loves to be at the ball park, there is great energy here he says as he motions to all the people sitting and watching the game.  While we were talking he stops a Pittsburgh Pirate fan and tells him that the Indianapolis Indians are the Triple A affiliate of the Pirates and have brought the Pirates luck since they have been together, he said the same thing to me about the Milwaukee Brewers, they shouldn’t have left Indy, he chuckled.  He is/was a season ticket holder to the Indianapolis Indians, Colts of the NFL and the Racers, a minor league hockey team that Wayne Gretzky played on, according to Mike.

I was surprised when Mike told me he raised and raced Quarter Horses for 20 years with his ex-wife, he said one of his horses still has the record time in Indiana for the 1/4 mile, Miss Van Master set the record on June 13, 1981 and it still stands today, he shakes his head and says that he made a lot of money doing that… Today he trains himself and power walks 5 miles on most days, he proudly says he has lost 15lbs since May.  He also started the SMP Locating Company, with his brothers, the “M” stands for Mike and they are located throughout the country, the company locates and marks underground cables and power lines.

I complained about the cost of parking and he said that he parked at a local hotel and walked a mile to get to the stadium, he said I need to try that, I will next opportunity I get!  I ask why he is wearing an Indianapolis Colts hat at a baseball game and he laughs, tells me he got it from Ken Dilger, a former tight end who played for the Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who is also an acquaintance.  Mike has other connections to football, he is going to visit some friends in Melbourne whose sons are coaches for the Denver Broncos, they like to razz him that they have Peyton Manning now and look what he has done!

Since his dad played for “The King” his family got to go to a lot of different ball games, dad played 4 nights a week and traveled every weekend, in 1960 Mike witnessed Mickey Mantles 4th longest Home Run, it was hit at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, it came to rest 643ft from home plate on September 9th of that year, he remembers sitting on the 3rd base side of the stadium.  Mike grew up loving the Cincinnati Reds and used to go over to Crosley Field to watch them play, he excitedly told me about the time he got to see Juan Marichal pitch when the San Francisco Giants were in town.  He has seen Stan Musial play in St. Louis and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers.  He said he was lucky to have parents that traveled and when his mother passed away recently, he spread her ashes all over the places she loved; she loved clean rest areas so he made sure to spread some at those areas, he said with a chuckle.

Mike bought me a water on this beautiful afternoon for a ball game, I was very grateful, I could relate to why he was out at the ball park, the energy was exciting, people were happy!   Thanks for sharing all those stories Mike, I didn’t get them all in the post but I got a lot of them, hope I run into you again!

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 .  Please also share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

More Information:  Eddie Feigner; Ken Dilger; Mickey Mantles 10 Longest Home Runs; Juan Marichal; SMP Locating Service