Back home—a little late

Yes, I know I’m a little late getting to this post. As I was preparing to leave, I was told by some of my co-workers that I might just decide to stay in Toronto and never come back. If you’ve been following my process solely through this blog, I certainly can’t blame you if you’re beginning to speculate that this is what happened. Well, I did, in fact, go home the day following the Blue Jays game and returned to the grind of the work-a-day life the day after that. There are a number of reasons I have not written to put a finishing touch on this trip. The most mundane and obvious being that I’ve been busy having returned to a job that is not physically taxing but emotionally and creatively draining.

But it’s something more than that. After returning from a foreign country, it seems to be expected that I say something really insightful about the differences; either in the people, the landscapes, the food, the culture, whatever. That’s what’s been eluding me. I don’t want to say that there’s nothing different between Canadians and Americans—it’s just been very hard to find any sort of broad-brush generalizations, and while I was certainly perceiving that there were subtle differences, it’s been very hard to find the words to articulate exactly what it was I was noticing. Yes, I did meet a few people who ended practically every sentence with “eh?” but quite a few more who didn’t. Canada has big cities separated by vast swatches of big, empty country. There’s a lot going on in Toronto, and a lot to do, but I don’t feel rushed the way I would in a comparably sized city in America. These are the things I tell people when they ask about my trip, and they work perfectly fine to occupy the time in the elevator to get to the 6th floor, but they hardly make compelling writing, and that’s why this post is—most apologetically—tardy.

Maybe I need more time to reflect on it. Or maybe I just need to go back, eh?


Unlucky Thirteen?

It might appear that I’ve been neglecting this blog, as the entire 2013 baseball season has come and gone with nary a post. Well, I haven’t posted anything for the simple reason that I didn’t have anything to post. A summer job kept me from any travel for the first half of the season, and difficulty replacing that job made me unwilling to undertake any significant travel since it ended. Therefore, this has been the first year since 2001 that I have not been to at least one Major League Baseball game and knocked at least one team off my list

This little setback does not mean that I’ve abandoned my goal. Either goal, really. I still intend to see a game at every Major League team’s home park and I still intend to write about the experience. I am still only three ballparks away from the first goal, and I must be approaching 10,000 words towards the second on this blog alone.

Well, I said it would be a short trip

I am back home following an obcenely early wake-up call, two booked-to-the-gills flights in seats that would have been perfectly comfortable for anyone two inches shorter than me. I’ve mentioned the “6 month rule” for writing nonfiction in an earlier post. I certainly did see enough in Atlanta that I will have quite a bit to say in February, but right now I need to let a lot of things settle. So, I think I’ll put a ribbon on this trip by sharing a few thoughts I was running through to keep from falling asleep on the jetway in Denver.

First of all, today is the 20th. It was August 20 of last year I departed for Baltimore. So, in one calendar year, I have been to seven ballparks. That means I have gone from being two-thirds of the way towards my goal, to being nine-tenths. I still don’t have any specific plans for next year, In fact, I’m not even sure if MLB has finalized the 2013 schedule. Since I am so close to my goal, I certainly do hope I’ll get a chance to finish next year, but there are enough uncertainties in my own future that I’m not sure how that will shake out.

Also, I’ve been thinking about other locations. For some reason, I don’t feel any driving need to get to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I feel like I need to go there someday, but not in the context of my current project. Along similar lines, I’ve been thinking more about the stadiums that have been replaced since I visited them, especially the new home of the Miami Marlins. I’m realizing that my goal of seeing a game in every city is more about getting to the cities themselves than actually seeing every stadium. I’m not writing reviews of amenities provided, ballpark food, or any other practical advice for other baseball travelers, rather I am using the fact that a place like Pittsburgh or Atlanta has a Major League team to force myself to go there and see Pittsburgh, or Atlanta… or, for that matter, Miami. I’ve been to Miami. I’m sure they’ve built a fine ballpark since I was there last, but I don’t feel any rush to see it.

Roundin’ third and headin’ for home

I’ve been crossing ballparks off my list two and three at a time for nearly a decade now, and while twos and threes don’t seem very impressive by themselves, they do add up. In my case, they’ve added up to twenty-six. This is over ¾ of the way towards my goal, and so, with the end in sight, it seems like time to make some definite plans. I’m rounding third and heading for home, should I slide, or go in standing up?

For the past five years, Major League Baseball has been holding an event called the Civil Rights Game. It’s a weekend of events to celebrate the history of the civil rights movement and the achievements of black ballplayers, culminating in a baseball game. This year’s game is going to be in Atlanta. It’s a game I’ve been vaguely interested in going to for several years now, and—oh, by the way—Atlanta is one of the four remaining ballparks. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Now, here’s something I did have to do a little thinking about: how I was going to get to the other three cities. I really like the model of the last two trips—fly out to the most distant city and then come back on the ground. I’ve discovered that one of the most highly-reccomended train routes in Canada is between Toronto and Windsor, which is right across the river from Detroit. From there, it’s a five-hour bus route to Cincinnati. I think it’s appropriate to end my tour in Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional baseball. I expect to make this trip sometime during the 2013 season. All these plans are tentative—for now.

Odds and ends

I realize I’ve been a bit aloof the past few days. Well, really more like a week. I arrived back home in the Duke City Wednesday afternoon, posted what I’d written in St. Louis the day before, and then promptly crashed. Since then, I’ve been otherwise engaged, most notably cheering on my alma mater New Mexico Lobos to a conference championship. However, I had a few little notes I wanted to pass along, things I saw on my just-concluded trip that I did want to share, even though they got left out of earlier posts. Continue reading

So, what’s next?

I’m home! I begin by making a note of a major milestone which I forgot to mention after the game in Cleveland. Before this trip started, there had been only three teams I had not seen at least once: Washington, Milwaukee and Cleveland. So, as of the end of the fifth inning on Friday (when the game became official), I have officially seen all thirty Major League teams!

I arrived in the Duke City yesterday afternoon, only 45 minutes late—which, by Amtrak standards, is almost like saying “on time.” Obviously, I have decided to end my tour in Cleveland. To continue on in the same fashion I have been going would require me to have another overnight travel day, arrive in either Toledo or Detroit at 5 or 6 in the morning, and wander the city sleeplessly until I could check in somewhere. While it is something that’s not beyond the abilities of my body to handle, I find it is important to remember that this is, after all, a vacation.

I’ve made a major dent in the number of teams I still need to see at home this year, but I’m still not done. I have no specific plans, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about how I go about things, or what I still want to do. So, I’ll address the thoughts I had, discussing the teams in alphabetical order:

Atlanta: I wasn’t sure I wanted to even go at all. I’ve had many of the same concerns about the Bravos as I had about that team that plays in Cleveland. Put bluntly, Wahoo needs to go (and it appears he’s being phased out), and so does the Tomahawk Chop. But, since I’ve been to Cleveland, I guess there’s no reason to put off Atlanta any more. If I get to thinking that this whole ballpark tour dealie doesn’t mean anything unless I see all the current ballparks¹, I suppose I can try to get back to Miami on the same trip…

Cincinnati: I know I need to get there. There’s no event or specific attraction I know of that will have me in town anyways, and as far as I know, I don’t have any family there. But these concerns didn’t keep me from going to Pittsburgh, now did they? Maybe I tie it in with St. Louis somehow, but I’m not really sure. Rechecking the map, the two cities are not as close together as I had them in my mind’s eye.

Detroit: See Toronto, below.

Milwaukee and Minnesota: It’s very convenient that these two are right next to each other alphabetically, as they also make a very nice match geographically. And what also works geographically with all that is Omaha, home of the College World Series. While I was in Texas, I went to see the Longhorns in an NCAA tournament game. Seeing the passion that town has for college baseball has convinced me that I’ve gotta get out to the CWS sometime.

St. Louis: I wanna see them play the Cubbies. That’s all there is to it. I want to go to a real rivalry game, and I’d have to repeat a ballpark if I go to a Dodgers/Giants or Red Sox/Yankees tilt. Do I find a way to continue on to Cincy after that? ¿Quien sabe?

Toronto: As I was planning this trip, my e-mail account got bombarded by advertisements, “See Canada by rail!” Of course, the thought that sprang immediately to mind, “the Blue Jays are in Canada.” I did check out the website, and one possible—and highly recommended—route is from Windsor, Ontario to Toronto. Windsor is the town just south of Detroit. Hmmm…

¹About those cities that have built new ballparks, or will have a new one soon. One will be the new home of the A’s in the Bay Area (if they ever get around to building one). I have family in the Bay Area, so I’m sure something will come up. Same story in New York, where I have been to “new” Yankee Stadium but not to the Mets’ new park, I’m sure something will come up to get me out that way before long. That just leaves the Marlins, and their new park which will actually be in Miami. I did not particularly like Miami the last time I was there—the climate is oppressive and the drivers worse—and the family friends who we went to visit the last time have since moved to Colorado. So, while I think one should never say never, I’m not going to knock myself out to get there.