Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas

Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Spiegel: Time To Collect Ballpark Experiences

A quest to attend a game in every MLB park awaits.

Matt Spiegel
July 06, 2018 - 12:06 pm
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(670 The Score) It’s never too late to start something that will take the rest of your life to accomplish.

I want to hit every MLB ballpark. Lots of people go on or have completed this quest. It’s absurd, really, how many of them I’ve not been to. I get jealous when I see tweets like this from friend and colleague Chris Tannehill:

Twenty! The man is barely in his mid-30s. His ballpark list is incredibly impressive, like a Bert Blyleven curve. Plus, he seems to have had pure, solid fan experiences at the parks, with beers and snacks and friends and such. I’ve so often been working, upstairs with snooty, carefully detached media, unable to hang out where the real people are and fully feel the building. 

"Other than hanging with family, the ballpark visits are probably my favorite thing," Tannehill said. "Obviously I love to travel but don't have the time or money to see the world; seeing ballparks allows me to explore the country."

You’d think I, a baseball romantic bred into this passion essentially from the womb, would have been one of the many who collect ballparks. I'm a man whose pronunciation of "#baahhhhseballl" was so lampooned on the radio that it turned itself from insult to compliment almost daily. A Twitter account was born just to keep the ridicule flowing. 

And yet, my ballpark list feels meek and inadequate, like a Doug Jones fastball.

Last Friday night, amid accompanying my wife on a work trip to Dallas (I have some free time these days), we decided to hit the stadium in Arlington. An insurance company I’d never heard of has the rights, so "Globe Life" isn’t just what all us earthlings are living every day, it’s the home of the Texas Rangers.

The teams were bad. Hell, one of them was the White Sox. Dylan Covey got absolutely destroyed, the White Sox played like the clowns Reynaldo Lopez accused them of being a couple weeks ago and the Rangers led 10-0 by the third inning. But hey, Matt Davidson pitched in the eighth!

That was awesome. The man showed a legit curve and splitter. Davidson called it a dream come true.

StubHub got us great seats behind the plate for less than $100, and we stayed all night until the postgame fireworks, accompanied by a well-crafted Beatles medley. This was my kind of night. Adrian Beltre didn’t do anything special, but I’m still glad I saw him. And maybe it was the weird 17 percent alcohol drinks in mini-baseball shaped cans, but I enjoyed watching the teams have to go through the motions of playing out the game because they must. It reminded me of times I have sung at terrible, corporate parties. The band knows the gig absolutely sucks by the middle of the first set, .the crowd barely pays attention and we are sonic wallpaper. But you play your best. You finish the night with professionalism. It’s a job.

While spending four quality hours in the Texas nighttime heat, a few new traditions were established, to be played out in every new ballpark the future brings.

---- Arrive early, if possible, and immediately seek out a pre-researched food item that you have never tried before. Indigenous ballpark cuisine is endlessly creative, often times desperately so. Indulge in the absurdity and do so before the crowd onslaught makes you miss a couple innings. I had an amazing brisket sausage with grilled onions and BBQ sauce. I avoided the certain death of the ridiculous Boomstick.

--- At some point in the early innings, walk a full loop within the confines. See as many different crowd angles as possible, noticing unique spots and comparable features. 

Tannehill has more advice.

"I always sample a local beer no matter what," he said. "And, when in a town with a great regional accent, talk it up with someone. I never am one to talk to strangers, but you do things you normally wouldn’t do on a trip."

Oh hell yes. I'm absolutely one who talks to strangers, so I’d taken this part for granted.   

A few caveats on accumulating ballparks that I think we can all agree on:

Minor league parks don’t count. Spring training doesn’t count. Old ones and new ones in the exact same spot each count individually.

Below is my list, in order of attendance as best I can remember:

The Vet in Philly, old Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, old Shea Stadium, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Wrigley Field, Riverfront Stadium in Cincy, Old Comiskey, Milwaukee County Stadium, old Busch Stadium, Dodger Stadium, (then-named) Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, the Big A in Anaheim, the Cell/the Gary, new Busch Stadium, Jacobs/Progressive Field in Cleveland, Nationals Park, Miller Park and then Globe Life Park in Arlington just last week.

That's 19, just one shy of the 20 that impressed me. Decent. I’ve obviously been fortunate as hell. But think about what’s not on my list.

Camden Yards, the first of the new "old" parks that began a great trend. Safeco Field in Seattle has always been a goal. PNC Park in Pittsburgh looks absolutely amazing, and I shake my head at not having made it there yet. I’ve been right outside the BOB (now Chase Field) in Phoenix and Coors Field in Denver but not inside. My East Coast roots are obvious in the early entries, but I’ve yet to hit new Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, which replaced the old Shea Stadium. I lived in Los Angels for two years and never made it down to Petco Park in San Diego. 

The shame, it's real.  

Get busy living or get busy dying. I know what I’ll choose, Andy Dufresne.

Let’s check in next year, when this number will have risen, dammit. Friends have invited us to Target Field in Minnesota to see the Twins this season. The way that you actually have to walk down stairs into the stadium from the middle of the city sounds awesome.  

Maybe that’ll be No. 20.

Follow Matt Spiegel on Twitter @MattSpiegel670. For more from and about Matt, visit www.mattspiegel.com.