Shea family road trip about more than baseball
Every summer, thousands of people embark on cross-country missions. Some bike for causes, some walk to raise money, some ride horses and, in the case of one group, some walk a goat to Wrigley Field. To be honest, these are so common they usually aren’t newsworthy anymore.
But then you hear about one like today’s. It involves long-time Springfield Realtor Jim Shea, his wife, Barb and their son, Justin.
Three years ago, at age 57, Jim was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy. The disease destroys cells in the brain that control muscle control, personality and thought. It is progressive and there is no cure. About a year after his diagnosis, Jim retired from his job as broker and partner at The Real Estate Group.
Then came last fall’s World Series, with the Shea family’s favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, winning it all. During that experience, the family hatched an idea: We should rent an RV and take Jim to all 30 major league ballparks; 12,000 miles in 50 days.
They left Springfield May 10 to do just that.
“It was Game Seven when the Cardinals played the Rangers when it happened,” says Justin. “We’ve always been huge baseball fans. I thought this would be a great way to spend time with both my dad and mom. Last October the idea was hatched. From that point on, I knew that was what we were going to do.”
This spring, Justin put his life on hold. He quit his job in real estate and private equity, rented out his condo in Chicago and said “So long for now” to his girlfriend.
I caught up with them a couple of days ago by cell phone in Texas, where tonight they will see the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds. After the game, they will embark on one of the longest legs of this trip — 1,175 miles to Kansas City, Mo., for the Royals and Oakland Athletics.
But that isn’t the longest leg. No, that was the 1,368 miles earlier this month from Seattle to Denver.
Safeco Field in Seattle got five Jims, by the way. That’s their rating system for each stadium they visit. Justin is writing a blog about all of this and puts up as many pictures of his dad’s face as each stadium earns. Sorry, Oakland, your Coliseum only earned two Jims.
Since Jim’s diagnosis, Barb has taken care of him. Justin has joined the board of directors of CurePSP and has helped raise about $30,000 toward research into the disease. He is raising more late this summer, when he participates in a triathlon in Wisconsin.
“We’ll have a link on my blog where people can donate,” he says. “One hundred percent of the donations will go to research.”
There are also interesting, colorful vignettes on Justin’s blog, such as what happened the first time he filled up the mammoth gas tank in the RV and this observation from Game One in Arizona:
“I couldn’t help but notice an abundance of sleeve tattoos. It seemed everyone had one. Girls, guys, babies, dogs, etc. Perhaps this is an Arizona thing? It’s not for me, but it does give me an extra incentive to give the hot dog vendor a larger tip when he tattooed nearly every inch of his arms.”
So far, the Sheas have been to 10 stadiums in the West and have seen former Cardinal Albert Pujols and his new team, the Anaheim Angels, twice.
“It was good to see him,” says Justin, “and how the fans responded to him in Anaheim.”
Jim and Barb’s daughter, Courtney Jones, and her children are boarding the RV for the trip today to Kansas City.
Next week, the Sheas will be back in Springfield to relax, recharge and attend a wedding. Then they will get in the RV again and head east for a June 12 game in Cincinnati between the Reds and Detroit Tigers.
After the July 3 game in Milwaukee, they will turn in the RV and do the last three games -- St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago -- by car at a more leisurely pace.
Then it will be time for Justin to resume his normal life.
“I haven’t really thought about what I’ll do,” he says. “There are some things I’m looking at, but this is my main focus for the time being.”
Next stop: Kansas City.