The 2013 baseball season was the most exciting in my lifetime as a Pirates fan. I visited nearly every NL Central ballpark to see the Buccos during their historic season that would end 20 years of losing and culminate with delirious fans chanting “CUETO” and jumping into the river in excitement.
After seeing an incredible comeback against the Reds at PNC Park in mid-April, I planned a trip to St. Louis to see the Pirates play at Busch Stadium. If you’ve ever talked to a Cardinals fan, you would think that a baseball game in St. Louis is a holy ritual complete with ceremonies about “playing baseball the right way.”
In reality, it’s pretty much like any other ballpark, but it has a pretty cool view of the Gateway Arch.
By July 2012, I was over a year into my new career—so I almost knew what I was doing at my job. I had amassed enough Marriott points to book a free weekend at a fancy hotel in downtown Minneapolis, since a few months prior, my friends talked me into signing up for a triathlon in the Twin Cities.
I took the day off on Friday and made the surprisingly-not-terrible 4.5 hour drive north to Minnesota. It was my first time in Minneapolis, and I was in awe. You don’t really hear much about the Twin Cities—unless you talk to someone who has been there or you know a lot about hockey—but Minneapolis is beautiful. The city is well-designed, there’s somewhat efficient public transit and the sports stadiums are right in the middle of the city. (Well, the hockey arena is in St. Paul—which is not quite as nice as Minneapolis, but hey, they have that awesome raccoon now!).
Anyway, I made it to my hotel in the early afternoon, and I realized I was just a few blocks away from Target Field. I checked the schedule, and sure enough, the Twins were in town against Oakland. My friends weren’t joining me until later that night so I bought a single ticket.
About six months into my new job, I started getting some exciting projects. After surviving rural Indiana for a project, my boss awarded me with a gig in southern Florida. It was—and remains—the coolest setup I’ve ever had for a project.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale (avoiding the chaos of Miami) and stayed at a fancy Marriott right on the beach in Hollywood. It was a tough project, but getting to wake up with the sunrise over the Atlantic made it more than worth it.
And in hindsight, this was right around the time where I realized that getting to all 30 ballparks wasn’t such a pipe dream. I became friends with a local, and she had Marlins season tickets. So, we hit the road after work one day and drove down to Miami for opening week of the new ballpark in 2012.
After college, I had my heart set on being a sportswriter. I had experience covering NCAA Tournaments and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That—along with a letter of recommendation from the Vice President of the Pittsburgh Penguins—didn’t even get me so much as an interview at any promising jobs.
So, I packed my things and headed to Madison, Wisconsin to work in pharmacy IT for hospitals. I knew the job would require a lot of travel, so I was excited to visit new cities. My first trip would just be a learning trip—I basically got to choose which customer I would go visit.
So in the second month of my career, I found myself flying to San Francisco to visit a hospital in Contra Costa County, about 30 minutes east of the city. Since it was on the West Coast, we couldn’t catch a flight home on Thursday night like we normally do, so we had to book a flight from SFO early on Friday morning.
That meant we got to spend the night in downtown San Francisco—at a hotel three blocks away from AT&T Park.
After driving for an hour on I-94, the highway had just opened up to four lanes on each side. Traffic started to get heavy and we curved our way up a hill.
As we crested over the top of the hill, a huge structure appeared over the horizon.
Atop a brick base, the giant green arches with glass windows leading all the way up to the roof towered over everything around it.
Miller Park is a sight to behold.
When I started school at Pitt in 2007, I didn’t really go to any baseball games unless we could get $5 ticket to PNC Park.
I was a poor college student. I had a job at The Pitt News that paid like $15 a week if I was lucky—visiting new cities wasn’t exactly a viable option. But during the summer after my junior year, I had saved up enough money and found a good deal on a hotel in Toronto.
My hometown is about halfway between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, so after spending a few days at home, I made the rest of the drive north of the border to Toronto with my girlfriend at the time. Yes, you read that right—I was dating a woman. (I never came out of the closet until I was 23—so, my college years were strange).
We decided a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame was in order, so we spent several hours in the museum trying to spot as many Penguins treasures as we could find. We even got a photo with the Stanley Cup. (It was a fake Stanley Cup of course—the real one was on tour with the Blackhawks at the time).
Anyway, after spending some time exploring the city, we realized the Blue Jays were in town that night against Tampa Bay. So we found some cheap tickets online and made our way toward the CN Tower and the Rogers Center.
Looking back, I was pretty lucky that my first two ballparks outside of Pittsburgh were Wrigley and Fenway. Many baseball fans go their whole lives without visiting either of those historic stadiums.
During the summer of my junior year in high school, there was a small group of about 6 or 8 of us who got to take a field trip to Boston. It likely had more to do with the fact that our school superintendent had a son who had just moved to Boston than the historic sites we were to visit, but still—it was a fun trip.
I don’t remember a whole lot about the trip—I think we saw the state house, the freedom trail and the Boston Common. Trying to remember things from 12 years ago is a bit of a blur.
But I will never forget that trip to Fenway park.