30 Parks In 30 Days: A Baseball Odyssey

In which a writer sets out on a journey to find the heart of America's pastime by visiting every big league ballpark, and ends up very badly injured.
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Summer is the time for sunshine, sudsy brews and sandwiches of the hot dog variety. And of course, that classic game. The sport of kings. Baseball.

What better way to celebrate America’s pastime than that classic sportswriter trope of visiting all 30 MLB parks in 30 days. Crossing the country, seeing the sights and catching a ballgame or two along the way.

My trusty editor set up an itinerary and sent me on my way. What wonders will I encounter and valuable lessons will I learn along the way? Let’s find out as I embark on this adventure into America’s pastime!

  • Saturday, August 27th  – Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA

It only makes sense to begin my journey in my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love.

As it turns out, baseball games are actually rather expensive. Being a freelance writer, my editor wasn’t able to fund my journey. “You’re on your own!” my editor hollered before hanging up on me last night. Completely understandable. Hell, times are tough all around and it sounded like he was at dinner, or maybe at a bar.

Unable to attend tonight’s game, I thought I’d at least catch the game on television; but it was on cable, so I just watched a couple “Home Improvement” reruns and called it a night.

I hear the stadium is quite nice, though. I would have had a cheesesteak!

  • Sunday, August 28th  – Citi Field, Flushing, NY

Step right up and meet the Mets! That was the plan, anyway. Once again, unfortunately I could not do this.

Brushing yesterday’s failure off, I got up early Thursday morning for the long drive to New York. But my car had other plans. The mechanic said it was a structural issue and, quote, “Your big heavy ass somehow sagged the left side of the vehicle down and now your axle’s all fucked!”

“I’m a professional sportswriter and I’ve got an article to write!” I hollered back. I suppose I’m somewhat at fault for the fact that he then lunged at me with a lug wrench.

Long story short, I’m in the hospital and the rest of the assignment now seems very much up in the air. I asked an orderly what he thinks of the Mets new ballpark, which is inspired by the beloved and much-mourned Ebbets Field, where the Brooklyn Dodgers once played on Flatbush Avenue.

“You have to pee in this bedpan,” he replied. “Stop using your cup.”

  • Monday, August 29th – Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

As I hobbled out of the hospital—crutches, it turns out, are a great workout—for day three of my whirlwind cross country journey, a nurse shouted after me, “Get back here! You can’t leave yet! Also you haven’t paid! A Subway sub card is not insurance!”

“Sorry, lady!” I bloviated back. “I’ve got a sports article to write! And I’m gonna want that sub card back!”

Thanks to the fact that much of my body was in a (fresh, as yet unautographed) cast, I spent the rest of the evening stuck in a Greyhound bus bathroom. I managed to catch a bit of the Yankees game from the bus driver’s radio as we idled in what I could only assume was some sort of cavernous bus garage. I eventually hit the hay, with an assist from the fumes; but the announcers were speaking Spanish, so I couldn’t really gather what was going on even before then. So long, Big Apple!

  • Tuesday, August 30th – Fenway Park, Boston, MA

Ah, the Red Sox. My childhood team. Those youthful summer days growing up in Maine, watching John Valentin and Mo Vaughn smack dingers from the warmth of my boyhood home. Fond memories of yesteryear.

I woke up Wednesday morning in an alleyway off Bronx’s famed Grand Concourse, to a stream of hot piss directed at my face from an elderly man. I managed to escape the Greyhound bus bathroom by bursting out of my full body cast, much like The Rock in Fast & Furious 7, only with much more crying. Not knowing anyone in New York City, I chose to do what legendary sportswriters like Grantland Rice did in the olden days while on the trail of a hot sports scoop: Sleep in a dirty alley near a fire-damaged Wendy’s.

Having been “banned for life” from Greyhound buses, according to the driver with whom I shared those few innings of the Yankees game, I decided I needed a new form of travel to continue my journey. So I decided to go with that classic form of transportation the 60’s counterculture made famous: The Game of Thumbs. Hitchhiking.

  • Wednesday, August 31st – Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada

I woke up in a Canadian hospital early Thursday morning, after the truck driver who seemed so willing to offer me a ride to our neighbors to the north turned out to be a murderous sociopath. He stowed me in the back, because of “customs troubles” he’d had in the past and the fact that my passport was, inconveniently, at home in my dresser.

My many stab wounds ached, and the pain was, my doctor’s told me, probably a large part of what dragged me out of my medically induced coma. That is, my wounds ached for the crack of the bat. The non-antibiotic portion of the cure for what ailed me was not far across town.

But alas, the Jays had scheduled an early afternoon game and I had not awoken until late in the evening.

“Thank goodness for free healthcare, at least!” I cried as I limped out of the emergency room.

Another day of fleeing a hospital with a nurse chasing after me, swinging a submarine sandwich card above her head in jubilant celebration of my recovery.

  • Thursday, September 1 – Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH

Unable to return to the states because of the previously stated “no passport” issue, I decided to sneak back into America like so many great Americans before me. By building a makeshift canoe out of discarded Boston Pizza boxes and floating from Lake Ontario, down Niagara Falls into Lake Erie directly towards that “Mistake by the Lake” and the next stop on my fearless journey, Cleveland.

  • Friday, September 2nd – A small island somewhere in the middle of Lake Erie

I did it. Thirty ballparks in thirty days.

I built exact replicas of all thirty Major League parks out of sticks and what dung became available on this otherwise deserted island. I know it now as “Ethan Island,” a paradise in which I can visit thirty parks in thirty days—or all thirty parks in one day! There’s not much time for this, admittedly, as the greater part of my day is given over to fighting with squirrels for scraps, whether it’s scraps of berries, flame-broiled squirrel meat, or the aforementioned dung. I taught a flock of Canadian geese to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and while they don’t sing it very well, they sure as hell bite! Life is peaceful here. No sportswriting deadlines or insolent editors or angry nurses hollering about submarine sandwiches. Just me and my stick parks and my many gangrenous wounds. I keep hallucinating new languages, which is handy way around editorial word counts!

The sun sets now over Lake Erie’s calming blue waters as I lose consciousness for another evening. What a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.

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