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My 2007 Pittsburgh-New York-Boston Baseball Road Trip

Baseball is an incredible game. The serenity of being at the ballpark or being able to relax in a high-emotion environment is something that only baseball can provide. The live experience, for true baseball fans, is unlike any other sports experience and, unlike other sports, a baseball game is a baseball game is a baseball game.

It was with those thoughts in mind that last summer, I decided I needed to take my baseball fandom to another level. Sure, I have been to a tonne of Toronto Blue Jays games, but the Rogers Centre wears on you and the Jays are, well, the Jays, especially right now. So last summer, I hatched an idea with close friend and fellow baseball aficionado B.J. O’Brien (aka Bossman Junior).

We decided we should go on a baseball road trip and experience a few other ballparks. Specifically, I wanted to see Yankee Stadium before it was retired and Bossman wanted to see Fenway Park, since he’s a soulless Red Sox fan. A quick look at the schedules of both teams during my week off in July showed that seeing both in one weekend was indeed a possibility. To make a full weekend of it, we added Pittsburgh to the mix. Why Pittsburgh? It worked out for the driving, and that’s about it.

So we approached two other friends (Sean and Adam aka Macker and Pierre/Woody, respectively) about coming with us and we booked the tickets. In July, it went down. It was as fantastic as we expected.

Taking off on Friday morning, we drove straight to Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates play a low scoring barn burner against the Houston Astros. Yes, it was two lacklustre teams, but PNC Park is beautiful and we got to see a free (and incredible) fireworks display after the game. Sitting close to the field behind home plate, the sightlines from PNC, overlooking the river and a less-than-budding metropolis, were astonishing and provided for some great pictures. PNC was recently ranked as one of the top baseball stadiums, and with good reason. It was clean, fun, and it was obvious kids would enjoy the pirate themes and frequent in-park features. Outside of the stadium was just as cool, and I definitely took time to get a picture with the huge Roberto Clemente statue nearby, as he’s one of my favorite I-wish-I-saw-them players.

Pittsburgh was done, and we drove through the night to New York. After finding our cheap and ugly motel in Harlem, we spent the morning wandering downtown as none of us had been to New York before. I highly recommend heading there for a weekend for non-baseball purposes, since it seems really cool, and everyone should ride the New York Subway system (not for any real reason but it was new and different to me – complete with gigantic rats). We also hit Shea Stadium and snuck inside to take a few pictures even though the park was closed for the day. Unfortunately, I won’t get to see a game there before they move to CITI Field but whatever, it’s Shea and it’s pretty ugly anyways.

We had the added benefit of the Saturday being a day-night doubleheader between the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays (then D-Rays, obviously). The games weren’t as important as the atmosphere, at all. B.J. made the mistake of admitting he was a Red Sox fan during the first game, when we were sitting in the right field bleachers with a bunch of season ticket holders. When an old man with a huge hat threatened to kill The Beegman, I absolutely believed him. Good thing I decided against sporting my Carl Crawford jersey. For the second game, we snuck down during the blow-out to the first level on the first base side, providing us with a pretty good view. Yankee Stadium is pretty ugly and plain (with maybe the worst P.A. announcer ever), but the games provided some highlights. Shelley Duncan’s first career home run, a B.J. Upton moonshot, an A-Rod homer on his way to 500, and two Luis Vizcaino victories in the same day were all a part of one sick day in The Big Apple.

Oh, and after the second game, we met the most hilarious man of all time. Not only did he almost swallow his own head and call B.J. Don Johnson, he also rapped for us for a solid five or six minutes before asking for a few bucks for KFC. No amount of words could do this story justice.

The next morning we were up early to head to Fenway Park in Boston. Despite being extremely tired, it was a fun and attractive (and not too long, thankfully) drive. We were there a bit early so we really got to experience the Boston fan’s experience at a Sox game. We walked around Yawkey for a while, hit the souvenir stations, and blended in with Sox fans (shudder) as we waited beneath the Green Monster. Then we caught batting practice (like we had in Pitt, too) and just enjoyed the historical Fenway experience. It’s not a physically attractive stadium inside, but the field and Monster make it an incredible experience regardless. The game itself was a great one as Jonathan Papelbon came on in the 9th with a 3-run lead to load up the bases and then sit the White Sox down, securing a Sox victory. The crowd was nuts, more so than at the other parks (save for the Jack Wilson love at PNC).

And that was the trip. It’s difficult to describe and a non-baseball fan won’t really appreciate the experience. But put it this way – despite the cost and exhaustion of a trip like this, we all agreed that we would continue to do this each summer until we hit every stadium. That’s obviously a long-term plan, but I’m excited right now. Why right now? Because on Wednesday night, B.J., Macker and I embark for Leg Two of the baseball road trip. This time, it will be Milwaukee, Chicago (Wrigley), and then Cincinatti, and it will run Thursday-Saturday. No double headers, but we get a University of Wisconsin game and a Brandon Phillips bobblehead. Oh, we also get to see Ken Griffey Jr., our unanimous choice for favorite player ever. And the Reds are my team (more on that another time), so needless to say, I’m pretty antsy right now.

Sure, it’s a little costly and it’s 24 hours of driving in three days, just like last time. But really, what’s better than a few days of live baseball with real baseball fans? I can’t think of anything.

So when I come at you next Monday with a review (and pictures) from the second instalment of the trip, you can mark me down as having hit 7 of the 30 MLB stadiums. Toss in Comerica Park sometime this summer, too, and we’re 28% done. No rush, though…we’re 21 or 22 and have a lot of summers left…assuming we don’t blow the deal by trying to hit every stadium next summer.

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One Response to “My 2007 Pittsburgh-New York-Boston Baseball Road Trip”

  1. Principal Dondelinger Says:

    I had planned a similar endeavour for football. I hope to follow the Bills to each of their games for a season. Im thinking fall 2009. I want to try it before they leave for Toronto. I think every passionate sports fan should go on a similar pilgramige such as yours. Cheers and I look forward to the article.

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