My love for baseball started on a hot afternoon in the summer of 1998. It was my first trip to Yankee Stadium and I was in awe. I watched the Yankees face the White Sox, got my first ballpark frank, my first Yankee hat (Hat Day) and my first view of a live sporting event. It was a perfect summer afternoon and only activated my thirst of experiencing a new place for the first time.
Baseball stadiums are unlike any other venue. While restricted in providing certain specifications, the design allows for some creativity; the size of foul territory, outfield dimensions and playing surface all providing unique advantages and disadvantages to opposing sides. Needless to say, my first trip to The Stadium would not be my last nor would it be my only ballpark visited.
Every year, I attempt to see at least one new ballpark. I enjoy taking in the experience of a different attraction and looping it in with visiting a new city. This past Spring I planned a 6 day trip with some friends to see two ballparks in Seattle and San Francisco and another attraction in itself in Las Vegas.
With flights booked, sleeping arrangements made and transportation only somewhat figured out, we set out for an exhausting trek to see baseball and sights. On Sunday afternoon, April 19, 2015 we took off on a Virgin America flight across the country to Seattle. It was on this flight that I took in the Virgin America Flight Safety Music video for the first time.
I anxiously sat in my middle seat waiting to arrive to Seattle, WA trying to glance out the half shut plane window to my left. Virgin is a progressively social company so it was no surprise that they featured passenger-to-passenger texting and “Send a drink” bar service. I knew it was going to be a great trip when the flight attendant approached with a cocktail explaining a mystery passenger on the flight (I never found out who it was!) had ordered me a drink.
When we finally arrived in Seattle, it was around 11 PM local time. The hotel was a small ways away from the airport so we tracked down a taxi that would take us there. We got to the hotel dropped our bags on the floor and passed out.
The next day we woke up at 6am to explore the city before the game that night. With our compact schedule, we wanted to make sure we hit all the stops. After indulging in a French toast breakfast that featured a wild berry topping bar, we set out to find the first ever Starbucks down at the famous Pike Place Fish Market. We grabbed coffee, saw the market and continued on. We hit the Space Needle, saw the stadiums, famous breweries and everything else we possibly could before heading to Safeco Field that evening.
On my way to the Mariners game that evening I couldn’t help but appreciate the scenery. Seattle is a wonderful city unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the East Coast. It featured modern industrial buildings surrounded by beautiful scenery. There are large snowcapped mountains in the distance all surrounded by a stunning body of water.
After the game we decided to hit the hay in preparation for our flight to San Francisco. Following an exhausting day we wanted to be well prepped for a full two days in the Bay Area. We boarded our morning flight, found pleasure in the clever flight safety video (third time viewing with layovers) and landed in San Francisco early afternoon.
If you’ve never been to San Francisco, the first thing you’ll notice is how hilly it is. My entire time there I was hiking up another hill to get around. We were able to see some really great sights. We saw some iconic landmarks and attractions including the impressive Golden Gate Bridge, took in our first trolley ride (oh boy what a scam) enjoyed some delicious food and primed ourselves for a potentially historic game; the first matchup ever of top pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.
It took forever to get into AT&T Park in San Francisco. Maybe this was due to the new advanced security protocols but there were certainly more people in the sellout crowd than our experience a few nights before in Seattle. The crowd was electric but friendly. The atmosphere felt like fall baseball, yet it was only a few weeks into the new season. It was a perfect landscape for a visiting fan with no particular rooting interests in the game.
While attending, I was able to score an invite to the FICO luxury box where I dined on delicious food, networked with software and technology professionals, scored a free new hat and brought more than a few drinks back to my real seats.
The game concluded with a Giants victory. I headed back to a friend’s apartment and mentally prepared myself to watch the Virgin safety video again. In the morning we grabbed breakfast and headed to the airport for the last leg of our trip: Las Vegas.
Let me tell you something about Vegas. It is not kind to new visitors. When we got off the plane we were poached by a cab driver who insisted we take the freeway to the hotel. This was a $45 dollar mistake. We were excited about the deal we got on our fountain view room at the Bellagio only to find out the fountain would be shut down for the two days we were there. Service charges. Hidden fees. Ambiguous rules. Thus is Las Vegas.
My trip to Vegas will always stay with me for a different reason than the experiences I had. It was here that I found out my college roommate and friend, Patrick, had succumbed to his battle with Leukemia. He fought hard and courageously and passed away peacefully with his loved ones by his side. It was difficult for me to cope with the reality that I had lost a close friend but also with the guilt I felt for being healthy and active while he had to suffer. I still struggle with that reality but it also sparked my next adventure and task that I will share with you.
On November 1, 2015, I will be running the New York City Marathon in honor of Patrick’s fight. I have pledged to raise funds for Leukemia Research for Memorial Sloan Kettering and I am proud to say that I have almost reached my goal. I wanted to make a difference and hopefully my impact and effort will inspire others to take on something close to them.
So as I conclude, I want to leave you with some advice and a challenge. Don’t wait for something to happen for you to take action. Find something you’re passionate about and start making a difference today. Whether that is fundraising, cleaning up the environment, protesting in the park or simply acknowledging someone else’s efforts goes a long way.
Here’s my page. Check it out and donate if you’d like. Share if you can’t donate. Or join me and pick up a cause that is close to you. Any way you can help is important because you will never know when you might need it.