Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide For Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips
Going Yard - Stan Fridstein
Going Yard - Stan Fridstein
Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide For Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips
My retirement plan is pretty simple...
see a ball game in every park. Of course, my retirement is still a long way away – both on the calendar and in the planning. I had a chance to interview Stan Fridstein who wrote the book “Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide For Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips”. Going Yard is about Stan’s visit to every stadium. Stan’s book is a helpful and informative guide about major league parks. Stan told me about Tom Glavine’s pitching instructions, Cincinnati’s heavenly “Skyline Chili Dog”, and Toronto’s “auxiliary” entertainment.
How did you decide to write a book about these road trips?
When my son and I decided to tackle this journey, I immediately went to Google and Amazon.com in search of the definitive guide that could provide some direction. Nothing existed. There were all sorts of picture books containing brief descriptions of each stadium, but no comprehensive resource that could help us plan and execute the trips, complete with things to do in each park and the cities that house the stadiums. I promised myself that nobody else would ever have to spend the many hundreds of hours planning these trips. So I took remarkable notes throughout the journey. What’s more, I am a research freak and had the time available to conduct the appropriate investigation into each ballpark and city. I believe the dearth of information and time requirement probably scares many people off. Or at a minimum, without a guide like Going Yard, their trips were compromised. And that’s a pity!
Do you have other writing in your history?
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Organizing the massive amount of information into a format that was easily digestible and retrievable on a real time basis. I envisioned the first half of the book, which provides meaningful travel, budget, logistic, companion and other strategies to be consumed upfront. However, the back half of the book, which lays out the most interesting things to do in each MLB city and points of interest at each MLB stadium, to be read on a more real time basis. So the book had to offer up quick references and be handy or it wouldn’t be usable. That was tough. It also led to my developing an iPhone App that features the back half of the book more quickly and is easier to carry (it’s also called Going Yard).
How long did it take to go to all the parks?
It took 7 years. We averaged about a week each summer as we tackled a specific geographic region. Going Yard goes to great lengths discussing scheduling strategies as they relate to time, efficiency and budget. We would typically take in 4-6 parks per summer. We’d fly to the first city in a region and drive to each of the other cities (thank you, GPS!!) when possible. This allowed us to see the country and visit areas we might have otherwise missed. For example, when driving from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, we drove through Canton, Ohio, home of the NFL Hall of Fame. We’d try to leave extra time in the really cool cities for site seeing (NY, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco to name a few).
During this process, how many parks closed and new ones opened (Yankee Stadium ect)?
Did you redo those cities? New parks were built in St. Louis, Minnesota, Mets, Yankees and Washington after we visited the older ones. One or both of us went to each of the new parks, secured tours and updated our information in advance of publishing Going Yard. We plan to head to Florida next summer after the Marlins open their new ballpark. I guess I’ll have to publish a second edition when we get back.
Did you see any historic things while attending these games?
For example, a 500th HR, a triple play, ect. Sadly, we didn’t. We did catch some walk off home runs and hits and almost caught a no-hitter by Pedro Martinez at Shea, but that was as close as we got. We missed seeing Ken Griffey’s 500th home run by 1 game. That would have been pretty cool.
Any real bad games (boring or ugly)? If it's a bad game, did you have ways to make it more exciting. Like games to pass the time?
Loads of boring games. So we employed a couple of activities designed to liven things up (detailed in the book, of course). Before each game, we would each draft a team of three players from each team on the field. We would then keep track of the total bases accumulated by our respective draftees throughout the game. We became so obsessed with our own game that we sometimes forgot who won the game on the field when we returned to our hotel that night. We had another game where we would each own either the top of bottom half of every inning for 8 innings (not every game goes the full 9 innings, of course). If, at the end of a half inning, the ball ended up on the actual pitcher’s mound, then that person won something (it was a quarter with my son…I would imagine it would be beer or some larger denomination for adults). It only happens a few times per game but it makes the end of each inning a bit more exciting.
You went with your son? How did he feel about the trips?
My son (who was 8-15 years old during the journey) believes this was the most special thing he’s ever done. He talks about it incessantly and can’t wait to hit Florida next summer. In fact, when we finished the last of the ballparks, he asked how he could ever thank me. I told him that if he ever had a son with a similar passion for baseball, we should do it again with his son…but he had to do all the planning next time around! We went with one of his best friends and his father. It worked out extremely well as it cut down on expenses (like splitting car rentals, gas, etc) and made the trip more fun for all of us.
What's your top park? Top city?
I think Fenway is our favorite park with Wrigley a close second. If the new ownership in Chicago puts big money into Wrigley Field’s infrastructure, as was done in Boston, then Wrigley will be the best stadium, based on our analysis. The newer parks certainly have more comfortable seating and a lot of entertainment, but we’re old school kind of guys and these stadiums are real gems. If you squint a bit, you feel transported back about a century to a time when the world was simpler and time marched a bit more slowly. As for the new parks, we fell in love with AT+T, in San Francisco. Not only is the food and entertainment over the top, but the views are killer. Heck, I’d pay $50 a seat just to sit and watch the views on the San Francisco Bay from the worst seats in the house. As for our favorite cities, there were so many experiences and things to do in most cities and our time was so limited in each that we didn’t have a single market that took the crown.
What cities were most intertwined with baseball?
That’s a tough one to answer. St. Louis has the most knowledgeable fans and the entire stadium is a sea of red. And certain cities had almost no relationship with their team or the sport (Miami and Tampa Bay come to mind).
What's the best thing you did during your trip unrelated to baseball?
We had way too many highlights on our trip to outline them all here. I can tell you that the most memorable moments for me didn’t happen in the ballpark. They happened at night back at the hotel when we’d just talk about the day, the game and our lives like old friends. To have that relationship with my kid was special and those were some of the best conversations of my life. As for actual market adventures, renting bikes and touring Washington DC, going up the St. Louis Arch, the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich at Pat’s in Philly, Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, Alcatraz in San Francisco, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the 6th Floor Museum in Dallas were clearly highlights. Sometimes the activities created historical perspective. For example, my son saw the actual spot where JFK was shot in Dallas, the car in which he was killed at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit and his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery. Talk about living history!
It’s a tie: Florida Marlins and Oakland A’s…both horrible and not designed for baseball.
Which was the cleanest? Dirtiest?
Oakland is by far the dirtiest park. San Francisco is the cleanest. The brand new parks are all extremely clean, but let’s see what Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and the others look like after a few years of wear and tear. So they don’t count yet.
Which team needs a new park the most?
Oakland and Tampa….these are disasters. You’re going to laugh, but Dodger Stadium is now the third oldest and, while the setting is magnificent and it has some nice features, it lacks too many new stadium amenities and could use a major overhaul, in my opinion. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen with the current ownership in place, but a sparkling new stadium in LA is probably needed at some point.
Was there one park that was quirky?
Or stood out in an odd way? One certainly has to look at the hill in Houston’s center field as odd, and some of the angles of the outfield walls in Fenway make you wonder. The hotel in center field in Toronto has provided, let’s call it auxiliary entertainment, on more than one occasion.
Which city was the nicest? Which was the meanest?
There were no mean cities, but the folks working at Sun Life Stadium in Miami were pretty nasty. From the parking lot attendants to the ushers, they all had malevolent attitudes, which was odd because there were under 8,000 people at the game we attended. We would have expected better treatment.
Did you wear baseball things? Hats? Ect? If so, was it for the team you saw that day? If not, did anyone give you any trouble?
We wore neutral clothing in almost every stadium. The reason: We took private or public tours of each stadium and didn’t want to risk offending anyone. For example, the best tour we encountered was at Shea Stadium. When we were in the bullpen before the game, Tom Glavine was hanging around (he wasn’t pitching that day). He spent 15 minutes with us and even offered up some free pitching instruction to the boys. It would have been less than comfortable to be wearing Cubs apparel at that time. We did buy logo balls at every stadium and my son proudly displays them in a case in his room. If you find yourself within 50 miles of our home in Southern California, he’ll probably ask if you want to see the display!
Best concession stands?
And which place had the best piece of food you had? What was it? Overall, AT+T Park in San Francisco had the best concessions. However, the best piece of food we had was in Cincinnati. They have the Skyline Chili Dog…by far the best hot dog or any other ballpark meal on this or any other planet. It’s a religious experience. I had to double up on Lipitor that evening as the Skyline Chili covered dog on a freshly baked bun that has been covered with freshly grated cheese was downright artery clogging!
How do you feel about the older parks? Fenway? Wrigley?
In the past there was talk about building a new Fenway, what's your opinion on that? It would be a crime to tear down Fenway and they can’t tear down Wrigley…it’s a national historic monument. What’s more, it may the only reason the Cubs regularly sell out…it certainly can’t be the quality of the team or the food!
Did you buy tickets at the door or plan them in advance?
We always handled securing tickets in advance. In some cases, we were fortunate enough to have secured free seats with our tours (there’s an entire section in the book that deals with strategies that can help nab free seats/tours). But we didn’t want to show up and find ourselves out of luck or overpaying for the seats. Since we knew many of the games would be the only ones we’d ever attend in these stadiums (I mean, how likely are we Californians to get back to Kansas City?), we wanted to have great seats.
Hit any snags in your travel?
We were very lucky…but we also took precautions. We always flew non-stop so we wouldn’t miss connections or risk lost luggage. We booked car rentals with GPS so we’d be sure to stay on track. We did a lot of time/distance planning between markets to allow ourselves the occasional roadway hazard that wouldn’t cause us to miss a game. And we were incredibly lucky with regard to rain. It rained lightly at the Yankees and White Sox games, but not enough to force cancellation. There was a huge downpour in Houston, but the roof was closed so we didn’t miss a lick.
I have to be honest, for years now my retirement plan has been to visit every park. Where should I start?
By Mike Lavery
With Going Yard, the Ultimate Guide for Major League Stadium Road Trips. Seriously, your question is the first one we asked and I have the first half of the book devoted to providing meaningful direction!
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