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.
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.)