Two years ago, my best friend Evan and I decided that we would visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. Hopefully after three decades of travelling and nacho-eating we can cross them all off our list.
Right now, we are seven per cent of the way there.
Our first trip was a roady to Seattle to catch the Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays series in mid-August.
We were lucky enough to sit eight rows behind home plate for Felix Hernández’s perfect game Aug. 15. We didn’t think it was possible to top that trip, but we did.
This winter, we began to hash out plans for the big time, New York City.
We grew up and went to college with a pair of brainiac baseball fans that were working in the Big Apple for the summer, so we had a place to crash.
We chose New York for a number of reasons, but mainly because it was the final season for Yankee captain, Derek Jeter. The soon-to-be Hall of Famer was making his curtain call around the league and the Toronto Blue Jays were in town at the end of July. Evan and I have been Jays fans all our lives, but we have never seen the boys play.
So we made plans to visit the Big City July 20-28.
Staying in the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, we saw it all: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, girls, the Garden, Brooklyn, Central Park, Times Square, the meatpacking district and the top of the Rockefeller building.
People have asked me about the trip and the only word that remotely comes close to describing that blur of a week is, insane.
The sheer volume of people crammed into the city was overwhelming. You could smell the wealth oozing out of businessmen and women like an exploded can of Axe body spray. It is a different world over there.
We got all of our touristy events done early in the week because the Jays and Yanks were squaring off on our last three days in New York.
The trip was full of “holy smokes,” moments. Whenever we saw or did something that we have seen on TV or in the movies, we shook our head in disbelief that we were living it out.
I’ll never forget the feeling of walking past the stadium gates and catching a glimpse of the iconic field for the first time. I couldn’t believe that we finally made it to Yankee Stadium.
The one thing that was missing from our Seattle trip was meaningful baseball. At the time, the Jays and Yanks were three games behind the American League East division leading Baltimore Orioles.
Some of you might remember a column I wrote about the Jays and how they put the MLB on blast notice in May. Less than three days after that column ran, the Jays hit the tank and haven’t really looked back. I tried apologizing to Jose Bautista from our right field seats, he clearly forgave me because he bashed two bombs in his first two trips to the dish.
The injury-plagued Jays entered the series on a 16-game winless streak in the Bronx and were looking to exercise some demons while keeping pace with the red-hot O’s.
The series was fantastic. The games were intriguing, we saw a few future Hall of Famers play, there was lots of long ball, gorgeous defensive plays and the Jays took two of three from the evil empire.
Right before we left on the trip, the Jeter Re2pect commercial came out and went viral. I knew that the city loved Jetes, I just had no idea how much they loved their all-time hits leader.
Anything Jeter did received a standing ovation. Whether he was stretching hours before the game, or a video of him reading an ad came on the jumbotron, people lost it. Even if he made an error they still cheered when they would normally demand that player gets traded.
I proudly admit that I (sheepishly) booed Jeter. These Jays’ colours don’t run and my guys were in a pennant race. Clearly I offended the baseball gods and they have punished me by making me watch a Jays team that is a shell of what they were in the first half of the year as they stumble away from post-season contention for the 20th season. Ironically, it’s the same amount of years Jeter has played in the bigs.
The best part about the trip was that I got to spend it with some best friends I rarely get to see now that we are “mature” and getting on with our own lives. Hopefully we one-up ourselves again on the next journey.