The beauty of baseball on the road
Every year around this time, the familiar wanderlust rises again. As if carried on a summer breeze, it floats in and wraps itself around us, pulling us toward the open road. The lucky ones among us give in to the urge and allow it to take us across the country, from stadium to stadium, ballgame to ballgame. The rest of us dream of the journey, promising ourselves that one of these days we'll get out there and discover America, one ballpark at a time.
Because that's really what the baseball road trip is all about. Not to get all George Will about it, but is there any better way to get to know this big, unwieldy country of ours than to visit the places in which we watch big league baseball? What we find when we venture into unfamiliar stadiums is that they all have their unique charms and quirks, yet they're all just ballyards when you come right down to it. Whether they're in the deep South or on the West Coast or nestled in the nation's heartland, they all have a comforting sameness in the ways that really matter, and ain't that America?
But that realization tends to sneak up on us when we're not looking, while we're focused on the small joys of visiting new ballparks. There's the thrill of infiltrating enemy territory, for example, when you follow your home town team into another city's ballpark. Wearing your White Sox hat in Detroit's Comerica Park feels somehow daring, not to mention giving you a feeling of solidarity with your Sox. You're with them, even if they don't know it. It's you and your ballclub against the world.
Or maybe you're just a baseball tourist, an out-of-towner with no rooting interest. That's when you get to satisfy your curiosity, to get a first-hand look at how other folks watch their baseball. So this is what a balmy night in Dodger Stadium feels like, with the palm trees swaying slightly in the distance. And wow, those planes that fly over Shea Stadium on their way to and from LaGuardia Airport are even louder than they seem on television. Here are the chowdah heads at Fenway Park, improbably singing Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, and you get to join them in the "oh, oh, oh" refrain. Then there is the cuisine that seems to fit the ballpark and its region, the brats at Milwaukee's Miller Park, the clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
They're all part of the experiences that anyone who loves baseball should have. It's been said that a man isn't truly educated until he has traveled, and the same is true of a fan. There is a sense of connection with other fans and with the game itself that comes from traveling across baseball America, a connection that you can't get from your cable package on TV. That's why that wanderlust is tugging at you again. Can you feel it?