First Pitch

While filling out college applications several years ago, I was posed a bizarre question for an essay:

Where do you enjoy getting lost? 

Sitting at my desk, I pondered the prompt. “Where do I enjoy getting lost?” The common answers popped into my head: the library, to show I’m studious; a museum, to show I’m cultured; or maybe even a park, to show that I’m capable of getting lost in nature — something like Walt Whitman, I thought.

But then it hit me. I don’t enjoy reading so scratch off the library, I’m not one for museums normally, and I’m no Walt Whitman.

The answer that illustrated who I was came to me, after a few moments. I like getting lost at a baseball game. Let me explain:

Whenever I think about going to baseball games my mind is flooded with fond memories and vivid imagery from simpler, childhood days: the smell of popcorn, the sunshine beating down on my weathered, faded baseball cap,  sticky fingers from cotton candy, and my grandfather showing me how to crack sunflower seeds in my mouth and spit out the hulls. Just a simple thought of going to a baseball game transports me back in time.

This is my utopia.

I was very lucky growing up to have grandparents that cared enough to share with me the great game of baseball. Starting in middle school, each summer they, along with my uncle, would take me along on a baseball tour to several ballparks around the country. We took four tours: a west coast jaunt, an east coast saunter, a southern swing, and a midwestern journey, and all in all, we hit 26 of the 30 major league parks.

So through this blog, follow me on my journey to finish off the rest of the parks that I’m missing! I’ll be sharing stories, opinions and off-the-beaten path facts about each of the parks I’ve visited, along with some baseball-related trips around the country that are worth a visit.

30 Parks in 26 Days

Check out the slideshare below to learn about a group of people’s trip around to all 30 Major League Baseball parks in 26 days, which is a world record. It’s a cool story. The group did it to raise money for the Jim Thorpe Little League in Hawthorne, California.

The trip started on June 16, 2008, in Seattle at Safeco Field and concluded on July 11, 2008, in in Milwaukee at Miller Park.

Vote: What Stadium Is the Best?

It’s a tough call, but which stadium is the best for fans in the American League?

Baseball History: Induction into the Hall of Fame

I’ve blogged a lot about the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in the past. When I interned with the nonprofit that’s all about baseball in the summer of 2013, I learned a lot about baseball history and the integrity of the game, as well as making baseball accessible for all generations and driving new generations to the game.

I had the pleasure of attending the Induction Ceremony while I was up in upstate New York in 2013, and went back to help out in 2014. I saw some of my childhood heroes enshrined into Cooperstown and baseball lore last summer when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine delivered their induction speeches up on the stage with over 40 living Hall of Famers welcoming them.

This summer, arguably my favorite player will give his speech. John Smoltz, the only pitcher to ever save 150 games and win 150 games will gain entrance into baseball’s most elite club. Check out his Hall of Fame Election Interview, below:

Baseball History: Giamatti Research Center

It seems fitting that baseball’s largest catalog of information and materials would be housed in baseball Holy Land. That’s definitely true with the Giamatti Research Center, located inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Along with a lengthy collection of baseball-related books, movies, periodicals, magazines and even audio and video clips, the most fascinating part of the world-class research center is the baseball player files, located upstairs beyond where the public’s eye can reach. Since 1871, if a baseball player has appeared in a major league game, they have a file there. Any news clipping or article ever written about these players is on file.

As you can imagine, the entire floor is stacked to the ceiling with file cabinets. Some files, like Hank Aaron, take up masses of space, while others who only played a single game are a little lighter. Even some umpires have files, and one of my favorites was Michael Jordan’s file, for when he played for the Chicago White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons in 1994.

When I interned at the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2013, I spent a lot of time in the player archives researching different players. I would use the research to build stories off of for the Hall’s weekly e-newsletter (you can read some of my pieces here, if interested). Mostly, the research center is used by journalists and writers penning the next great baseball book. There would always be several individuals looking up stats or reading past articles on players in the lobby of the facility, under the watchful eye of the Hall of Fame staff, of course.

It’s quite the place, and I guarantee you that if you have any question, obscure or run-of-the-mill, it can be answered at the Giamatti Research Center.

All images property of Andrew Kivette.

America’s Park: Nationals Park

If there’s a city that has seen bigger growth and progress from building a stadium, it has to be Washington. 

When the Montreal Expos relocated to Washingon and became the Nationals, they were playing in one of the oldest stadiums in the nation — RFK Stadium. It was old, and I remember going to a game there the first season they played in Washington, in 2005. The upper deck was so steep, I thought I was going to fall backward and land on the field while I was walking to my seat. Don’t even mention the fact that the support was almost nonexistent. 

Since moving to Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, the Nats have seen not only a better product on the field, but more people in the stands. 

Getting there is a breeze now too. Just take the green line of the DC Metro to Navy Yard, only minutes from the bustling L’Enfant Plaza station. You’ll know you’re in the right place when droves of Nats fans pack the metro cars. Upon exiting the station, the Navy Yard area has quite a few bars & restaurants that will be packed prior to the game, but it certainly makes for a great pre-game atmosphere. 

You enter the park and are immediately surrounded by cherry trees, a perfect welcome to a park whose city’s trademark is the cherry tree. 

As for the in-game product, you can’t miss the Presidents race during the fourth inning. Where else can you watch larger-than-life mascots of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft run around the warning track? 

To sum it up, it’s a great park, and it’s on the shortlist of must-sees, according to me. 

Major League Ballparks: Largest to Smallest

A great breakdown of the capacities of ballparks:

The On Deck Circle

Sometimes you look at a stadium filled to capacity, and you wonder why they didn’t build it just a bit larger so it could accommodate more people.  On the other hand, you could go to a Mets game at Citi Field in August, and wonder why they didn’t build it half as large, so it wouldn’t look quite so empty.

Here, then, is a complete list (largest to smallest) of each MLB stadium, along with their officially listed seating capacity:

1)  Dodger Stadium – 56,000

2)  Coors Field –  50,480

3)  Yankee Stadium – 50,291

4)  Turner Field – 49,586

5)  Rogers Centre – 49,282

6)  Chase Field – 48,633

7)  Rangers Ballpark – 48,114

8)  Safeco Field – 47,476

9)  Camden Yards – 45,971

10) Angel Stadium – 45,483

11) Busch Stadium – 43,975

12) Citizens Bank Park – 43,651

13) Petco Park – 42,524

14) Great American Ballpark…

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New York’s Other Park: Citi Field

When I went out to Flushing in Queens for a game last July 4th, I wasn’t expecting much. I had been to the Mets’ old stadium — Shea Stadium — several years ago and was not impressed.

So after I got off the 7 train and walked toward the stadium, I was cautiously impressed. The facade and outside surroundings of the park are immaculate. It has the feel of an old-time ballpark, but the features of a new-age place.

When I entered through the grand home-plate entrance, I was really impressed. The grandiose entrance hall featured banners of former Met greats, and when I settled into my seat on the club level, the view of the field was fabulous.

One of the most unique features of Citi was, I thought, its cell phone charging stations throughout the club level’s bars. You could sit and watch the game from the bar, be served a cold drink, and charge your phone all at the same time.

The only thing I thought was a little ridiculous was the game-day attendants at the park. At about the eighth inning, me and my friend went down to field level to watch the final three outs of a blowout game from the bottom level before leaving. The attendants made us go back to our seats, and did not allow us to watch the game from the 100 level. I can understand the practice if the game was a sellout or close to being full, but at less than 50 percent capacity, it seemed a little odd.

But all in all, the stadium is beautiful. It even has a Shake Shack in center field, what more could you want? Oh and don’t worry Mets fans, the iconic home run apples are still in place at the new stadium.

My view at Citi Field, July 4, 2014 (photo credit: Andrew Kivette).

 

Baseball History: Interviewing Babe Ruth

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Interview.”

If there is one baseball player from the old days I would give just about anything to interview, it’d be one of the most respected baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth. The hall of famer totaled over 700 home runs, and sat at the top of the all-time home run list until Hank Aaron broke his record in 1974.

Ruth played back in the days where pitchers could easily go nine innings, and still throw their best stuff late in the game. Some would argue that the Babe’s career — especially his 1919 season when he hit 29 home runs — signaled the end of the “dead ball era.”

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The Jewel of the West Coast: Safeco Field

If there’s one city on the west coast I could call home, it’s Seattle. The mild weather, the best coffee in the world, and the wonderful coast just make it a great place to live. The city’s ballparks are also something to cherish.

I’ve been to Seattle for baseball once. It was the final stop on my west coast baseball swing. We caught two games — a night game and a day game — before heading out of town. One thing that makes this park a great place to watch a game is the ease in getting there. We took public transportation (Sound Transit) and arrived at the park with ease. The stop for the light rail is literally called “stadium”, how much easier could it get?

As for the park, it’s settled in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle, which means South of Downtown. The stadium opened in 1999, and it is true to Seattle. With a very open feel to the stadium, it empowers the feelings of the city that the Mariners call home. It’s a great place to watch a game.