Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Game 29 - Chicago Cubs

On a beautiful, but chilly Saturday in Chicago, we made our way over to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs battle the Cardinals. We were fortunate enough to have a friend, Andrea Burke, who works for the Cubs. She was very good to us, getting us field access, and seats to the game. Also, Jeanette's friend from college, and life long Cubs fan, Katie, was gracious enough to let us sit in her season tickets for the game. It was a lot of fun to spend some time with Katie and her husband. Katie loves baseball as much as we do, and I hope someday she gets to experience a competitive team in Chicago.

My family and I had been to Wrigley Field several times, but this was the first time my good friend Mike Harth had stepped inside the friendly confines. We had a great weekend spent with friends and family watching Cardinal baseball in the windy city.

Mike, Jeanette, Dave and me on the field before the game 

It's always a lot of fun watching baseball at Wrigley. I used to live right by the Stadium when I first moved to Chicago, and there is a certain energy around the ballpark. There is also a lot of binge drinking, but Cubs fans in general are very passionate about their team and want nothing more than to win like the Cardinals. As a Cardinals fan traveling to every ballpark, you realize how fortunate we are that nearly every year our team is competitive, and many teams the best in baseball. 

This weekend was actually my 30th birthday, so it was a special time for my family and me to be able to enjoy all the things that I enjoy in one place: baseball, and spending time with the people you care about. Plus, I got to see three Cardinals games that weekend!

Pros: Yes, the team is terrible, but there are very few places on earth like Wrigley Field. I am in favor of making some aesthetic changes and bringing in better food options, but there is something special about having major league baseball in the heart of a great city.

Cons: Falling concrete and AAA team playing for the Cubs. I'm torn on whether to include the men's urinal troughs as a pro or a con...

Jeanette and me on the field prior to the start of the game

My Dad and I walking down the right field line

Mike, Bitter, Moore and me enjoying the action


Monday, October 8, 2012

Game 28 - Minnesota Twins

My parents, Dave, and I decided at the last minute to head to Minneapolis for the Twins / White Sox game. Dave and I had been in Green Bay for the Bears / Packers game on Thursday night, so we drove from Green Bay and I met my parents near Madison, Wisconsin and finished the rest of the drive in one car. I had been to Minneapolis once before, but this was the first time to the new Target Field for all of us. We stayed downtown at the Westin, just a short walk to the stadium. 

True to fashion, we arrived at the ballpark just minutes before first pitch. We walked up to the ticket office and purchased pretty good seats in left field. Once we made our way into the expansive outfield at Target Field, I knew it was going to be a special park. Aesthetically  this was one of our favorite parks, and ultimately, the only drawback to Target Field would be the food options. 

After traveling nearly 15,000 miles and seeing 28 ballparks, I think we found our favorite super fan. 'Truck Stop,' a rather large man comfortable enough to embrace his stature, manned the left field bleachers at Target Field. True to his name, 'Truck Stop' wore a Twins jersey the size of a queen down comforter and hung on every pitch. We were fortunate that our seats were a section away and not obstructed by this fella.

 Truck stop celebrating a Twins hit, I think.

View from the left field bleachers towards downtown Minneapolis. The stadium is connected to the center part of the city via pedway, allowing pedestrians easy access to and from the park.

Big Jim, Mom and Dave enjoying the game.

Big Jim and the rest of us really enjoyed Target Field. The stadium is beautiful, and downtown Minneapolis is a lot of fun. I will definitely be back for more games.

Pros: Beautiful, new park with great, expansive layout right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. I was surprised there wasn't a retractable dome.

Cons: Local food options were disappointing. I hope they make changes to this in the coming years and bring in more local vendors,  much like they have with local beer options.


Game 27 - Chicago White Sox

Although a few weeks late, I wanted to get our blog up to date now that we've completed our tour of all 30 MLB parks! On Saturday night, August 7th, a large group of us headed over to the south side of Chicago to watch the White Sox. The Shea family was joined by my girlfriend Jeanette, our friends Bobby and Candace, and most of the Moore family. Since the renovation of Comiskey Park in five phases, over five years, starting in 2001, baseball has been much more enjoyable to watch on the south side. Plus, the White Sox have had some very good teams, including the World Championship team in 2005. The food, ballpark views, and on field product are on par with most teams in baseball.

It was a beautiful night for baseball, and we all settled into a large section in left field. It was great to have both Mackenzie and Courtney and their kids join us for a game and a nice weekend in Chicago.

 Miss Mia taking in her first Sox game

 Addison, Sam and Reese getting in on the action!

 Mia acting like she likes me.
Bobby, Candace, Jeanette, Addison and Reese.

Mia and her Momma.

Barb and Sam enjoying the game. 

Pop Up letting Mia lay it all out at the game. Most Sox fans go shirtless at home games.

Pros: Great team, much improved ballpark and spotted cow on draft in the Friday's Front Row grill. Also, Kenny Williams didn't trade Gio Gonzalez again during the game. 

Cons: A large fight broke out in front of us near the end of the game. 5-6 people were involved and it went on longer than it should. I don't know what it was about, nor do I think the people involved know what they were fighting about. Sad. 


Monday, August 13, 2012

Ford Madison Ironman for CurePSP

Hi All-

As many of you know, I'm participating in the 2012 Ford Madison Ironman in honor of my Dad on September 9th, 2012. Over the past several years, with the help of many of you, we've raised over $30,000 for CurePSP. We have made great
 strides in researching and implementing potential treatment plans for those diagnosed with this devastating disease. However, we can do more! Every little bit helps.

Please join me in supporting a great cause in hopes of creating a world free of progressive neurological disorders.

Shea Ironman Donation Site for PSP

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Game 26 - Cincinnati Reds

My Mom, Dad and I made the five hour drive from Springfield, Illinois to Cincinnati, Ohio for a Monday night Reds game against the Padres. My buddy, Dave Moore, planned on taking the MegaBus from Chicago  in time for the game. This would be the first time I had been to both the city of Cincinnati, and Great American Ballpark. As Cardinals fans, we don't have a lot of love lost for the Reds. A great rivalry has developed between the two teams and former Cardinal GM Walt Jocketty has built a pretty good team.

The area surrounding the ballpark has gone through a major transformation over the past few years, and the park is lined with great restaurants, bars and apartment developments. Much to my Mom's delight, Toby Keith opened a bar just across the street. The ballpark, although a bit older than I anticipated (constructed in 2002), it showed really well. The park had great food options including the best bar-b-que I've had on the trip. Dave's friend, Kate, who lives in Cincinnati, joined us for the game. It was great to get her insight on the city and her favorite parts of the ballpark.

On a somewhat random note, Dave and I headed to my parents hotel room to help them get ready for the game. With all the hotel room numbers floating in my head throughout the trip, it's no wonder the following happened. I knocked on what I thought was their hotel room, and received no answer. For some reason, I thought that would be the perfect time to break out the Tommy Boy 'housekeeping, me want mint for pillow' spiel. Unfortunately, in mid sentence, we found out that no, it wasn't my parents room, but an Indian couple who spoke very little English. Dave immediately started laughing, and I couldn't help but laugh too and turn around and run. Another fun day on 'tour.'

Big Jim enjoyed the park, even though the Reds are currently in first place in the Central division:

Pros: River views, food and beer options, neighborhood bars.
Cons: The team is competitive and a rival to STL.

The next morning we made the short drive to Mt. Adams as I've heard great things about the area and how it had a Lincoln Park feel to it. Although much smaller, it was a very cool drive with much more topography than I would have expected in Ohio. If I lived in Cincinnati, this place would certainly be on my list.


Game 25 - Milwaukee Brewers

It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I apologize for the brief blog posting hiatus. On July 3rd, my parents and I made our way to Milwaukee for our 25th game on the road trip, and our last in an RV. We would complete the final five games in our car over the next eight weeks.

My good buddy Dave Moore and his Dad, also Dave, would be meeting us in Milwaukee for the game. Little did we know that my girlfriend Jeanette, and our good friends Dave Matheis and Sarah Leonard surprised us at the game as well. It was a lot of fun to see so many familiar faces after spending the past eight weeks on the road.

My parents and I had been to Miller Park several times before when I lived in Milwaukee and we have always enjoyed watching the Brewers play. It was a hot day at the park, and the only way we would beat the heat was to enjoy several Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and New Glarus Spotted Cow beverages, my two favorite beers in the world.

 My Dad cooling off at Miller Park

Many of us enjoying the game in our great seats! 

The Brewers have been a great rival to the Cardinals over the past several years and they built a beautiful park to compete in. My Dad has always liked it, but after seeing so many great parks along the way, Big Jim couldn't stomach giving the park a flawless rating:

Pros: New park, dome construction, beer selection, Benny The Brewer Slide.
Cons: Food selection, ballpark shadows.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Game 24 - Detroit Tigers

After our day game in Toronto, we made the five hour drive to Detroit and landed on US soil around 8 p.m. Thankfully, my Mom told my Dad to "hide the reefer' so there were no border issues (that really happened). We settled into a hotel in Southfield, Michigan and planned to visit my Mom's cousin Diane and her family in Morenci, Michigan, a town of only 2,000. We had a great time going through old year books and talking about fun times we've had on our trip. I really think the only reason my Mom went on the trip was that my Dad and I promised we would visit Morenci. It was great being in a small town again, where everyone knows everybody, and you take the time to appreciate the small things. I loved hearing George's stories about how many Morenci Homecoming Queens were in their family and how 'all the pretty girls are from Morenci.'

I also made the mistake of telling my Dad Diane made the best fried chicken from scratch. Of course, the first thing he asked when he met her was "I heard you're making fried chicken?" All in all, we had some of the best times of the trip in Morenci, talking and hearing stories of my Mom's childhood. The baseball was the catalyst for the trip, but visiting with friends and family all across the country is what has made the trip truly special. These times, and the pictures documenting those memories will be cherished by us for a very long time.

Later that evening, we headed towards Detroit for a game the following day. We were set to meet George and Diane's son Jeff, and his wife Karen at the game and were very much looking forward to it.

Poor lighting!

My Mom and Jeff hadn't seen each other in ages, and it was great for them to catch up. They were so generous with their time and spent several innings with us. Jeff is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met. He is battling some medical issues of his own and we ask that you please keep him and his family in your prayers. Much like my Dad, he's as tough as they come. It's amazing the things you learn from people when you least expect it, but family and baseball tend to bring out the best in people. I know it has for me.

As for Comerica Park, we loved it! It was my Mom's favorite Stadium on the trip and I couldn't blame her. They did a great job laying out the park and making it feel historic, even though its only twelve years old. It seems to be a focal point in the city, with much development surrounding it. Detroit has taken its share of punches over the past few years, but I hope the city can rally around its baseball team because they have a good one.

Pros: Great views, car and water fall in center field, historic franchise.
Cons: Area surrounding park is a work in progress.