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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Once-in-a-lifetime baseball trip

Monday, April 23, 2012

A trip of a lifetime. On Friday, I made my first trip to a stadium that I had only witnessed on television. Wrigley Field, steeped in all its tradition, is a must-see for any baseball fan regardless of Major League Baseball team allegiance.
Last week was an exceptionally busy week in my life. In less than 96 hours, I traveled 1,638 miles, witnessed 1,356 total pitches in six baseball games, and visited five different stadiums in three different states with three other sports writers.

The hectic trip's roots go back to February. I was on my way to a district basketball game in Carl Junction when my phone rang.

On the other end of the line was a good friend of mine, Levi Payton, who wanted to know if I had a couple of minutes to talk.

Payton, who is a writer for Pine Tar Press, an internet blog spot that specializes in all things pertaining to the Kansas City Royals, explained how he, Cody Thorn, a writer for the St. Joseph News Press, and Ryan Atkinson, a writer for the Joplin Globe were going on an "epic" road trip in April, and they wanted a fourth person to accompany them.

In reality, what they needed was a fourth person to make the trip cheaper.

After gaining permission first from my wife then from my employer, I informed Payton that I would be making the trip north with the group.

Wednesday, April 18

I met Atkinson in Mt. Vernon on Wednesday morning. We then traveled to Holts Summit to connect with Thorn and Payton.

From there it was just a short trip up I-70 to the new Busch Stadium and 40,000 crazed Cardinals' fans. One cannot deny the fever and passion that the Red Bird nation possesses for their team.

Wednesday's game marked the first time I had attended a game at the new cathedral erected to house the defending World Series champions.

Our seats at the game were spectacular. I sat just a few feet from where St. Louis legend David Freese landed his World Series Game 6 winning home run.

The replay of that long ball hit in late October continually played in my mind and on the stadium's huge jumbo-tron.

The Cards put up crooked numbers in three different innings and defeated the Cincinnati Reds 11-1.

Thursday, April 19

The next morning we made our way to the Windy City's south side to U.S. Cellular Field (I will always know it as Cominski Park), home of Chicago's White Sox.

The stadium was constructed 20 years ago. It doesn't look like it has aged one day. A mural runs the entire length of the mezzanine, over 1,000 feet in length, depicting the history of White Sox's baseball. It is the single largest piece of art in the city of Chicago.

While the Baltimore Orioles won that day, the most exciting thing to happen was watching a 4-year-old child run halfway across the outfield with White Sox security in hot pursuit. Video review showed the child's father placing his son over the railing and onto the field. Per Major League Baseball (MLB) policy, both father and son were removed from the stadium.

On Thursday evening, we traveled to Geneva, Ill., a suburb of Chicago to watch the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

The Cougars have a proud tradition of developing talent and helping players establish major league careers.

Since 1991, 117 players who have played for the Cougars have graced MLB starting rosters. Players such as Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Kevin Millar, Edgar Renteria, Scott Podsednik and Nate Robinson have played for this Royals affiliate.

The park was very intimate and beautiful. The hospitality that was shown to our group was second to none. In my opinion, it rivals the fan experience and aesthetic beauty of Hammons' Field in Springfield.

Friday, April 20

Even though the White Sox won a championship in 2005, they are still and forever will be the second most popular baseball team in Chicago.

Our Friday round of games began at Wrigley Field, one of the most famous and storied ballparks in all of baseball.

Chi town's "Lovable Losers" play in front of a full house no matter how awful their season is progressing. The Cubbies, off to a 4-12 start this season, still packed over 30,000 fans into the park each game we watched.

Wrigley Field is a place that every true baseball fan must experience at least once in their lifetime.

After the Cubs' games, we traveled 90 miles north to Milwaukee, Wis., and Miller Park.

The Brewers opened a series against the Colorado Rockies. Former Missouri State University pitcher Shawn Markum took the hill for Milwaukee.

The stadium's dome was closed, but the beauty of the design and the unobstructed view of the field made a fan feel right at home.

While at the game, I witnessed my first MLB inside-the-park home run by Norichika Aoki.


On our final day, we returned to Wrigley to take in one more Cubs' contest. One cannot help but think of the rich history that surrounds the park.

The probability of repeating a whirlwind trip like this again is slim. But if given the opportunity, I would be gone in a heartbeat.

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