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Baseball and the road: The American Dream

Ty Cryan

Editor’s Note: Mark Cryan, former MiLB general manager and Ballpark Digest contributing editor, is embarking on an epic ballpark tour this summer, and he’ll be filing regular dispatches from the road. Today: An overview of his journeys.

What guy doesn’t want to pile into a camper and head off across America? For a certain subset of guys, this fantasy also revolves around visiting ballparks everywhere they go. And, while I wouldn’t quite credit Stolen Season by David Lamb or Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John for the idea, they certainly provided some added inspiration.

Well, this summer, my son, who is a 13 year old baseball player and general baseball fanatic, and myself, a 40-something year old college professor and former minor league baseball general manager, get to live this fantasy. We’ve been talking about this for a couple years now, and this summer, everything came together.

There is one major concession to practicality. After researching the cost of RVs, their atrocious mileage, the high cost of repairs, and the challenges in driving a big box on wheels across mountains and windy plains, we have opted for a well-seasoned Dodge conversion van. There’s no kitchen, and no bathroom, but there is a bench seat that folds down to a reasonably sized bed, a built in TV/VCR combo, and windows with blinds. This means we will be living on fast food and sandwiches, which is not a hardship for two guys. It also means we don’t have a bathroom to use, which also means we won’t have a bathroom to maintain. This, to me, is a reasonable trade-off.

We will be on the road for a number of weeks, and the plan is to make it to the West Coast and then back to North Carolina. We plan to keep our costs under control by sleeping in the van most nights, although we will be mixing in some hotel nights, too. We expect to spend many of our “van nights” in Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lots, which have become a favorite of RVers for overnight parking, due to their huge swaths of asphalt, 24 hour security, and access to bathrooms and groceries. It’s a symbiotic relationship; since the RV’ers buy their supplies at Wal-Mart, everyone wins.

We also hope to mix in some campgrounds, as our journey will take us to several national parks and across some areas blessed with breathtaking natural beauty what would be best enjoyed in a setting other than a Wal-Mart parking lot.

The baseball games that will be the focal point of our activities will range from summer college and independent ball up through the Major Leagues, with everything in between. This should be like heaven for the two of us; we both love watching the game, but we also both love exploring new ballparks, sampling the ballpark concessions offerings, and seeing creative promotions.

Personally, my favorite thing about a new ballpark experience is enjoying the feeling of community that baseball creates. Where else in American life do we still put aside our political, economic, and cultural differences and get behind the home team? Where else do we still stand up and sing together, except for the National Anthem and ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ during the seventh-inning stretch?  For better or worse, sports are our modern town square, the place where we come together to be part of something larger than ourselves.

On our journey across this enormous country, we will be seeing the local attractions, logging lots of miles on the road, and eating lots of burgers and tacos, but nothing will give us a look inside the heart of each community we visit like a visit to the hometown ballpark.

I also can’t start this journey without mentioning my sainted wife Dale, who puts up with my baseball journeys. As one of five children who grew up in a family that liked to road trip, she was also the person who came up with the idea of the conversion van.

So, we hope you’ll come along with us. We will be posting periodic updates with tales from the road, ballpark photos, food reviews, and some “kids-eye” observations courtesy of Ty. Away we go!

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