Away from home run — Baseball fan to bat 1.000 on visiting every MLB park

Photo courtesy of Justin Franchino. Justin Franchino, right, at a baseball game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 2006. He plans to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks this summer. He’ll keep a running blog of his adventure at justinfranchino.tumblr.com.

Photo courtesy of Justin Franchino. Justin Franchino, right, at a baseball game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 2006. He plans to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks this summer. He’ll keep a running blog of his adventure at justinfranchino.tumblr.com.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It’s called 30 for 30. At least that’s how Justin Franchino is referring to his summer plan of celebrating turning 30 this year by attending games in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.

He leaves May 6 for a three-month trip, starting in Seattle and ending in Denver.

A lifelong Alaskan, Franchino described himself as a basketball enthusiast for most of his life, playing in high school and now coaching. But attending baseball games has been a favorite leisure activity for years — smelling the fresh-cut grass of a ballpark, seeing the first pitch thrown out and wolfing down a hot dog.

“It is America’s pastime,” he said.

Franchino said the impetus to see 30 games in a single season, traveling all over the Lower 48, came not long after watching his favorite team — the Baltimore Orioles — play in their hometown last summer.

“I saw them play in Baltimore and then followed them to D.C and it was a fun trip, so I started thinking, ‘Next season I could do this stadium and that one,’ and then I decided, ‘Why not do them all?’ I’ve always loved sports and travel, so it’s always kind of been a pipe dream,” he said.

The push to make the dream a reality came after some reflection about where he’s at in life.

“I’m single, I don’t have a ton of debt, I just finished my degree and I don’t start my full-time teaching position ’til next year, so it seemed like it was the perfect time. It was now or when I’m 65,” he said.

So Franchino sat down with an ESPN baseball schedule and began looking at the logistics of how to make his own personal stadium-to-stadium trek.

“I’m on my fourth graph. I’m trying to plan games where there is another game there the next day in case I break down or miss one for some reason. I want to have a contingency plan,” he said.

“I’ll be logging 11,189 miles in a rental car in 165 hours, and that’s just going from stadium to stadium. I’m sure there will be a lot more driving besides that for food and lodging, but I’m looking for cheap, creative ways to save along the way, like staying with family, friends and churches.”

Franchino said he has already made plans to meet up with friends at a few games on the West Coast, and his father will be flying out for some games on the East Coast, for which Franchino is particularly excited.

“The matchups will be cool, but more so will be the experience of being in Fenway and Wrigley, built in 1912 and 1914. It’ll be pretty sweet to see the Yankees play the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, one of the biggest and oldest sports rivalries playing in one of the most historic stadiums in the U.S.,” he said.

Franchino will also be able to watch his beloved Orioles in a seven-game series in Texas, which he is excited about. Although, coming from Alaska, he is a bit leery about the summer heat in the Lone Star State.

“I’ll be down there at the worst time, June, so it should be super hot,” he said.

Still, Franchino said he is looking forward to all the ups and downs of the trip and he intends to share as much of it as possible through blogs and a Tumbler account.

“I’ll post photos and share stories of the trip, but I’m also hoping to develop a stadium review, ranking each one based on fun, food, prices, aesthetics, things like that,” he said.

Franchino said he hopes to get a photo with each stadium mascot, and he’ll be buying a T-shirt from each stadium.

“My mom is big into scrapbooking, so she’s offered to make a scrapbook with ticket stubs and pictures and things, and I’m hoping to have a quilt made out of all the shirts, sewn in the sequential order I visited the stadiums,” he said.

Franchino said he only had one thing that would be weighing on his conscience as he embarks on his trip next month, but it is a small price to pay for what he’ll get in return.

“It’ll be hard to leave Alaska for the summer and I’ll miss all the hiking and fishing I would normally be doing,” he said. “But it’s important to have a dream and say, ‘I’m going to do it,’ so I’m looking forward to all the experiences and memories I’ll gain along the way that will last for a lifetime.”

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