The inspiration for this journey of mine seems to have come out of collective unconscious because I am hardly the first person to have thought of traveling to of the major league ballparks… I just took it one step further. What is important to understand about my journey across the USA, Japan and Mexico is that the real excitement isn’t happening on the field, it’s in the stands, around the stadiums and on the road. My mission is to experience the ballpark culture as something that brings fans together but is manifested differently around the world.

Think of a stadium as an example of the Commons. A place where people of a wide variety of backgrounds with very different prerogatives come together for a single purpose: to experience the spectacle that is a major league baseball game. For the next four hours, 30,000 people will take a break from their busy lives to cheer or heckle, to eat, drink and be merry, and watch their team win or lose. For that short period of time, a temporal community is created within the ballpark, all of it surrounding the game taking place on the field below.

As the old adage goes, a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. In my case, it was more than 18,000 miles but what was the impetus for starting out? In February of 2012, I found myself sitting in a cubicle writing code for a large software development company in Redmond, Washington. If you’ve ever been to the Pacific Northwest in that time of year, you’ll know that it is gloomy, rainy and cold. Sitting behind the keyboard, my mind wandered to where I would rather be; my “100 day break” was coming up at the beginning of March and I had time and money to burn. My yearning to travel was strong so I started thinking about my bucket list. That’s when the idea to visit all the major league ballparks popped into my head. To begin, I wasn’t even sure it was possible so I spent the rest of the afternoon making a spreadsheet schedule using Google Maps and the MLB master schedule to determine a possible route. When I finished, my route and schedule actually seemed possible.

So with that, I marked April 9th as the date of departure, the first game being the Opening Series in Oakland against the Kansas City Royals. The idea was to travel south from Seattle through California, then head east across the Southwest and Southern U.S. all the way to Florida. With a five day gap between games in Tampa Bay and Miami, I would then head north, up the eastern seaboard until I arrived in Boston (which would also be the half-way point). After a Memorial Day weekend spent with extended family, I would drive up into Canada to catch a game in Toronto and then re-enter the U.S. in Detroit. After that, a big loop through the Great Lakes region and then into the mid-west before finally heading back to Seattle via Colorado. I thought it would be apropos to wrap up the journey in my home town of Seattle.

By my calculations I think that everyone has some form of this journey on their own bucket list. Most people can’t check out of their life for three months at a time. In my case though, a lonely and unemployed web developer had nothing to lose. I started making preparations, still not completely sure I would be going. I bought a minivan from my friend’s mother. I packed my belongings into a storage unit and allowed the lease on my apartment to expire. After removing the rear seats, a twin size mattress from IKEA fit nicely into the back of the van. A small plastic tote containing a miscellaneous variety of supplies occupied the empty space next to my tool box, and I wedged my old 12-speed bicycle in behind the driver’s seat along with the acoustic guitar I was trying to learn how to play. A duffle bag full of clothes and my oversized laptop were easily concealed under the sleeping bag. A rather expensive tune-up rounded out my preparations.

Safety was foremost on my mind, and I debated long and hard about whether to bring a pistol. However, with gun laws varying drastically state-by-state (not to mention Canada), I came to the conclusion that carrying a handgun across so many jurisdictions was more likely to get me into trouble that it was to protect me. Instead, I settled on a small hatchet which I kept in my toolbox. My logic was that the hatchet was a ‘tool’ and would be handy in a difficult situation but hard to construe as a deadly weapon.
When April 9th finally arrived, I found myself feeling really unprepared but I had already announced the trip publicly on Facebook so I couldn’t back out. Honor would not be satisfied without a credible attempt. So I spent the majority of the first day procrastinating with minor details before finally setting out from Seattle in the afternoon to my first stop in Portland, where I would spend the first night at the house of my former girlfriend Colette.

That was a long night, I tossed and turned and barely slept 20 minutes because the reality of this undertaking had finally set in. I was going to spend the next three months living in my van, vulnerable to all sorts of misfortunes and far, far from any source of familiar support. I couldn’t stop worrying about what might happen out there on the open road. What if…

The next day, I got a late start again. This time I had to wait around for a job interview by phone, one which I couldn’t pass up but would put a halt to my road trip if I got an offer. When that was over, I locked up Colette’s house, fueled up the van and pulled onto southbound I-5. Besides a quick break in Medford, I didn’t stop again until after crossing over Mt. Shasta. Somewhere between Redding and Red Bluff, I finally pulled over at a rest stop to sleep. The air was cool and I was exhausted; I climbed into the back of the van, pulled the sleeping bag over myself and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

The early morning light woke me. As I lay there, I realized that all my apprehension was gone. I had spent my first night in the van, at a sketchy rest stop and nothing had happened. Mentally, I was free of my biggest fear about this trip. I climbed into the front seat, started the van and made rest of the trip to the Bay Area for my first game.