Sunday, September 28, 2008

Deathtour~!: The Conclusion

That’s it. I’m done. 30 ballparks in one season. It was a rollercoaster ride from coast to coast, beginning to end. And as strange as this may sound, I can’t believe it’s over. Without question it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Every baseball fan should embark on such an adventure in their lifetime.

For the first time in 5 months I have nothing to look forward to. Nothing to plan. Nowhere to go. So now I can only look back on what was, and because I’m fascinated by numbers and lists, here are some of the highlights and facts, a few best of and worst of lists, some advice for future aspiring deathtour participants, and a few thank yous.

When I set out do the deathtour last year I was absolutely clueless as to how much effort it would take and how expensive it would be. I initially thought I could complete the trip in under $4,000, $6,000 tops, and maybe that’s possible. With better planning I may have been able to pull that off. But here are the final numbers. The tickets alone, to all 30 games cost $1,070. That’s an average of $35.66 per game. That number does not take into account the games which I did not pay to get into. In San Francisco, Oakland, Arizona and Milwaukee I went to the game for free. The most expensive game was Wrigley. I spent $265 on 3 tickets. The most I spent on a single ticket was at Fenway. That game cost me $150.

The total cost of transportation from city to city was $4,500. That number does not include any city transit I may have used, be it taxis or metro. Over the course of the tour I boarded 38 different planes and 7 trains. Lodging at 21 hotels cost $2,676, a cost of $127 per location.

Had I kept better records I could tell you how much all my food cost. I’ve estimated that I spent $360 on food at games. The programs and scorecards added up to $137.

In total it all adds up to $8,754 not including other ancillary costs. All together that’s a cost of $291 per game. Not too bad, but it could be better.

And now a few completely arbitrary awards.

Best Out of Town Scoreboard (Excluding AT&T Park) – Fenway Park. Hand operated scoreboards are the best. Every ballpark should have one. Sadly, only a small number of them do and the best one of those is in Fenway.

Best Centerfield Screen – Chase Field, Arizona; Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City. These two ballparks set the gold standard today. Their size is jaw-dropping, they’re as clear as crystal and every inch of those screens is utilized perfectly.

Best Domed Ballpark – Chase Field, Arizona. Houston is a close number 2 here but AZ is the best.

Best Sausage Race – Miller Park, Milwaukee. Often imitated, never duplicated, still the best. Other ‘races’ have been popping up around the country including a live Dot Race in Texas, but nothing is better than 5 sausages running from left field to the first base dugout at Miller Park.

Best Giant Coca-cola Bottle – The Phone Booth, San Francisco. Take that, Atlanta!

Best Scorecard Design – SafeCo Field, Seattle. 6 spots for pitchers, a box to keep track of balls and strikes and slot at the bottom of the inning for E and LOB. You’d think every scorecard would have them but you’d be wrong.

Worst Scorecard Design – Dolphin Stadium, Florida. Stupid tiny and there’s no place to list who’s pitching! Unbelievable.

Best Ballpark with an Attention to History - 3. Yankee Stadium, New York; 2. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati; 1. Busch Stadium, St. Louis – A fistful of statues of St. Louis greats, both Browns and Cardinals, a tribute to Jack Buck and the old scoreboard from old Busch.

Best Food - 5. Miller Park, Milwaukee; 4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh; 3. Chase Field, Phoenix; 2. MacAfee Coliseum, Oakland; 1. AT&T Park, San Francisco – The top 2 are both from the Bay Area? Shocking! Garlic Fries, hand carved sandwiches, Clam Chowder in sourdough bread, crab cakes, pizzas, Cha-Cha bowls and Baby Bull sandwiches, San Francisco has it all. In 8 years of going there I still haven’t tried everything yet.

Best Location - 5. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati; 4. Yankee Stadium, New York; 3. PETCO Park, San Diego; 2. AT&T Park, San Francisco; 1. Wrigley Field, Chicago – Nothing tops the atmosphere at Wrigleyville before and after a game.

Worst Location - 5. MacAfee Coliseum, Oakland; 4. The Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington; 3. Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim; 2. Dolphin Stadium, Miami; 1. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles – There’s, like, 10 million people there and they managed to build a park that isn’t near anything.

Best Value - 5. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City; 4. Camden Yards, Baltimore; 3. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; 2. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati; 1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh – Not only is it one of the most beautiful parks in the country with engaging scenery and lively atmosphere, it’s also one of the most affordable which makes it the best value in America (and Toronto)

Best Classic Park - 3. Yankee Stadium, New York; 2. Wrigley Field, Chicago; 1. Fenway Park, Boston – Just edging out Wrigley for the best antique in the big leagues is Fenway. It’s all about the Green Monster.

Worst Ballpark - 5. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay; 4. Metrodome, Minnesota; 3. Shea Stadium, New York; 2. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles; 1. Dolphin Stadium, Florida – Two of these 5 are being replaced leaving the two Florida parks with Dodger Stadium. It’s a really tight race at the bottom. Dolphin and Dodger Stadiums might as well be 1a and 1b.

Best Ballpark - 5. Chase Field, Arizona; 4. Fenway Park, Boston; 3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh; 2. Busch Stadium, St. Louis; 1. AT&T Park, San Francisco – I’d always believed we had the best park in the country, but until now I couldn’t confirm it with certainty. 29 stadiums later, now I can.

The next 5:

Great American Ballpark, Wrigley Field, Jacobs Field, Minute Maid Park, Camden Yards

This whole endeavor wasn’t without a few minor problems and if I had to do this all over again (which, believe me, I’m not doing) I would change a few things.

1. Plan everything out before the season starts.

I paid for not doing this. By waiting until just a few weeks before leaving on a few trips I ended up paying more than I should have. There are some teams that sellout most, if not all of their games before the season. In cases like Fenway or Wrigley, buy your tickets well ahead of time.

2. Longer trips are cheaper.

This I realized but I only took two trips of one week or longer. I probably could have saved over a thousand dollars by grouping games together more efficiently. I traveled across the entire country only to go to a game in Atlanta and 2 games in Florida. I would have been better served to chain that trip with a few other games before coming home.

3. Pay attention to the weather.

Obviously, when you plan a trip like this out in February, you don’t know what the weather’s going to be like in Cleveland on July 23, but based on historical evidence you can figure when the best times and worst times to travel to certain places are. For instance, don’t plan to go to Florida during hurricane season. In Houston, I cost myself an extra $600 by scheduling that trip during the same week of a hurricane. Of course I couldn’t know that would happen but I would have lessened my chances of that happening by scheduling Houston or Florida in April. As it was, I was extremely lucky to only have to reschedule 1 game out of 30.

4. Get frequent flier miles with an airline.

I made sure to do this before I started. And if I was smarter than I was, I would have looked into a similar deal with a hotel chain too. But, as it turns out, I’m not that smart.

5. Mooch off your friends and relatives as much as possible.

This always helps when you’re looking to save some money.

6. Sit in the cheap seats.

At least most of the time. Upper deck seats behind home plate, in my experience, are the best value in most places. Really cheap bleacher seats are good too. In nearly every game I tried to buy a seat with a face value of less than $30.

That covers just about everything. But before I wrap this up I want to thank a few people.

First, thanks to anyone who’s been following this wacky adventure. I’ve gotten some great feedback from people and it’s nice to see everyone following me along from city to city.

Special thanks to everyone who came out to the games with me. Shane Welker, Pat Loika, Taxman, the Jew Mafia, Brewtown Andy, Ed, Jon Dye, Everyone’s Pal Jim, Jabsen, my sister and my family in Mesa. I really appreciate you guys and I had a blast hanging with you all at the yard and I hope we can all do it again some time.

A real special thanks to Shane, Pat, Jim and my family in Mesa for allowing me to crash with them for a night or two. You helped make this trip possible.

That’s it for this year. The Deathtour is at an end, at least for now. The most frequently asked question I get is, “So, are you going to go to every football stadium next year?” The answer to that is an emphatic, “No! Are you crazy?” I don’t even want to know how much that would cost me. But that’s not to say I won’t travel to a few sporting events next year. I may make a return trip to a few places, and New York will have 2 new stadiums next season for me to review.

2009, here we come. Go Giants!

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