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). I am originally from the Granite State and moved here 11 years ago. 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 “dumb**k”…because that’s what Red Sox fans do.
If you wonder how a kid who grew up less than three hours away from Fenway Park could grow up a die-hard New York Yankees fan, that’s a different story for another time.
On the trip, we stopped in Minnesota, where I suggested we 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. The Twins walked it off in the bottom of the ninth with a home run. It was a shame to miss since tickets were like $25. On the way back to Alberta, we stopped in Toronto, where the Blue Jays hosted the Tampa Bay Rays. That was a terrible matchup that even I didn’t want to see. We did other tourist stuff, and wouldn’t you know it; the Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead and no-hitter going for seven innings. No one ever goes to Blue Jays games so that we could have witness history. (Thankfully, they gave up a hit, and my interest in the outcome died right there.)
These stops got me thinking about baseball trips, so I searched Google for stories of people who have visited every major league ballpark. I stumbled across the book I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back. Since my birthday was coming, I requested the book as a gift. 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 because I just had to hear about their experiences. I needed to live through these two guys who pulled off a miracle trip and then wrote a book about it.
I will spare you all the details and give you a quick recap. Ben is an analytics guy who has 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; they had to witness the first and last pitch for the game to count. This rule came back to haunt them several times over. The book’s best parts 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 schedule would get more hectic with each additional pitch.
Four stories stood out for me. The first one is the first stop (chapter) at Yankee Stadium. Ben had always wanted to catch a foul ball. While Ben was in the washroom, Eric asked the batboy for a game ball. When he returned, Eric told him he caught a foul ball which ruined the rest of Ben’s night. It was only the first night of the trip, but the ending was pretty epic. These hijinks 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 team logos on them. Every game they went to, they added another one to the pile in the trunk. The contest in Atlanta went on and on, and no bought a foam finger. The guys realized after the game ended that no one purchased a finger. They tried to find one at the ballpark, except everything was closed. Poor Eric ran through the nearby streets to find a vendor still open. I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to see Eric accomplished this particular 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 at their hotel room. A few hours before the first pitch, they decided to nap since it was 4:00 pm and the game was 7:05 pm. Ben made the most significant 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. Thanks to a rainout in another city, they managed to fit a return trip to Denver later in the month. In a few hours, the journey, which was now dead, 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 said he knew someone 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 probably the most fabulous way to end such an epic journey. The last 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 until the last day. Ben would be the only one that watched 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 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, he sure ended his part of the journey with a bang.
It was a blast to read this book. I know these Ben and Eric did their best with the limited resources they had. Wealthy 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. They stayed pretty grounded throughout the whole thing. I’d love to go on a trip like this. On my current bucket list, I want to go to San Francisco. I don’t have any interest in all the tourist stuff; I want to see the Giants play in Oracle Park, right there on the Bay.
I will reread this book someday. Like I said earlier, some stories stayed with me, while others will escape me at some point. As one of the only books about baseball journeys on the market, this particular novel would be a must-read for any fan of the game. I’d highly recommend anyone who wants to embark on a trip like this take a moment to read this book to avoid the same situations as Ben and Eric.
In case you read this far and wondered what I’ve crossed off my ballpark list.