|author: Ben Blatt & Eric Brewster||published: 2014 / pages: 339|
book summary: Two best friends, one who lives and breathes baseball while the other one hates it, embark on a cross-continental trip to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams and their home stadiums in 30 days.
Last summer we took a cross-continental trip from western Canada (Alberta) to the northeast United States (New Hampshire) where I am originally from. Along the journey, we stopped in Detroit so Ana and her parents could attend their first-ever Major League Baseball game. The Detroit Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-4. We sat right behind home plate next to the Tigers dugout. Not an ideal matchup for me as a New York Yankees fan, but two nights later I entered Fenway Park for the first time in my life. My Yankees were in town and despite building a 1-0 lead on a home run over the Green Monster, we ended up losing 4-1. I got heckled for wearing my pinstripes jersey and NY hat with pride. Someone even called me a “dumbf**k”…because that’s what Red Sox fans do.
If you are wondering how a kid who grew up less than three hours away from Fenway Park could grow up a die-hard New York Yankees fan, well that’s a different story for a different time.
On the trip, we stopped in Minnesota where I suggested we go watch the Minnesota Twins host the Cleveland Indians. I was the only one who wanted to go, but I ended up watching the game from the hotel where the Twins walked it off in the bottom of the ninth with a home run. Tickets were like $25. Could have been there. On the way back to Alberta, we stopped in Toronto where the Blue Jays were hosting the Tampa Bay Rays. That was a terrible matchup that even I didn’t want to go see, so we did other tourist stuff. Wouldn’t you know it though, the Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead and their starter threw a no-hitter for seven innings. No one ever goes to Blue Jays games so we could have been there and could see an almost no-hitter.
These stops got me thinking, so I searched Google for stories of people who have visited every major league ballpark. I came across I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back and asked for it for my birthday. I thought it would be cool someday to visit all the ballparks, maybe when the Yankees come to town, but since they don’t play every team every year, it didn’t seem logical. Ben and Eric decided to see every single team play at home in a span of just 30 days. I knew right off this was a must-read for me because I just had to know what that experience was like. I needed to live through these two guys who pulled off a miracle trip and wrote a book about it.
I will spare you all the details and give you a quick recap. Ben is an analytics guy who wondered for years about the possibility of attending 30 games in 30 cities in 30 days. He brewed over the formula until the stars aligned and his dream (on paper) became a reality. His best friend Eric thought the whole thing was comical and wanted to tag along to see if it was possible, or if he’d get the last laugh when Ben’s plan blew up in his face. Positive and negative drove and flew from city to city with only hours of sleep in between stops. There were speeding tickets, oil changes, car repairs, and nasty weather. Amazingly the boys managed to get to all their games in all the cities within the allotted times they planned. There was one golden rule for the trip, in order for the game to count, they had to witness the first and last pitch. This rule came back to haunt them several times over. The best parts of the book included the extra-inning games, where it went from game watching to clock watching. Their stress levels would jump a few notches with every tied game and their driving would get more hectic with each additional pitch.
There are four stories that stood out really stood out for me. The first one is in the first stop (chapter) at Yankee Stadium. Ben had always wanted to catch a foul ball. Eric meanwhile was handed a ball from the batboy while Ben went to the washroom. When he returned Eric told him he caught a foul ball and Ben was depressed the rest of the night. It was only the first night of the trip, but the ending was pretty epic. It helped set the tone for the rest of the journey.
The second one that stuck with me was the game in Atlanta. Somewhere along the way, the guys decided to buy foam fingers with the team logos on it. Every game they went to, they added another one to the pile in the trunk. The game in Atlanta went on and on and no bought a foam finger. The guys realized after this particular game that no one bought a finger. They tried to find one at the ballpark except everything was closed. Poor Eric ran the nearby streets to find a vendor still open. I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to see Eric accomplished his mission.
The third story may be the absolute best. After driving from Milwaukee to Denver, Colorado, the guys and their friends (many people came and went on the journey) showed up to their hotel room a few hours before the first pitch. They decided to take a nap since it was 4:00 pm and the game was 7:05 pm. Ben made the biggest miscalculation ever and wrote down all the game times in the Eastern Time Zone. Denver is in the Mountain Time Zone, which meant the game was at 5:05 pm and they missed it. It was only the eighth day of the trip, but the journey was over. They showed up to the game late and Ben stressed all night on how to get the whole trip back on track. Mother Nature provided him with a chance to redeem himself by forcing a rainout somewhere else and a makeup game that would fit in their schedules later in the month. In a span of a few hours, the guys went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. The trip was alive again for another 22 days (weather permitting).
There are a handful of other stories, some funny, some not so much so. There’s the one game they attended in Cleveland where Eric knew someone who knew people and convinced Ben that he would get the chance to call the play by play on the radio. It never happened. Then there was the game in Chicago where Ben got to meet his hero, General Manager Theo Epstein. The final story is the greatest way to end such an epic journey. The final game was in Toronto, Ontario on Canada Day July 1st. The guys travelled back and forth across the United States and saved their only trip north to see the Blue Jays, although Ben would be the only one the Blue Jays that day. Eric meanwhile continued with his daily game traditions by ordering a ballpark hot dog and a beer. Except it was time to celebrate and Eric celebrated so much that he passed out in the lobby and missed the whole game. Security woke him at the end and he met up with Ben to see how things turned out. For a guy who didn’t like baseball, and tried his best to bring Ben’s spirits down the whole trip, sure ended his part of the journey with a bang.
It was a blast to read this book. I know these two did the best they could with the limited resources they had. Rich people fly city to city and sit in the best seats. Ben and Eric bought the cheapest tickets and went to experience the ballpark like ordinary fans. Of course, when people got word of their journey and book, special privileges came their way, but they stayed pretty grounded throughout the whole thing. I’d love to go on a journey like this. Personally, I want to go to San Francisco someday, not for all the tourist stuff, but so I can go see the Giants play in Oracle Park, right there on the Bay.
I will read this book again someday. Like I said earlier, some stories stayed with me and others I didn’t really care too much about. As one of the only books about baseball journeys out there, this would be a must-read for any fan of the game. I’d highly recommend anyone who wants to embark on something like this take a moment to read this and avoid the same situations Ben and Eric found themselves in. 8/10
In case you read this far and wondered what I’ve crossed off my ballpark list. Here goes: 1. Old Yankee Stadium (Boston @ New York 2004), 2. Rogers Centre (New York @ Toronto 2011,2012), 3. New Yankee Stadium (Toronto @ New York 2012), 4. Comerica Park (Cincinnati @ Detroit 2018), 5. Fenway Park (New York @ Boston 2018).