Spring blossoms and the smell of fresh cut grass bring a lot of things to mind -- sunshine, winter thaw, rebirth. Spring implies newness, a welcome change from the dreary winters that leave many housebound for months on end. Spring is bike rides, walks in the park and cool breezes. For baseball lovers, the dawn of spring can best be summed up in four short words -- pitchers and catchers report. As any baseball fan knows, the announcement that these players have reported to their Spring Training parks means that the first pitch of the season is right around the corner.
The origins of the game of baseball are generally tied to two men -- Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright. While Doubleday is commonly thought of as the inventor of the game, it's Cartwright who was responsible for formalizing the game and shaping it into what it would soon become. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional baseball team. In 2008, the same sport that saw Ty Cobb make $40,000 per year in the 1920s, paid Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez $33 million and generated total revenues of more than $6 billion [source: Isidore].
Despite the blemishes put on the eye of America's national pastime in recent years with the bloated salaries and allegations of steroid use, it remains one of the top two sports in the United States, alongside National Football League football. But even the fan fervor of the NFL can't match baseball's diehards. There are stories of New York baseball fans who have refused to even watch a game since their beloved Dodgers were moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1957. We've heard of Chicago Cubs fan Harry Grossman, who at the age of 91 had attended more than 4,000 games at hallowed Wrigley Field. We've wept during "Field of Dreams" and rooted for pitchers on the opposing team who are vying for a no-hitter, just for a chance to see history.
Baseball has roots almost as old as its country of origin. This rich history is what fans are after when they visit ballparks to watch the boys of summer take the field each night. It's the same history that inspires some fans to achieve what seems like an impossible feat -- visiting all 30 major league ballparks in a single season. But not only is it not impossible, it's achieved every year by the most dedicated fans. We'll take a look at just how you can accomplish the ultimate baseball road trip.
Baseball stadiums have gone through some major changes over the years. The original stadiums, like most buildings of the day, were beautifully designed and for the most part, functional. Sure, there were obstructed view seats here and there and not every section had convenient access to restrooms, but they were cathedrals, monuments to the country's beloved pastime. As attendance and revenues increased over the years, many of the original stadiums were razed in favor of larger, less intimate stadiums designed by architects who, some might argue, knew more about building codes than batting averages.
It made sense for ballparks to become larger, but the design choices of the 1960s and 1970s didn't retain the classic look and feel of what makes baseball parks unique. The oddly shaped, charming ballparks of days gone by were replaced by circular behemoths with limited architectural value that did little to honor the game. Old favorites like Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park remained, but many others were lost over the years.
In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles made a change that would reverberate through Major League Baseball, when they opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This was the first of what would become a trend in new stadium design and construction, and a major shift in how professional baseball was marketed. Starting with Camden Yards, new ballparks became a destination for fans, eager to see modern amenities coupled with a classic look. Retro was suddenly in fashion in MLB and the design mistakes of the past were destined to be corrected, city-by-city.
Because of the new throwback ballparks, attendance increased dramatically and a new summertime activity caught fire -- the baseball road trip. Fans of the game were inspired to travel to as many of the new stadiums as possible and drink in the atmosphere that the new digs provided. Road tripping to cities, mainly along the East Coast, became a rite of passage for the most diehard fans. But this kind of fanaticism comes at a price. In 2009, the average cost of a MLB ticket was $26.74 [source: Brown]. If you want to go to New York to check out the Mets or Yankees, plan on spending $36.99 and $72.97, respectively. Factor in the league average of $5.86 for a small beer, $3.70 for a hot dog and $15 for parking and you're looking at more than $50. Then add on the cost of travel, food and lodging.
Now imagine trying to go see one game in all 30 ballparks in a single season, the ultimate baseball road trip. Can it be done? Yes. Fear not, baseball fan -- we'll give you some tips and tricks on the next page.
Ultimate Baseball Road Trip
So, you want to visit all 30 MLB ballparks in a single season? You better have some time, money and serious organizational skills. Let's assume that you'll want to undertake this challenge with a partner. Here's some advice -- choose wisely. If you're going to marathon through 30 cities with a friend or loved one, it's going to take you at least 40 days or so. Sixty days is more realistic, allowing you to avoid a breakneck pace that could lead to burnout. So pick someone who has an equally undying passion for the game and who you generally get along well with in close quarters for extended periods of time.
Now that you have your partner lined up, you'll want to start plotting your course. It's best to start this process as soon as the schedules are released in the offseason. Planning the logistics of this kind of trip is difficult. You'll want to avoid backtracking to make it as efficient and inexpensive as possible. That means carefully plotting out a geographical map that aligns with the baseball schedule. Obviously, showing up in Philadelphia when they don't arrive home from a road trip for several days only adds to the time and expense incurred. You'll want to arrive on game day or the day before at the earliest, with a day of travel built in for each city.
Luckily, there are a couple of Web sites that can help you during the planning process. ESPN's "Baseball Road Trip Planner" site and baseball-roadtrip.com both offer helpful tools to assist you in your quest. The ESPN site allows you to browse scrollable schedules by city or by league. Baseball-roadtrip.com will even plot your course for you if you input your dates and starting points.
If you've managed to establish your timeline and plan your route, the only thing left to do is to get to each stadium and buy a ticket. This means making the trip financially viable. Here are some tips:
- Rent a hybrid vehicle to save on gas costs.
- Try to hit games on consecutive days for teams within the same state.
- Avoid hotels and try camping -- book camp sites ahead of time.
- Have a backup plan for rainouts.
- Call ahead to team customer service departments -- letting them know what you're doing might get you some discounted or free tickets.
- Most stadiums have great deals on nosebleed seats.
- Like any vacation, plan for overages in your time and budget.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- "Ballparks of Baseball's RoadTripping." Ballparksofbaseball.com. 2009.http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/roadtrip.htm
- "Baseball Road Trip Planner." Baseball-roadtrip.com. 2009.http://baseball-roadtrip.com/
- "Baseball Road Trip Planner." Espn.go.com. 2009.http://proxy.espn.go.com/travel/features/roadtrip/index?teams=2764~2779~2780~2782~2763~2791
- "The History of Baseball." Rpi.edu. 2009.http://www.rpi.edu/~fiscap/history_files/history1.htm
- Brown, Maury. "Average Ticket Price Up 5.4 Percent in MLB. Yankees/Mets Skew Total." Bizofbaseball.com. 2009.http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3147:average-ticket-price-up-54-percent-in-mlb-yankeesmets-skew-total&catid=56:ticket-watch&Itemid=136
- Harkins, Bob. "Heaven, hell and the ultimate baseball road trip." Msnbc.com. May 28, 2009.http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/30878389/ns/sports-baseball/
- Isidore, Chris. "Baseball close to catching NFL as top $ sport." Cnn.com. Oct. 25, 2007.http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/25/commentary/sportsbiz/index.htm
- Michaels, Phillip. "Baseball Road Trip for iPhone." Macworld.com. June 8, 2009.http://www.macworld.com/article/140939/2009/06/baseballroadtrip.html
- Neel, Eric. "Nothing like a walk in the ballpark." Epsn.go.com. 2009.http://espn.go.com/page2/s/neel/030910.html
- Winn, Luke. "Baseball Road Trip." Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 2009.http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_blogs/baseball/road_trip/