I hate hot dogs

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , on August 27, 2008 by manydn
Game #1.
Game No. 1 when we didn’t know what the hell we were getting into.

By Daren Many

FROM SOMEWHERE IN COLORADO — Too often in life we fail to appreciate the things in front of us until they’re in our rearview mirror. I’m especially guilty of this. I tend to concentrate on “getting through” an experience as opposed to taking in the moment.

This was not the case this summer.

Every ballpark we visited, every stretch of road we drove, and every person we met along the way sparked something in me that I haven’t felt, well, maybe ever.

Not surprisingly, people respond with apprehensive amazement when I tell them what I did this past summer. I still find it hard to explain what we did because I still can’t grasp what we just accomplished. That’s how much this summer consumed me. It took me completely out of my element and threw me out the other side with a new take on life.

How do you sum up a 75-day, 17,000-mile road trip? You normally wouldn’t be able to in a manner that anyone can understand unless they were there. Luckily we filmed the whole thing and at some point anyone who’s interested will be able to see Troy, Nolan, and I more than they probably want to.

 

Still 15,000 miles to go.

When we still had 15,000 miles and 25 games to go.

From the start Troy and I decided this would be a no-holds-barred documentary. We agreed that people needed to see us at our highest and lowest moments.

I’m by no means an on-camera personality. I never wanted to be, but signing onto this project forced me to come out of my comfort zone. There are moments on this trip that I don’t necessarily want people to see, but if a long-form version of our documentary ever develops you’ll probably see them all. Troy and I have already prepared ourselves for some of the backlash. Not everyone will see this trip the way we want them to. We’re OK with it, though, because we believe we did it the way it was supposed to be done.

I’m still in shock that the journey is over. From the moment Troy and I started talking about the project until the day I rolled away from Twin Falls at the conclusion of filming seems like some sort of foggy dream. You know it’s there but you’re not sure what it is. The trip itself is engrained in me very vividly. It’s just shocking how fast it passed by.

 

I’m already on my next adventure and I don’t feel like I had time to bask in the accomplishment of the last one. As I write this last entry Troy and I have not talked for more than a week. This is not on purpose but my new job has taken me away from the hustle and bustle of the 30-some major cities we visited to the wilds of Western America. It’s been a difficult transition, but it’s offered me an even more unique perspective of the last two and a half months.

I’m not sure what I will take away from this adventure the most. Certainly the generosity of people surprised me. Before the trip began I started believing people just went about their daily lives, giving little thought to those around them. What I experienced on our basecrawl was exactly the opposite. From our first stop in Seattle to our last in Phoenix people blew me away with their generosity.

People provided us with food, shelter, and words of encouragement all along the way. Sometimes these things came from complete strangers. We interviewed literally hundreds of people on this trip and I can count on one hand the number of people who got visibly angry with us. This says a lot about people and their willingness to help out if given the chance.

My love of baseball has grown exponentially over the summer. I consider myself an above-average fan of America’s pastime. At the same time I have always been in my own little bubble of all things Mets. I spent my childhood going to Mets games in Queens. As an adult I ordered TV packages based on their ability to deliver me Mets games — ALL OF THEM! In the summer of 2005 I drove from Idaho to Seattle to watch an interleague matchup between the Mets and Mariners. I went for the sole purpose of watching my favorite team. I didn’t care about going to a new stadium or visiting a cool city.

This trip, however, has given me a new appreciation of all things baseball. The museums, the old parks, the new parks, the cities, the people who work at the games and the fans have all opened my eyes. Through our project and the stories we explored I’ve come to appreciate the game at a level I never envisioned.

Maybe what I’ll ultimately take away from this trip has nothing to do with baseball at all. I saw my country in all its beauty this summer. I’ve done my fair share of traveling but few people, including myself, can actually grasp what this country is about. You travel in short spurts. You go for a camping trip into a remote wilderness. You take a long weekend to a new city. Over your life your adventures are like puzzle pieces. You put them together and eventually a picture slowly comes into focus.

Over the past two and a half months we saw our country from coast to coast and developed an image that looks more like a classic painting than an old dusty puzzle. On this trip we were forced to immerse ourselves in American culture. We talked to people from all walks of life. We explored cities that I may have never visited in my life if it were not for the project. We did all this in a span of time that made you take notice of what the fabric of this country is made of.

The most satisfying portions of this journey were not when I got to sit in a new stadium or watch the Mets play. It was by far the people we met and the places we saw. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing someone tell their story. Someone you never knew or will never see again. I came away from all of these encounters feeling like I had brought something valuable with me. I feel like a better person after this BaseCrawl, almost like I stumbled upon some lost secret that no one else has discovered.

I have suddenly realized how important it is to travel and meet new people. For those of you who find yourselves wondering if life is passing you by, take a chance. Meet new people but cherish the friends you have. I took something away from everyone I met but also realized once again how lucky I am to have the friends and family I have always had. I strangely found myself thinking several times how I’m going to make my kids travel. This is odd because I don’t have any kids and have no desire to have any at this point in my life. It just became apparent how important it is to meet new people, see new places, and push yourself beyond your perceived boundaries.

I struggled on this trip with a vast array of emotions. I was trying to move past a lost love. I was contemplating my life in a way that I had never anticipated. I was, and maybe still am, in life limbo considering where to go from here. I briefly considered that this trip was the apex of my life and it would all be down hill from here.

Not so. Not even close.

If this trip has taught me anything it’s that it’s not where you’re going but the ride that’s important. I have unlocked something that has allowed me to enjoy the now. The perfect example of this is my current situation. Coming off a 75-day road trip you start thinking how great it’s going to be to sleep in your own bed. How great it’s going to be to sleep in and not have to worry about interviews and the pressures of filming a project.

On our last day Troy and I drove 12 hours from Phoenix to Twin Falls. We arrived at Nolan’s at approximately 2 in the morning. We went to bed around 5. I had my vehicle packed and was on the road by 8 p.m. the same day to start the next inning of my life. This task seemed overly daunting and sometimes unnerving. The next six weeks of my life will be spent in anything but stability. My new job will offer little in the way of comfort. But my newfound appreciation of all things in the now has already started. I’m already forming new friendships. I’ve stumbled upon new things in the past week that I didn’t expect. Some of these experiences might surprise you — such as not having a real place to sleep or call home — but I have enjoyed every minute so far.

It’s just part of the ride.

Mets: When I wrote my first blog the Mets were 5.5 games out of first place. As I write my last blog they are alone in first place. Sounds like a good ending to me.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

Wait! It’s Over? Time to rank all 30 ballparks

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2008 by manydn

By Daren Many

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Every Major League ballpark we visited this summer holds a special memory for me.

We’ve completed our journey and seen them all. I come to you, now, with my final thoughts on all 30.

It’s proven hard to look back and try to rank some of the parks we’ve seen. Let’s face it, any day you get to sit down and watch a ballgame is a good day, no matter where you are. Some of the top choices were easy to rank. Others I just slapped a number next to because I had to put them somewhere. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like them, it just means some places hold an extra special memory. 

With this in mind here’s my rankings and reviews of all 30 parks:

 

No. 1: Fenway Park — Boston, Massachusetts

 

This is the ballpark of all ballparks. It just narrowly edges out Wrigley Field for my favorite park. I spent a fair amount of time walking around Yawkey Way interviewing fans who couldn’t get a ticket. It’s been increasingly hard to score a seat here over the years and for good reason. Even if you’re not a fan of baseball you need to go here. Sitting in the outfield we felt like we were in the movie “Fever Pitch.” Everyone felt like family around us. Watching a night game at Fenway and seeing the lights above the Green Monster is as good as it gets in baseball. Going out in Boston afterward also is a treat.

 

No. 2: Wrigley Field — Chicago, Illinois  

Believe everything you have ever heard.  I had to go with Wrigley Field for the history alone and it’s a very close second to Fenway. Sitting in this ballpark cannot be explained. Forget about parking unless you want to pay $30 to pull into someone’s garage like we did. The atmosphere around the park is phenomenal.

 

No. 3: AT&T Park — San Francisco, California

Hands down the best new park of the bunch. Incredible views of everything San Francisco. You can kayak outside the park. We found a FREE parking spot although it took me doing an 87-point turn to get the Jeep properly positioned. I’ve been to San Francisco before and it’s definitely a city I would live in.

 

No. 4: PNC Park — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sitting on the banks of the Allegheny River, this park has an old-school feel and is an amazing place to watch a game. It starts with the walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which is closed to traffic on game days. Troy and I had to take a 10-hour drive to Pittsburgh from Boston and I had spent the whole previous night and morning at a bar in Cambridge. Even though I resembled a zombie when I got to PNC Park, I was still awed by its atmosphere.

 

No. 5: Petco Park — San Diego, California

I have had a love affair with Petco Park and the city of San Diego ever since I first visited it in 2005. Nothing has changed. I still love San Diego and it’s on my short list of places I would like to live. Petco is right in the heart of downtown, right next to the San Diego Bay and the park itself has a great baseball feel.  However, they need to outlaw the ketchup/mustard machine.

 

No. 6: Camden Yards — Baltimore, Maryland

I had a hard time ranking Camden Yards ahead of Safeco just because I like Seattle so much, but I give a slight edge to the park in Baltimore. Plus, it was a special night because I got to watch a baseball game with my mom. She’s the one who took me to my first-ever game at Shea Stadium and helped fuel my Mets fanaticism. We had great seats at Camden Yards and the atmosphere of the park has that great summer night feel to it.

 

No. 7: Safeco Field — Seattle, Washington

For some reason Seattle sticks out among all the cities I have been to. I would live there in a second and the ballpark is equally as impressive. Of course Todd Foster kept us liquored up through the whole thing so that may have skewed my impressions. Drunk or not, Seattle and its park gets a high rating.

 

No. 8: Coors Field — Denver, Colorado

Skiing plus baseball plus Coors Brewery equals a No. 8 ranking. Actually, when I put it that way, maybe it should be No. 1.

 

No. 9: Busch Stadium — St. Louis, Missouri

I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about the Mets losing to the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS. I will not hold this against the park. It’s a great place to watch an evening game. The summer sunset made the whole stadium glow to make a perfect setting to watch baseball.

 

No. 10: Kaufmann Stadium — Kansas City, Missouri

This is a hard ranking to explain. Kaufmann is in the middle of nowhere. There’s absolutely nothing to do around the park. It has none of the bells or whistles of the newer parks or the history of the older parks. Yet it ranks fairly high on my list. Troy and I agree this was one of our better days at a ballgame. The atmosphere was great. The fans love their team although they haven’t done much in the past 23 years. It was a classic BaseCrawl experience.

 

No. 11: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, New York

Another fun experience although Nolan and I were stupid enough to wear our Red Sox and Mets jerseys to the game. I spent the first 23 years of my life living in the state of New York but this was my first trip to Yankee Stadium. To be honest it was kind of a crap hole, but it was still fun to think of the legends that had once played here. After the game we headed out on the town and had one of the most fun nights of the trip.

 

No. 12 Minute Maid Park — Houston, Texas

This day was one of my favorites. I dressed up like a puma and watched the whole game with The Little Pumas — an interesting perspective, to say the least. The park is certainly unique although I still have a problem with baseball being played indoors. The roof is primarily closed during the summer because of the unbearable heat.

 

No. 13 Tropicana Field — St. Petersburg, Florida

Now this wasn’t one of the nicer stadiums we went to and you hear a lot of negative things about Florida baseball, but I really enjoyed my experience here. As far as experiences go this stadium actually should be ranked much higher. Of course this was due to the company we kept. We got to spend the game with the smoking-hot Emily Rice and her awesome friends Kevin and Nicole along with several other people who were fun to hang out with. We had great seats, spent a couple innings in a cigar bar, and saw some Rays in a fish tank in the outfield stands.

 

No. 14 Great American Ballpark — Cincinnati, Ohio

On this day we were interviewing fans about Pete Rose. As I approached an older-looking man who I thought might have something interesting to say, I asked him, “Excuse me sir, I don’t mean to bother …” Before I could get out the complete sentence, he said, “Then don’t!” That guy did a great job pissing me off, but it couldn’t spoil the time Troy and I spent on the outfield porch at Club Red. We spent the majority of the game drinking beers, talking baseball, and generally enjoying the laid-back atmosphere.

 

No. 15: Turner Field — Atlanta, Georgia

Not only did I get to wear a Mets hat into enemy territory, I got to sit next to a crazy Braves fan who thought my hat was disgusting. Our host Emily (crazy Braves fan) was gracious enough to guide my Braves-hating mentality all over Turner Field. Even though temperatures once again soared into the “holy shit” range it was a great day to watch a game. Especially interesting was the old Fulton County Stadium wall, which still stands in the parking lot. 

 

No. 16: Miller Park — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Once again I’m not a big fan of watching baseball indoors. They closed the roof on this day because of some lightning and a little bit of rain. I think there are nicer parks than Miller that are under it on this ranking. I ranked it higher because of the tailgating alone. I still don’t really understand why baseball and tailgating don’t go together. Of course Troy and I tailgate at every park whether it’s allowed or not, but it’s a much nicer atmosphere when everyone around you is doing the same.

 

No. 17: Comerica Park — Detroit, Michigan

I didn’t realize I was walking into a carnival as I walked into Comerica. Troy and I actually rode in a ferris wheel inside the park. As if two grown men riding a ferris wheel wasn’t weird enough, we sat next to John Lynch, who played Drew Carey’s brother on the Drew Carey show. The park was very family oriented but had a nice baseball feel to it. It had a nice view of downtown and the front entrance was the sweetest of the whole trip.

 

No. 18: Rangers Ballpark — Arlington, Texas

It took Troy and I a while to get into the stadium as we really enjoyed spending time in the parking lot reminiscing about our trip and wondering how it could almost be over. For those of you who can’t understand why we sometimes take so long to get into the stadium, call Troy and ask him about the principle of marginal utility. He will gladly take some time out of his busy schedule to discuss. As for the stadium itself it was a nice place to watch a ballgame. We spent the second half of the game sitting next to Shirley “The Cookie Lady” Kost. This was a treat as she’s a die hard Rangers fan and we got introduced to everyone. This includes ushers, security guards, and the girls who shoot T-shirts at you.

 

No. 19: Citizens Bank Ballpark — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This was another really nice park that unfortunately started blending in with all the rest. We had a tailgating session with some great Philly fans that didn’t hold it against me that I was a Mets fan. On top of it I was front row and center for a hilarious moment on BaseCrawl that saw Troy trying to scalp tickets. Even though it rained almost the whole game, we didn’t care. The Mets lost but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

 

No. 20: Dodger Stadium — Los Angeles, California

I know there’s a lot of history connected to the team and this park. I felt some of it at times but the laid-back attitude of Southern California does not translate to Chavez Ravine. We got hassled from the second we got there. No tailgating, no cameras, no talking to fans, no backpacks, no gate entrance if you didn’t have the right ticket, no watching the game, no eating hot dogs, no talking, and absolutely no having any fun. Give me a break.

 

No. 21: Nationals Park — Washington, D.C.

This was a tough day for me. After our 10-hour drive to Pittsburgh from Boston we had another short night and then five hours to D.C. I was exhausted and was actually looking forward to the game being over. I was revived after getting to the park but when I saw the Nationals play I almost fell asleep. It’s not a very exciting team, but the park is brand new and makes a nice home for the one-time Montreal Expos. Although it’s new, it still didn’t stand out like some of the other retro parks. It felt a little vanilla but serves its purpose.

 

No. 22: Chase Field — Phoenix, Arizona

This was our last stop on BaseCrawl but not the least of all the parks. Once again we had to watch baseball indoors but once again we were at the “holy shit” alert warning for heat so I appreciated the air conditioning.  Unbelievably, they wouldn’t let us take our camera in, which was completely unexpected and they lost some points for that, especially when an overzealous security guard on a power trip gave Troy a mouthful and a personal frisk. On the positive side, there’s a bunch of cool places to have a beer around the park and we tested a few out. Indoors we had the best seats of the whole trip. Again, a nice park but nothing about it caused me to set it aside from all the others I’ve seen this summer.

 

No. 23: Progressive Stadium — Cleveland, Ohio

The Guy” who set off the fireworks for the team let us hang out with him on top of the parking garage across from the stadium. Just another surreal moment on this trip. A nice park that had nothing really wrong with it but it’s getting hard to rank these things.

 

No. 24: Angel Stadium — Anaheim, California

I felt like I was in a retirement community when outside the park. It didn’t have the historic feel of Dodger Stadium but it was a nice place to watch the best team in baseball.

 

No. 25: U.S. Cellular Field — Chicago, Illinois

Had serious attitude when we went there, whether it was the local law enforcement or the fans. Of course it was an interleague series with the Cubs. The area around the field is shady at best and doesn’t have the community feel that Wrigley and the north side of Chicago had, but you could tell the fans really loved their team. They didn’t show a lot of respect, but I understand to a certain extent because of the rivalry. I could have done without all the fights. The park is nice enough and the tailgating is fun.

 

No. 26: Metrodome — Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nolan in the Metrodome

I just took a virtual tour of the new ballpark, which is due to open in 2010. This is great news for the twin cities because the Metrodome was really bland. The city is great and I got a good vibe from the fans, but let’s just say I’m looking forward to the new park.

 

No. 27: Dolphins Stadium — Miami, Florida

The day after the game Troy and I chilled on the beach and had some Corona’s at a local grill. It was an amazing laid back atmosphere and I wished we could have stayed a little longer. As nice as the beaches were the football stadium did little for me. I enjoyed tailgating outside the stadium under the palm trees but baseball inside didn’t evoke feelings of a baseball trip. The Marlins need a new stadium or they need to move the team somewhere that deserves it. The average stadium attendance this season is just over 16,000 per game. Ouch. Compare that to a Yankees game where an average of almost 53,000 people show up to a game. Now I know that Miami will never have the baseball history or the same intensity of the fans in New York, but give me a break.

 

No. 28: Rogers Centre — Toronto, Ontario

In all honesty I just moved Canada up a spot. I had just written a whole diatribe on why Canada doesn’t deserve baseball, but decided I wasn’t being completely fair. The day we went to Toronto was one of the weirder and uneventful spots on our trip. No one was at the game and the upper concourses looked haunted. Canadians also were genuinely scared and perplexed at our interview attempts. I never felt so out of place in my life. But the city is very interesting and as of this writing the Blue Jays rank No. 20 in attendance. That’s better than 10 other teams in the U.S. So once again Oakland gets the cellar.

 

No. 29: Oakland Coliseum – Oakland, California

Sunny Day

I have to apologize to my brother-in-law, Bret. He’s a huge Oakland Raiders fan and I heard through my sister that he’s upset with my stance on McAfee Coliseum. Sorry Bret, it’s ranked last for a reason. I’ve heard Raiders games are crazy, but it’s just not happening at A’s games. The fans that did show up were good fans. The area sucks. There’s nothing there except parking lots and old warehouse buildings. 

 

Unranked: Shea Stadium — Queens, New York

OK, most of you who know me probably saw this coming. I can’t rank Shea Stadium No. 1 but I can’t rank it lower than that, either. I just can’t. In all reality, Shea is a rundown crap hole that no one in their right mind would rank higher than 29th. Having said that, there’s no place I would rather watch a game. I saw my first game here in April 1989 and continued to watch my Mets at Shea a scattering of times over the past 19 years. My last visit here was a great one. I found myself explaining all things baseball related to our host Becky, who put us up for our entire stay in the New York area. It was a perfect night for baseball. I bought Becky a beer and we talked about why the outfield apple should be saved and why pitchers suck at hitting. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as the game was nearing its end. You get a great view of the new Citi Field over the left field wall and although I look forward to the new-and-improved home of the Mets my heart will always be with Shea.

So there it is. Each of these places holds an awesome memory that I will never forget. Towards the end of our trip I had a recurring nightmare that when we arrived home we were stunned to find out that there were actually 31 teams. Don’t think I haven’t checked on this several times. I’m planning to write one more blog to sum up this trip, so stay tuned.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

Welcome to Texas … now go home

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2008 by manydn

baseball documentary

By Daren Many 

HOUSTON — After spending the past several days in Texas I’m confident the human race can now start contemplating a colony on the surface of the sun.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Don’t be ridiculous, Daren. Texas is not as hot as the sun. Don’t be dramatic.

Well, my response is this: You’re wrong. It’s at least 14 times as hot as the sun. There’s absolutely no reason to be outside in the state of Texas unless having your ass catch on fire is something you’ve always wondered about.

As if standing outside motionless is not bad enough I went ahead and put on a ski suit that resembled a puma at the Houston Astros game. This was to be a very special day indeed.

We had an all-access interview with The Little Pumas. If you’re not familiar with these guys, read on.

They’re the loyal supporters of Astros first baseman Lance “Big Puma” Berkman. Lance used to have the nickname “Fat Elvis,” but that’s a story for another day.  The Little Pumas show their loyalty by not only attending all 81 home games at Minute Maid Park, but they dress up like pumas and chant their way through all nine innings.

I was not aware that I would actually have the honor of being a Little Puma until after we interviewed the guys outside the ball park.

“We have an extra outfit if you’re interested,” said Bubba, one of the founders of this fan club.

“You mean you want me to dress up like a cat on a 100-degree day and root for a team that I’ve never rooted for before?” I anxiously replied. “Where do I sign?”

The Little PumasSo began my game in Houston. I put the suit on right away and asked an elderly lady who had just taken a picture with us to zip me up in the back. It’s only the second time in my life a woman has zipped the back of a puma outfit up for me. The other time was 10 minutes later when the same old woman saw me going into the game and noticed I had somehow come unzipped again. She had a look of pity on her face as she repeated the same procedure she had done only a short time before.

Once inside the stadium we ran to the outfield porch to stake our claim. We would never leave this spot for the rest of the evening.  I thank my body for sparing me the embarrassment of having to go to the bathroom. See, the only way to get out of this thing is to once again unzip from the back (see above paragraph). I’ll leave the visual of me struggling in the bathroom up to you.

As a Little Puma you’re allowed to enjoy a minor bit of celebrity at the game. We sometimes get some odd looks at games because of our camera. It pales in comparison to the amount of people who looked my way this day.

We took pictures with no fewer than 50 people. Oddly enough, we weren’t the only spectacle at the game. Right next to us sat another famous Astros fan club, Los Caballitos. This is Carlos Lee’s fan club and they were out in full force with sombreros, stick horses, and their own chants. Don’t think that the clubs compete like some version of the Jets and Sharks from Westside Story, though. Both groups get along well and play off of each other the whole game.

Photo Courtesy Of Los Caballitos.

Photo Courtesy Of Los Caballitos.

Being a Little Puma takes some attentiveness. You don’t just sit there and drink beer like Troy and I do at most games. Every time Lance Berkman comes to bat you will see and hear this routine at an Astros game.

Step 1: Put on foam paw that says “Big Puma.”

Step 2: Stand up on the cement step under the railing to get the full body extension.

Step 3: Cheer frantically after Berkman is announced over the P.A.

Step 4: Wave your paw in a fluid up and down motion while you chant. “PUMA, PUMA, PUMA, PUMA. Note: This is usually only done on a hitter’s count, such as 2-1 or 3-0. Bubba will let you know.

Step 5: More cheering if Big Puma gets a hit or cursing when he gets an out.

Step 6: Lose voice.

While this chant is going on you could swear you’re the only ones making noise in the entire stadium. It’s unbelievable, and I want to hear what it sounds like someday from across the outfield.

One other routine that I enjoyed almost as much as the puma chant is calling out the Astros outfielders’ names. On every Astros pitching change the outfielders congregate to talk about things I can’t even imagine, such as buying Lamborghinis, taking one-night stands to Bermuda on private jets, or taking baths in bottles of Evian.

As Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, and Darin Erstad came together we chanted their names over and over and over again until they acknowledged us. Watching Darin Erstad reluctantly wave his glove our way out of sheer annoyance made me extremely happy. We got all three outfielders to give us a wave of the cap or mitt. 

I couldn’t have felt more a part of this great group. They treated me like I was one of them even though I was a complete stranger. The Little Pumas were founded this season and these guys are going to keep getting bigger if my day with them was any indication

The fans love these guys, which includes several smoking-hot woman that wanted pictures with us. Girls, if you see these guys at the game you need to hand your numbers out. They’re good guys and, no, that they didn’t tell me to say that.

Nomik

Watch out Troy! They want your beer! Photo Courtesy of NOMIK.

After the game we marched into the nearest bar for a couple of well-earned drinks. Of course we got a round of applause as we walked in, cheap beers, and many more pictures with curious fans. We even did another puma chant. I reluctantly gave back my sweaty puma suit at the end of the night and we said our goodbyes. Luckily I got to keep my foam paw and the next time I’m in Houston I’m bringing it with me. PUMA, PUMA, PUMA!

As I write this we are on the road again heading farther west and closer to home. Texas has been good to us and I want to take the time to say thank you once again to Bubba, Kevin, Nathan, and Wes for showing us an Astros game the right way.

Thanks to Rich and Laurie for putting us up in Austin for three relaxing days. Just when we thought our BaseCrawl had normalized a little Rich, Laurie, Jim, and Sylvia took us to see a million and a half bats fly out from under a bridge in downtown Austin. That’s only normal if your name is Bruce Wayne.

Also, a big thank you to Shirley “The Cookie Lady” Kost and her husband Cal for welcoming us into their home, making us cookies, and sharing their experiences with us before the Rangers game. More to come on that subject later.

It’s on to Phoenix and the final chapter of BaseCrawl.

Mets: We lost our second straight tonight and have fallen from first to third in two days. It’s going to be a foot race to the end. Tug McGraw said it best. Ya Gotta Believe!

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

I think I saw Figment on Bourbon Street

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2008 by manydn
Wow. There are actually two stupid purple dinosaurs.

Wow. There are actually two stupid purple dinosaurs.

By Daren Many

ORLANDO, Fla. — As this trip creeps towards its end I’m reminded how fast time moves and how quickly things change.

One minute I’m riding around with Figment and a bunch of kids at Epcot Center and two days later I’m drinking copious amounts of alcohol on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

As we passed out of Florida and turned towards the West and the eventual end of this trip I was reminded once again how fast time has passed. I started thinking about some of my childhood memories when Mom would pack me up and take me to Florida every summer.

Then it hit me. Where the hell is my blanky? 

One of my earliest childhood memories involves a nameless blanket that went wherever I happened to go — whether I went to the living room or Florida. I immediately realized we had passed through the state where my blanket has been held hostage for some 24 years.

I know this because during the summer when I was 4 we returned from a Florida trip without it. Now, I realize that it would be slightly awkward if I were still carrying this blanket around at the age of 28, but I found myself wanting some answers. I called my mom and demanded she explain what happened two and half decades earlier that caused me to lose my first love.

She said that during the summer of 1984 I was probably getting a little to old to be carrying around a blanky. Something needed to be done.

“Well,” I replied, “did anyone consult me about what I thought of this change of plans?” It turns out there was more than one party involved in this coup. And although the story is a bit fuzzy, it went something like this.

We had some family friends who had a place in Florida. These “friends” also thought I was too old for a blanket — a blanket that provided comfort, security, and warmth on cold nights.

My mom and our “friends” had come up with a brilliant plan to remove the blanket from my power. They had crafted a bedtime story which they were confident would change my mind. Now I can’t quote the exact story, but it read like a horror novel from Stephen King.

The story told of some kind of magic kingdom in Florida where blankets went to live at a certain age. I was very skeptical of this story at first. My blanket was not as old as they were saying, but I listened on.

Apparently this was the last time my blanket could be free. If I left Florida and the magic kingdom of blankets behind, it would never be free.

“Well, when you put it that way I guess I should leave it. I can get a new one when we get home though, right?” Apparently not. That was the last I ever saw of my blanket. I hope it’s still doing well.

If you touch my blanket you long nosed son of a bitch I will kill you.

That's me talking to Pinocchio: "If you touch my blanket you long-nosed son of a bitch, I will kill you!"

It’s still amazing to me how time seems to elude me. How could this trip be almost over? It’s a 75-day trip! Also, by the way, where the hell did my childhood go?

 

Troy insisted we go to Epcot Center because he remembers his parents taking him there in the fifth grade and being absolutely mesmerized. As you can imagine, it wasn’t quite the same the second time around. We walked around Epcot in a sort of confused state wondering what had happened to us all those years ago. Our ride in Spaceship Earth didn’t hold the same mystique as it once had, but we both enjoyed ourselves. 

 

We have mentioned that this might be our last big trip and it signals the end of our youth. I’ve changed my thinking since then. I feel completely rejuvenated about life since starting this trip. I may be getting older, but I’m never going to stop having fun and being goofy.

 

The people who think we are too old for this actually are too old.

 

On that note, I dressed up in a puma outfit last night at the Houston game and it was one of the best times we have had on this journey. Much more to come on that subject, but for now we still have two games left and many more miles before this thing is over.

 

I dont know if your a horse or a dog but dont touch me you freak.

Here's me again, at age 4, talking to Goofy: "I don't know if you're a horse or a dog, but dont touch me you freak."

A big thanks to Nicole and Kevin for putting us up in St. Petersburg. We had a great time with you guys and I never thought I would have that much fun at a Rays game. I know you guys never thought you would have that much fun going through a KFC drive-thru. Hope we see you again someday.

Mets: Still in first but barely holding on.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

Quiet down everyone! I’m watching the scoreboard

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by manydn

By Daren Many

MIAMI — I found myself riveted to what was transpiring as I took a sip from the Bud Light I had just smuggled into the game.

It was a showdown for first. Mets vs. Phillies. All tied up at 1 in the eighth inning. I could hardly wait to see what happened next as the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the frame.

Did I mention I was sitting at Dolphin Stadium watching a Marlins game and was only 13 rows back from home plate?

So, anyway, when the Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the inning I did a small fist pump, which must have looked strange to everyone sitting around me. Nothing had happened at the game that was actually right in front of me.

This has become a common occurrence of late. I spend a lot of time scoreboard watching even though I’m in a ballpark I have never been to in a city that I most likely have never seen. This brings me to my point. I’ve seen a lot of baseball, but none of it holds a candle to baseball in New York. Of course I’m biased because of my love for all things Mets but I find myself daydreaming about our time in New York. A lot. If you don’t know what I’m talking about let me try to explain.

First of all, let’s not be confused. There are cities and then there’s New York. Let’s say you grew up in the country and you’re taking your first big trip to the city. You tie old Bessie up to the fence post, plop on your straw hat, and say goodbye to the misses.

One of two things is going to happen when you roll into New York. You will either fall in love and want to move there or you will crap your pants and look for the first place to pull a u-turn and get the hell out of Dodge. Of course in New York you can’t pull a u-turn without dying, so you’re pretty much screwed. I’m of the former group.

It had actually been a while since I got to see New York like it’s meant to be seen. I spent my whole youth going to Giants and Mets games but rarely got to see any more of the city. As we were walking through the streets of Brooklyn with our own personal tour guide, I couldn’t help but feel awed to be in a city that has some real stories to tell. One of those stories is baseball, and boy does it have a lot of them.

While I was watching the Mets at Shea I started feeling sad. I had sat in that stadium more than 19 years ago with my Mom watching my first game. Now I was watching the game with my friends for the last time in the place were the Beatles played their last-ever concert. I started wishing we could spend the rest of our trip in New York.

I could hear the conversation:

“Well, Troy, I’ve got good news and bad news. I will be watching 11 more games to finish out our basecrawl. That’s the good news. The bad news is I’ll be watching all of them at Shea Stadium.”

Of course we also saw a game at Yankee Stadium and while I have much less allegiance to baseball on that side of town, I felt more sadness thinking how so much history would be nothing but rubble by the start of next season. The fans in New York care about their teams. They show up in droves to support them.

Later in our documentary, we hope to talk to an actual sports psychologist to help us explain why fans are so loyal to their teams. Why should we even care? How come I feel such a strong connection to my team? Why does my mood immediately brighten when they win, and why does my stomach actually sink when they lose? How come, in 2006, when the Mets were one game from the World Series and lost — how come I didn’t have any appetite for three days?

New York baseball fans are like this, and it makes baseball in this city awesome to watch and be a part of. I felt a similar feeling in Chicago and I realize there are some great fan bases out there. But it’s not the same. I apologize to the other 28 teams, but New York is king here.

The day after the Marlins game, Troy and I relaxed on a beach outside Miami and symbolically waded in the Atlantic just to say we had done it. I was thinking about a lot of things, but of course not far from my thoughts was the fact that the Mets now stand alone in first place. Baseball may rule in New York but a new section of the country has taken over first place for hospitality and just plain good times on this trip.

If you look at our interactive map you will see a stretch of our crawl that started in Asheville, North Carolina and ended in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I’m actually not going to say much about it because Troy is working on a blog that will explain what went down in Georgia, but I can speak for both of us when I say we will remember it for the rest of our lives and it stands out on a trip that has become so epic I cant imagine us not capturing it on film.

Thanks to the Rice family (Marshall, Maureen, Emily and Jake) for putting us up and putting up with us. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more beautiful setting than we saw in the mountains of northwest Georgia. I’m sad to leave it behind, but like Shea Stadium it has been good to me and I will always have the memories.

Mets: Up one game. I have to mention that this is not the same team that I saw at the beginning of the year. This is the 2006 team all over again. They have fight. They know they can win every night and they have showed it lately. We could have folded against the Phillies after the game 1 loss, but we went back out and punched them in the mouth. I have a good feeling about this team.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

ở đâu Là Xe jíp (của) chúng ta?

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2008 by manydn

By Daren Many

WASHINGTON D.C. — Have you ever found yourself wondering how astronauts measure lunar shockwaves caused by moonquakes?  Me neither, but I found myself deeply involved in all things space at the Air and Space Museum in D.C. yesterday.

All of my newfound knowledge about seismometers, solar cells, and converting solar energy into electricity couldn’t help me figure out why our Jeep got towed. As Troy and I we’re walking down Constitution Avenue towards our vehicle outside the Natural History Museum, I was thinking about a lot of things.

I was thinking about how we were going to protest outside the capitol building the next day. I was thinking about exactly how many beers it would take to protest outside the capital building. I was thinking, “Why the hell would the Wright brothers take off on that piece of crap?” 

Then I started thinking, how come our Jeep isn’t where we left it?

Then Troy, as if he were reading my mind, relayed the exact same sentiment. “Well,” I said, “it must be up another block,” although I new damn well that it wasn’t.

Apparently you’re not supposed to park on Constitution Avenue during rush hour in D.C. or so we were told. Even with all my newfound technical knowledge of all things aeronautical, I couldn’t figure out why in the world this could be.

Aren’t people going home during evening rush hour? Why would they need a parking spot? At any rate we raked in ticket No. 2 on BaseCrawl. You may hear more about the towing incident from Troy at some point — or after we finish the documentary — but I have a lot of things to catch up on.

Since my last blog we have been to the booming and cultural centers of Cleveland, Toronto, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Hobart, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh and D.C. We have stayed with a lot of great friends and family and we have racked up a ton of awesome stories. I need to thank these people as they deserve to be mentioned, as well as apologized to.

Eldon (Chicago): Sorry I lost your White Sox tickets, Eldon, but it has been one of the better moments of our documentary so far. Thank you for the contribution. I enjoyed all of Eldon’s stories and he made our stay in Chicago unforgettable. 

Melanie (Columbus, OH): Sorry I took your house keys without leaving them under the mat. I will be mailing them shortly. I couldn’t have been happier to see a friend on this trip. She was a great host. She cooked us dinner and took Troy and I on a walk around the OSU campus. We needed the exercise so thanks, Mel.

Mom (Charlottesville, VA): Sorry mom for the time I threw that party my junior year. I didn’t mean to puke in your mixing bowl. We are currently staying with mom for a second round but as always mom is there to cook, do our laundry, buy us beer, and help offer advice about women. Thanks mom, I love you.

Grandma and Grandpa (Hobart, NY): Sorry for leaving half our stuff at your house so you now have to make a trip to the post office. Grandma and Grandpa Many are almost like a second set of parents and being home makes me wonder why I’ve been gone all these years.

Dad, Barbara and Raja (Hobart, NY): Sorry we kept you up both nights when you needed to work the next day. Relaxing on the deck with a beer to all hours of the morning was just what we needed before heading to NYC. Watching Raja chasing cars also never gets old.

Raja

Raja

Becky (Brooklyn, NY): Becky, sorry for making you listen to me and my ramblings about the Mets for 6 innings. Apparently Becky got a trivia question right the other night about baseball and I feel directly responsible for this, so maybe I’m not sorry. At any rate I feel like the couple days we spent in NYC were the best so far and its all because of Becky. I should also mention Troy’s friend Jenny. I kept wishing the four of us could hang out longer.

Carrie (Boston, MA): There are no apologies for Carrie. She should apologize to me for letting me drink so much in Boston. Honestly I had a blast with Carrie in Cambridge and she offered us a place to stay several times. For that I thank her.

Corey and Scott (NYC and Boston): I wish these two guys we’re on the whole basecrawl with us. They were a blast and were always in a good mood. Sorry we had to sleep on your floor guys but I’ll remember our time in Boston forever. I never thought I would want to hang out with Yankees and Braves fans at the same time.

Mark (Pittsburgh, PA): Mark, sorry we made you sweat out our arrival to PNC Park. Those 10-hour drives with a hangover are nasty. Thanks for the tickets, hotel room, and conversation. I can’t imagine what our stay in Pittsburgh would have been without you. Actually I do. It would have sucked.

The Guy Who Cut My Hair (Ashburn, VA): Sorry I don’t speak Vietnamese. When I walked into his shop he asked me, “Ban muon mot su cat toc?” and I replied, “Just use scissors man and don’t cut my ears off.” I don’t know what kind of barber schools they have in Vietnam but luckily this guy passed all his classes. I once thought I heard a grizzly bear in Wyoming and I once wrecked a motorcycle. But that haircut was the scariest moment of my life.

Aunt Rena and Uncle Scott (Ashburn, VA): Sorry we ate all your food, used your electricity, created more laundry, used more water and basically did nothing in return. What are families for?!  You guys have always made me feel welcome and I hope to return the favor some day. Disclaimer: I don’t own a house or rent an apartment of any kind at the moment but when I do I’ll let you know.

Mets: Only .5 games back. Going into our game tonight in Baltimore the Mets have a chance to take over first place. It’s unbelievable. I talked with a police officer at the capital yesterday that’s a Phillies fan. He couldn’t believe it, either.  As I was holding this sign up at the capital I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder to see if he was un-holstering his weapon.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

An Idiots Guide To Scalping Tickets

Posted in Baseball Roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by manydn

Scalper gets busted

By Daren Many

 

CHICAGO — I pretty much knew things weren’t going according to plan when a Chicago Police Sergeant told me he was pretty close to pulling out the cuffs. This was after his fellow female officer, who was writing me a citation, strung together a sentence full of obscenities that made me feel like I had just stolen a woman’s baby and threw it in the Chicago River.

 

Wait, let me back up for a minute.

 

We try to develop a story that transitions to film for each ballpark we visit. It offers a unique look into the game, its surroundings and the people involved. For the Chicago White Sox game we had decided ticket scalping was the story of the day.

 

It was a great time to breach this subject due to the scarcity of tickets. It was an interleague game between the White Sox and Cubs. A classic city rivalry that involves two teams with tons of history. It divides a city between the north and south sides. It pits couples and family members against each other.  It offers one of the best atmospheres in baseball. That is, if you can score a ticket. That’s where we came in.

 

Troy and I decided it would be great to get inside the world of ticket scalping. To do this we needed to know how to buy a ticket and how to sell a ticket. We decided before we left the hotel that I would be the one working this experiment even though I couldn’t sell a ladder to a guy trapped in a well.

 

Phase 1: Buying a Ticket.

 

This part is pretty easy. No matter what park you go to there are a ton of scalpers around, but they don’t always make themselves easily identifiable.  They’re trying to make a profit, and doing so on ballpark property might be illegal, depending on where you are. Sometimes the scalpers are operating in broad daylight, sometimes they’re clandestine. Today was somewhere in the middle.

 

 

All 30 Ballparks in One SeasonIt was my goal to ask around for several tickets to get a feel for the market so I knew how much I could sell for. The problem was I only needed one ticket and they usually come in pairs.  No problem. Within 45 minutes I found a guy who sold me one ticket for $75. It was a lower-level ticket and I felt good to have scored such a good price on such a hot ticket. Just 15 minutes earlier a guy tried to sell me two for $150 apiece.  They weren’t even as good as the one I just bought. Phase 1 was a success. On to phase 2.

 

Phase 2: Selling Tickets.

 

This part takes a little bit of finesse and knowledge of the area. I had neither and it would ultimately come back to haunt me. I had been observing other scalpers at work so I went about mimicking their style. This involves asking other people if they have tickets. You can ask people if they need tickets but you better be willing to sell them for face value to avoid any kind of trouble from the law. Once you get someone to acknowledge that tickets are being exchanged you can than ask if they actually have tickets to sell or if they really want to buy tickets. It’s a tricky situation but I got some interest here and there.

 

Selling Scalped TicketsWe weren’t willing to sell the tickets too low because of the magnitude of the game. I had a couple of guys pass up my offers and I moved along to another area. I decided to walk around the outside of U.S. Cellular Field and get away from the front entrance. People seemed to be passing through this area at a decent rate.

 

I found two guys who expressed interest right away. They took a look at the tickets and asked me what I wanted. Having grown up in a town of approximately 1,000 people, my street smarts leave a little to be desired. Yet, I knew enough to make them give me a price first. Then after five seconds of going back and forth I forgot my own advice and told them $85 a piece. The face value was $31.

 

This is when half of the Chicago PD rolled in.

 

A guy in a blue polo came from behind me out of nowhere. Batman had nothing on this guy. I might have to go back and consult the video (Troy was filming me secretly across the street) but I’m pretty sure the guy came down from the side of the stadium on a zip line.

 

Almost as fast, another cop rolled up on a four-wheeler. I had just tried to sell my tickets to undercover cops. I was called over to the woman officer on the four-wheeler and given a brisk round of questioning by her and what turned out to be a sergeant of the CPD. They asked me if brokering tickets was my full-time job and if anyone was working with me. I pulled out the “I’m a dumb hick from Colorado” card and “I just wanted wanted to get rid of some extra tickets” line.

 

This drew some raised eyebrows.  I also asked them how come they were giving me a hard time when there were guys all around doing the same thing.

 

In hindsight I shouldn’t have said that. After telling the cops how to do their jobs it became quite clear that the sergeant wanted to flex some of his power. He went off. He told me he could put me in bracelets so fast my head would spin. His annoying sidekick on the ATV expressed a deep consternation that involved obscenities as to why I would question their business. I’ve never seen someone enjoy writing a ticket so much.

 

Of course, Troy was filming this the whole time from across the street so keep an eye out for the video version of this classic moment.  Phase 2 was a complete disaster. On to Phase 3.

 

Phase 3: Lose Tickets, Get Fined.

 

So in conclusion I lost both of the tickets, got a fine (which I don’t know the cost of yet), and then had to go inside and get raped again as I bought beer for ridiculous sums of money. We have our counsel Todd working on our case back in Portland as I write this.  It didn’t work out the way we planned but I learned some valuable lessons, such as don’t sell tickets to undercover cops.

 

As far as the game it was once again another blowout.  The Sox thumped the Cubbies. The atmosphere was incredible, though. It was one of the rowdier games we’ve been to with several fights breaking out in the crowd (we also have those on video).

 

Baseball in Chicago is for real. The only other city that’s even close from my experience is New York.

Ahhhh. True Love.

Ahhhh. True Love.

 

My story about scalping might overshadow our experience at Wrigley Field the day before, but in all reality Wrigley is the No. 1 story in my mind. It’s unreal.

 

If it weren’t for the way people dressed and the lack of horse carriages outside of the park you would think you went back in a time machine to the early 1900s and were watching a game. For the first time on this trip I really, truly felt the history of the game.

 

Going to Wrigley is an experience unlike any other. It’s like sitting in a living museum and being a part of something you can’t even understand. It transcends baseball and if you’ve never been you need to add it to your list. If or when I ever have kids I will be taking them to Chicago to watch baseball and experience the city.

 

It’s off to Ohio, but I will never forget these past few days. Not ever.

 

Mets: Making a push. Only 3 games back.

(There’s more on this and our other adventures at BaseCrawl.com.)

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