Before Teddy was born, we used to take at least one trip every year to see baseball in different cities. We own multiple books that profile parks across the country, and one by one, we were checking them off.
Our trips have been on hiatus of late — anyone else tried sitting and watching nine innings with toddlers? — but with the boys of summer back in full swing after the All-Star Break, I’ve been reminiscing about our past trips. One of our favorite games in the Storybook Life house is to look back on our past travels and rank them against each other (what can I say, we’re an exciting pair). And so here, I give you my favorite five baseball trips. And Florida, watch out — we’re coming at you, toddlers and all, for spring training again next year. I’ve had enough time away.
5. St. Louis, 2005.
The Sox won the World Series on October 27, 2004. On October 28, I knew our trip the following year would be to St. Louis. It would be the Cardinals’ last year in the original Busch Stadium, and I needed to see the place where they’d won it all. The cheap and giant Buds didn’t hurt, and we loved our tour of the Bud brewery and our visit to Grant’s Farm. And wow, are people at baseball games in St. Louis nice (says this girl raised on Fenway crowds).
4. Spring Training #1, 2011, & #2, 2014 (tie).
Talk about two different trips. One pre-kids, paired with Disney (& around the world at Epcot), the other pushing kid #1, 18 months old, around in a stroller and barely pregnant with #2. In the first we saw the Sox in Lakeland, at the Tigers’ park, and the Sox’ last park. We drank buckets of beer near our hotel and spent a whole day on Fort Myers Beach, sunning ourselves and bar hopping.
On the second trip, we babyproofed our hotel suite, showed up at the hotel dining room for breakfast at 7 and dinner at 5, and caught snippets of games in between Italian ices and giant pretzels at the Minnesota and Baltimore parks. (Note that in the second trip we couldn’t get tickets to the new Sox park, and I’ll be damned if I’ll pay scalper prices for spring training games where players sport triple-digit jersey numbers by the fourth inning.)
The first was our last trip as a family of two, and the second our first as a family of three (& almost four). Spring training holds such a special place in my heart.
3. Toronto #1, 2004.
The trip that started in Niagara Falls — yay, Maid of the Mist! — and included a visit to one of the very best museums I’ve ever been in, the Hockey Hall of Fame. We walked blocks and blocks of the beautiful, clean city on our first (but spoiler alert, not our last) trip to Canada and when we needed a rest, we hit some fun bars. Full disclosure: the highlight of this trip for B remains me falling for a practical joke in one of the bars, where they’d positioned a (very realistic) dummy of a guy in the corner of the women’s bathroom. What? I’m surprised that you’re one of the three people he hasn’t regaled with the story in the 12 years since.
2. Chicago #1, 2003.
Our very first baseball trip remains among our best. We could have spent a week straight in Wrigleyville, gazing at that ivy. We caught a Friday game (afternoon, of course), and though we originally thought we’d find tickets for Saturday’s, too, the neighborhood was so great that we decided to watch the game from some of the bars around the park instead. I was also thrilled to stay in the Hotel Burnham, one of Chicago’s oldest “skyscrapers” — all 13 stories of it — and to catch the annual air show from the Hancock Observatory. Our trip back to catch a Red Sox-White Sox series a few years later was fun in its own way, but the new Comiskey Park — sorry, US Cellular Field — doesn’t hold a candle to Wrigley. Or to the little league field down the street.
[I don’t have a picture from this trip as it was in the olden days, before we had a digital camera, and I don’t know where the print pictures are…but picture it. Ivy. Hot Chicago summer days. Airplanes. Fancy hotel.]
1. Seattle (& Vancouver), 2008.
We needed our trip to the Pacific Northwest in May 2008. We could have said it was a trip to celebrate my 30th birthday, but it was really a chance to take a breather after the relentlessness of the months since our wedding just eight months earlier. The cancer diagnosis, the surgery, the radiation, the return to some semblance of a “normal” life.
And then, just before our trip, my face swelled. My cheeks felt like I was storing a winter’s worth of a chipmunk’s acorns, thanks to my radiation-fried, and now swollen and sore, salivary glands.
I said some choice words, took some Advil, applied warm compresses to my cheeks as I’d been instructed — and I got on the damn plane. Because we weren’t just flying to Seattle to see the Sox. We were flying first-class, dammit, and I was going to take every glass of mediocre wine, every little plate of snacks, and every warm cloth offered.
And then we got to Seattle, and this was our view from our hotel room:
As the swelling in my cheeks relented, I left the bad memories of the last months behind and made plenty of good new ones — even as the Sox lost both games we went to. (The Safeco garlic fries trumped my fried sense of taste. Yum.)
We walked. We drank. We saw the Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. We ferried to Bainbridge and ate fresh fish and walked (and drank) some more.
Then we got in the car and drove north, to Vancouver. And that’s where this story ends, for now — because there are more, memorable non-baseball travel stories to be told, another day.
Right now, there’s another half-season — and playoffs, I hope, this year! — to watch.