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The Rogues’ Great Northeastern Baseball Journey

Wow, here it is. The last episode, the finish line, the final chapter, call it what you will.

We did it. MrsIanRogue and I have now seen a game at all 30 MLB Stadiums. Last month, we crossed numbers 27-30 off the list, and had some adventures in doing so. It seems fitting that I share some of those adventures here, since lots of the people here seem to like baseball-related things. Just so you know going in, this will not be exclusively baseball content. The majority of it will be, but there will also be a smattering of asides and detours throughout. My typical warning: this is going to be a lot of words, so you might wanna go grab a snack or a drink. Or both. Anyway, I suppose I should start at the beginning.

It was a dark and stormy night…

Wait, no, not that kind of beginning.

I was born…

OK, who smacked me just now?

I guess it actually starts the night before we left for the airport. Well, actually it starts months earlier, as we try to piece together all the tiny details that go into one of these trips. There are so many variables that we have to account for. For example: "If we take one route through the state, we’ll get to [insert city name here] before the team starts their homestand, so do we start at the other end? Well, if we do that, we would have to race to [insert different city] to catch their team before their homestand ends, and we’d have to skip [point of interest along the route]." This kind of thing is true for all the ballpark trips we’ve done. Trying to find a way to align our itineraries with multiple teams’ home schedules in a way that we could see them all is like a really complicated puzzle. Mix in our work schedules, and that also reduces the options for when we can do these trips. Anyway, I don’t think it’s all that surprising to us that New York ended up being our last trip. We were kind of putting it off as long as possible, for multiple reasons. First off, and most obviously, NYC is not exactly budget-friendly. Secondly, navigating such a large city can be a bit daunting, even for people who are fully able-bodied and can use the public transit to its fullest (For those new to the program, MrsIanRogue typically uses a wheelchair to get around). Once we ran out of other ballparks, there was no more putting this section of the country off if we wanted to complete the list.

We started mapping this trip out once MLB released the tentative 2018 schedule, and kept tabs on when single game tickets were slated to go on sale. This is where MrsIanRogue really takes the lead. I’m incredibly disorganized, but she has a system that works wonders. While I’m definitely involved in the choosing of what we do on the trips, in terms of organizing the details and actually making things happen, that’s all her. We don’t book anything until we can be sure that things aren’t going to drastically change on us. With so many interdependent parts to these trips, it wouldn’t do to get almost everything set and then have to undo or alter a bunch of bookings like dominos because of one issue or another. We started actually booking flights and hotels once the tentative schedule became the official schedule, and they added game times to the calendar, so we knew what our time constraints would be. Within a few days of everything becoming available, we went from nothing booked to everything booked.

We also don’t plan every minute of every day, so that we do have the flexibility to play certain things by ear. The big things are pretty solidly set, but the time in between them is open to suggestions from friends, or recommendations from travel blogs, or other random sources. We gather ideas and options in the time leading up to the trip itself, and sometimes we get them while we’re on the trip. It can be hard to find the right balance of structure and leeway, but we seem to do all right.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

So the night before our trip, we stopped at my family’s place to drop our dog, Willie, off (with a super-early flight the next morning, it didn’t make sense to drop him off on our way to the airport). The person who would be housesitting for us offered to watch him too, but we’ve found he does better when he’s not cooped up alone all day, so my family’s place it is. After staying and chatting too long, as we always do, we got Willie settled in with his portable kennel and food, and came home to finish packing for our super-early morning. It’s always really strange when we’re home at night and one of our pets isn’t. It’s almost like something’s wrong, with an empty spot where his kennel should be. Our cats knew something was up, too. They knew it once we got the luggage out (they looooove napping on the suitcases), but once Willie was gone they kicked into an extra gear of attention-seeking. It was really quite endearing, except that we wanted to try to get at least a little sleep before it was time to go.

DAY 1: TRAVEL

The alarm went off at what I’d call the crack of dawn, but that was still a ways off. It was a quiet ride up to SFO, but it was busier there than we expected for as early as it was (our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:45); maybe it was because it was Father’s Day weekend, but I feel like that’s less of a traveling holiday for most people. The first leg of our flight was relatively uneventful (other than some of the worst turbulence I’ve encountered), and the flight crew was keeping us updated on the flight status. If there’s one thing we dread about flying through O’Hare, it’s gate changes. We were told that our connecting flight had changed gates to one about half a terminal farther than before, and with only 45 minutes, we were going to be cutting it really close. Since MrsIanRogue has to gate-check her wheelchair, she has to be one of the first passengers to board the plane and one of the last off it, essentially knocking an average of 30 minutes (15 on each end) off any layovers we have. Then, a bit later, they told us that our arrival gate had changed. At least it got us into the same terminal as our connection now, so that was an improvement. Then on final approach, we were notified that our arrival gate had changed. Again. To the gate right next to our connection =) I think that’s the first time O’Hare’s infamous musical gates have worked out in our favor.

The flight into Rochester held no surprises at all, at least until we landed that evening. At the baggage claim, two of our bags showed up fairly promptly, but we were waiting a good long while for the third one. Eventually we joined the line of people waiting to talk to the baggage officer to see what was going on. When we talked to her, she said that it didn’t make it onto the flight, but that it would hopefully be arriving on the next one at 9:30. We gave her the address of the hotel we’d be staying at (about 60 miles away) and she said they’d deliver it to the front desk any time, even if it doesn’t arrive until midnight. With not much else to do besides get the rental car (Subaru Outback, and we were VERY impressed by it) and head for Buffalo, we left the airport and hoped our bag wouldn’t be too far behind us. We made it to the hotel, and right across the street was an Anchor Bar, the restaurant that claims to have invented Buffalo wings. This wasn’t the original location, but they had the same menu items, so we opted for a variety of iconically Buffalo things. We got the original wings, roast beef on kimmelweck, and loganberry to drink. Overall, it was a nice way to open the trip, even though I’m apparently not a big fan of kimmelweck.

DAY 2: WASHINGTON NATIONALS AT TORONTO BLUE JAYS

The next morning, I went to the front desk to check on our bag, and it was there waiting for us. Good thing too, as it had a lot of the things we wanted for the drive up to the ballgame (our backpack with the pins we’ve collected from all the ballparks, MrsIanRogue’s scorebook, our GPS mount, etc). When we left the hotel, the GPS said we should arrive at Rogers Centre about 90 minutes before first pitch, so we were fairly well on time. We caught a glimpse of Niagara Falls as we were crossing into Canada, but couldn’t really see much from the bridge. Not a big deal, as it was part of our plans for the next day. Once we got through the tolls/customs plaza, which ate up a bit of our time cushion, it was smooth sailing all the way up to… almost Toronto. Everything ground to a halt about 5 or 6 mil- I mean, 8 to 10 kilometers outside of the city. We couldn’t believe how slow it went from there. We lost so much time that by the time we got to the parking garage we’d booked, we weren’t even sure we’d get to hear the anthems.

When we finally got to the entrance to the parking garage, there was the strictest security we’ve ever seen for a ballgame. They had police dogs walk around the car, and they even had us roll down the windows and open the trunk. I don’t know if this was normal procedure for them, or if there was tighter security for one reason or another. Once we got into the garage, we were directed towards a particular section and a particular space, and when we got there, it even had our names on it, so that was a nice touch. No way anyone could claim they didn’t know they were parking in the wrong spot when they put names on them. Security into the park itself was quick though, probably because we were cutting it so close to game time that there was nobody else in front of us. We had to make a beeline for our seats, so we didn’t have any time at all to explore the concourses. When we finally made it up to our section, we found that the pathway for the accessible row was quite narrow if there are people sitting there (either in the provided seats or their own mobility devices), so we had to squeeze our way to our spaces halfway up the row. The ushers were as helpful as they could be, though there’s only so much they could do. It’s not like they can move the wall back to make more room between it and the railing at the front of the row. Once again we ran into the issue of a team trying to cram more seats into a section than is practical; it’d be fine if everyone’s chairs were the width of stadium seats, but when you get a handful of wheelchairs, scooters, etc. that are wider than that, it makes the entire row pretty tight. It sounds as though there are plans to replace the seats in the stadium in the next few years; perhaps they’ll alter the accessible sections to improve the fan experience there as well. Anyway, we got settled in juuuust in time for first pitch.

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The view from our seats wasn’t bad at all, but we definitely didn’t like the acoustics. The loudspeakers were some of the loudest we’ve heard: almost as bad as Dodger Stadium in that regard, though not enough to edge them out. Another issue that we encountered was that there was no breeze at all; it seems to be a pretty common issue with the ballparks with retractable roofs. I guess with the only real opening to the air being at the very top of the building, everything below stays a bit stagnant. Between that, the mildly obnoxious volume levels, and the cramped seating the row, we made it through about an inning and a half before deciding we didn’t want to just sit there, so we left the area to look around the park.

The concourses on our level were spacious enough, though the ceilings felt a tad low to me. The airflow wasn’t any better there than at our seats, again probably due to the fact that everything was pretty sealed up. One really interesting concept that I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere else is that the section entrances have numbers over the doors that are color-coded depending on which way you’re facing. The numbers are blue if the sections ahead are in descending order, but they’re red if you’re facing the other way so that you know that the sections go up in that direction.

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They had the game playing on the usual in-stadium monitors that all ballparks have, but they also had video walls in some spots that were showing it much larger. They also had a nice patio area where we could go out and get some fresher air, and the area seemed like a nice spot if we wanted to just sit with a drink and watch on the monitors for a bit. Out behind CF they had an area that was all set up for Father’s Day, with various photo ops, games and activities.

The lower-level concourses were much more spacious, though also more crowded and difficult to get through. There was a nice variety of food choices, on both levels that we explored. MrsIanRogue got chicken tenders, which were definitely different from what we’ve seen before. The breading was different, and they came with plum sauce instead of ketchup or BBQ. They were really good, apparently. I got the classic poutine, which was also excellent. Their prices were below average for ballparks, and then we remembered that the prices were in Canadian dollars, which was even better for us.

When we went back to our seats around the 5th inning, the person to our right had left, so we had a bit more elbow room. We were able to enjoy the game a bit more, now that some of the stressors had dissipated. The music was still loud, and there still wasn’t much movement to the air, but it was still better than when we first got there. We noticed something else unusual about the park: it doesn’t have any foul poles. I guess the upper-deck seating is flush with the outfield wall, so they couldn’t put poles there. Instead, they have foul netting, which I suppose would work. We also liked the novelty of the outfield distances listed in both imperial and metric.

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It’s also interesting how there’s a hotel attached to Rogers Centre, and some lucky guests could watch the game from their rooms. I bet it’s crazy expensive, though, and they more than likely upcharge for that view.

After the game, it took ages to get out of the park. We had to wait for the elevator, which the operator would drop people off on the ground level, take it all the way back to the top, and stop at each floor on the way down, so by the time it got to our level it was invariably full. We wanted to take the ramp down the 2 levels to the ground, but they wouldn’t let us except in an emergency, because they’re relatively steep and don’t want any accidents with wheelchairs. So we just had to keep waiting for an elevator. Somewhere between 30-45 minutes later, we finally managed to squeeze into one and take it to the ground level. Now we could walk around the exterior of the park like we wanted to before the game. It’s… kind of boring from the outside. They have some player banners up, which helps, but the architecture is still pretty uninspiring. I did get a shot that I like of the park and the CN Tower, though.

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Also, right near the park was some random guy in a Spider-Man costume, posing for pictures with tourists. I have no clue why, and I doubt he had any kind of official business there. Still, it was fun to walk around and see a bit of the immediate surroundings before heading back towards the US.

Partway back, we decided to stop at another Canadian mainstay: Tim Horton’s. We got coffee and donuts and sat by the fire they had going, even though it was around 90 degrees out. Their iced coffee listed 2 options: "more sweet" or "less sweet." I ordered the less sweet version, and my teeth ache just thinking about how cloying the "more sweet" must have been. But the donuts were good, and the coffee wasn’t undrinkable. Back on the road, we decided to check out the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, so we found a parking lot a couple blocks away. Right smack in the middle of Clifton Hill. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s one of the most charmingly tacky tourist traps I’ve ever seen. It’s like how I’d imagine a Vegas Strip for the whole family. You’ll find funhouses, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, wax museums, arcades, a waterpark, and even a go-kart track that looks like it’d be at home in a MarioKart game. And much more along those lines. After walking through the streets of Clifton Hill, we made it to the edge of the Niagara River, and got our first real look at Niagara Falls. It really is a beautiful place, and even though I’ve seen photos of it before, they really don’t do it justice. We walked along the path, taking pictures and looking around, and saw that there was even a zipline that you could take down the cliff face, landing near an old abandoned hydroelectric plant. It looked like it would’ve been incredible. They were already booked for the remainder of the evening, but if we ever go back we’ll definitely consider doing it.

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After stopping in at one of the shops to get a pin for our map, it was time to head back to the car. The terrain was… rough. It seems like anywhere that gets snow tends to generally have much more cracked pavement. I know there’s little they can do about it, but it still stinks. After a long trudge back up the hill to the car, we crossed back into the US without incident and went back to the hotel.

DAY 3: NIAGARA FALLS AND TRAVELING

In the morning, we decided to go back to Niagara and check out the falls from the US side. On the way there we stopped at a Wegmans for some road snacks, and wow that place is impressive. I wish they had locations out here. When we got up to Niagara Falls State Park, we found some street parking and then walked the mile or so to the viewing area for the falls.

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It’s really incredible being there, and I’m really glad we decided to come back to the US side rather than think "eh, we saw it one way already, let’s just go." We made the trip back out of the state park in a relatively steady rain, though we could tell a storm was on its way. We ducked into another Anchor Bar to have lunch while seeing if we could avoid the worst of the storm. It worked; by the time we were ready to head back to the car, things had lightened up significantly. We had a fairly long drive ahead of us, so we were glad it wasn’t pouring anymore.

We had a lovely drive through upstate New York. It was just so green and beautiful, it instantly became one of my favorite places to drive. We made a quick stop at a little shop in Rochester, since we’re such music geeks. This was a small brass repair shop, and the owner had built an instrument out of spare parts that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. In fact, it was even called the "Dr. Seussophone."

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I’d mentioned that I’m apprenticed with an instrument repair tech at home in CA, and we chatted about instruments and repairs for a while, and he gave me a tour of the whole place. If there’s something I’ve learned, it’s that people involved with music really like talking with other people involved with music.

After that little visit, we made the rest of the drive out to Syracuse, and saw a couple of the unique things about the city. First there was the Tipperary Hill Traffic Signal, which has the green light at the top and the red light at the bottom, to ease the anti-British sentiment of a lot of the Irish immigrants living in the neighborhood (they kept breaking the red light by throwing rocks). We also got a good look at an incredible example of Art Deco architecture in the Niagara Mohawk headquarters building. It’s such an impressive style, and this building doesn’t disappoint. True, you have to have an interest in things like architecture, or you might just think "Oh, look. A building. Whoop-de-do." I know, these are serious bucket-list quality things to see, but this is Syracuse. There’s really not that much going on. Anyway, after that we checked into the hotel, which certainly left a lot to be desired, and got ready for the next day.

DAY 4: COOPERSTOWN

We started the morning by hitting the road immediately for Cooperstown. We took a route that avoided tolls, and the added bonus of that was how beautiful the drive was. We passed through some charming small towns, and saw some downright stunning scenery. Sure, we could’ve taken the direct route, but this was only 10-15 minutes longer, and much more than worth it. As we got into Cooperstown, the first thing we noticed was that accessible parking around the Hall of Fame is very limited. We found a space a couple blocks away, and made our way back to the entrance. It’s a good-looking place, even upon approaching it.

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They had a letterboard out front that had the current MLB standings, which I thought was a nice touch. When we entered the building, there were photos of memorable moments in some of the halls, such as this classic:

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Next to it was this photo, and there’s just something about it that speaks to me:

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I don’t have any particularly good way to describe it, but I felt compelled to take a picture of it.

We started the official tour of the Hall by watching a short movie about the game of baseball, and some of its most memorable people and moments. It was a nice way to set the tone before heading into the exhibits. From there, we entered the "locker room," in which each team had a locker with a selection of artifacts from iconic or record-setting moments from their history. I posted a photo of the Giants’ locker in one of the threads while I was there, but here’s a better version, with descriptions:

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Some notable items: Yusmeiro Petit’s cap from his 46-up-46-down stretch in 2014; Bumgarner’s helmet from 2017 when he became the first MLB pitcher to hit 2 HRs on Opening Day; 2 baseballs, one from each of Lincecum’s no-nos; Cody Ross’ 2010 Postseason helmet; Affeldt’s shoes from 2014 WS Game 7; Hunter Pence’s 2012 Magic Bat (named Tim); Crawford’s 2016 7-hit game bat; The Ishikawalkoff Bat.

From there we moved on into the main exhibit hall, which took us through the timeline of the game. There was an absolute ton to see and read about; we could go back and spend hours going back through the exhibits and not feel like we were retracing our steps. There were exhibits for each team, early equipment, iconic ballparks, the Negro Leagues, the introduction of mascots, bizarre promotions, the Strike, all sorts of things.

After traversing the museum section of it, we visited the Hall of Fame section. Lots of names that were (and still are) synonymous with baseball, and many that I hadn’t ever read before. I definitely liked how it felt in there, and reading those names and accomplishments really did greaten my appreciation for the storied history of the game. Looking at the recent inductees, and even compared to the universally-acknowledged legends of the game, it’s even more clear to me that Barry Bonds absolutely deserves to be there with them. Not that it wasn’t before, but actually being there just deepened the feeling.

Overall, it was an excellent stop on our trip. It really is a fascinating place, and one that you could either move fairly quickly through and get the gist of it, or really take your time and soak up every last detail. We landed somewhere in the middle; we definitely didn’t rush through it, but there are definitely things that we missed.

After we left the Hall, we explored a little of Cooperstown, and discovered that somewhere between half and two-thirds of the shops and restaurants weren’t accessible. I guess ramps would hurt their old-town charm… We also checked out Doubleday Field, since it was right up the street, and I bet it would be cool to see a game being played there. Afterward, we stopped for lunch at the newly-reopened Ommegang Brewery, also located in Cooperstown. The food and drinks were excellent, and the brewery itself was very nice.

Back on the road, we drove east through more of the beautiful country. Originally the idea was to head south to arrive in New York City that night, but we had a change of plan and made our way towards Rhode Island instead. We checked into the motel we’d booked, and found more questionable accessibility but went with it anyway (we were only going to be there for about 12 hours). I picked up a couple of baked pasta dishes at a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place up the street, which were excellent, and a very satisfying way to end the day.

DAY 5: SPECIAL APPOINTMENT AND TRAVEL

I won’t go into a ton of detail here, but a little bit of background will make this part of the trip clearer. Feel free to skip this section if you’re only here for the baseball content; I know that many of you don’t know me well enough to really care about this, but some of you on here might find this interesting. I promise I won’t take it personally if you don’t care about this part =p. About a year ago, we finally got the answer as to what’s going on with MrsIanRogue’s health. Her severe back pain, declining mobility, and a laundry list of other symptoms didn’t add up to the doctors, so they essentially told her she was just making it up, and that there’s no reason anyone should have the problems she does at her age. Basically, "You’ll never feel better with that attitude, that’s all that’s holding you back at this point. This is your life now, we don’t know what else to tell you." They practically wrote " ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ " in her chart. After hearing about some other people’s experiences that sounded very similar to hers, and doing her own research, we went to see a geneticist who is very familiar with what we suspected was going on. She was able to confirm without a doubt that MrsIanRogue has one of the types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare condition that affects connective tissue and very handily explains pretty much everything that stumped the other doctors. It was such a relief to finally have an explanation for everything that’s been going on, and to not feel like she was being dismissed. Luckily, the type she has is one of the least severe, but it does cause some serious obstacles in day-to-day living. After the appointment, she was referred to physical therapy and recommended by the geneticist to use a particular book, written by the leading expert in the country (if not the world) in pioneering PT techniques for EDS patients. Months into doing the exercises, she wasn’t seeing much benefit. The physical therapist she was referred to knows even less about EDS than I do, so he’s been the opposite of helpful. Right from the outset he bristled at the idea that his traditional techniques would be detrimental to her, and he’s been extremely reluctant to change his mind. At this point it was seeming like the exercises weren’t going to be beneficial without modification of some sort, which would entail meeting with a physical therapist familiar with EDS. There aren’t many to be found in Kaiser, so yeah, good luck with that. OK, I know I said I wouldn’t go into a ton of detail, and believe me, this is the cliffs notes version.

Fast-forward 6 months, and we’re back to the trip. While planning the itinerary, it occurred to MrsIanRogue that we weren’t going to be very far from Rhode Island. The physical therapist that wrote the book she’s been muddling through happens to have his practice there. It wouldn’t have made sense not to make an appointment with him when we were going to be so close already, so that morning we got to his practice, and met with him for 4 hours. He was able to identify why the exercises weren’t helping, almost immediately. In a nutshell, she’s been dealing with subluxations (partial dislocations) for so long (could’ve been weeks or even months) that her muscles wouldn’t engage properly when doing the exercises. He addressed those, taught me how to do those same manual therapy techniques, and even had us take instructional videos to refer back to. He wrote everything up, made videos to take back to her regular physical therapist identifying all the things he should be taking note of, and recommended which exercises to prioritize to see the fastest improvement for her specific case. All in all, it was absolutely worth losing a day in NYC, as the benefit from the appointment is immeasurable.

From there we headed in the general direction of NYC. Not to sound like a broken record, but we again saw some wonderful scenery on the drive. We stopped in a little town in Connecticut called Washington Depot, and went into a little café, called Marty’s, for a coffee boost. The iced coffee that I ordered was, without a doubt, the best iced coffee I’ve ever had. The flavor was perfectly-balanced, and I wish that place wasn’t so far away from home or I’d be going there very regularly. We drove through a couple more little towns on our way to New York, and there’s just something… nice about them.

Then we hit the outskirts of the Bronx, and everything changed. Cars everywhere, and all of them wanted to be in a different lane from the ones they were in. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but it was a jarring contrast to the peaceful drives we’d had the last few days. We slowly made it through the Bronx, into Manhattan, across the Queensboro Bridge (I gotta say, it’s a bit disconcerting to be driving in a lane that’s outside of the main supports), and to our hotel. We opted to stay in Maspeth, a neighborhood in Queens, since it was bit quieter and less expensive than a lot of the options we were seeing. It was really pleasant, actually; the rooms were nice, and we could breathe and relax a bit. If we end up coming back to NYC, we very well might stay there again.

DAY 6: SEATTLE MARINERS AT NEW YORK YANKEES

The day started with trying to find the route with the best combination of shortest time and most straightforward steps. We got on the road to head to the stadium, and immediately hit traffic. What a surprise. Driving in New York is… an adventure. I don’t want to say it’s not stressful, because it is. You have to stay extra alert every second, because you never know when someone’s going to try to change lanes ahead of (or into) you. However, I found that even though the drivers were very assertive, it didn’t feel malicious to me. It was less of a "Screw you, I’m gonna move in here whether you like it or not!" and more of a "Look, I’m moving in right here, because if I don’t do it now, it’s just not gonna happen." Same basic thing, but it felt to me more like it wasn’t personal. I’m sure that other people have had different experiences, so I’m not looking to discount those; I’m just noting what I observed.

We finally made it to the exit for Yankee Stadium, and once we got off the freeway, it was an absolute breeze getting into the garage. When planning this trip, we were kind of dreading finding an accessible route from the garage to the ballpark, since there were stairs from where we drove in up that level, or some meandering sidewalks that didn’t look like they’d actually make it to where we needed to go. Then, a week or so before we were going to be there, skyblue17 scouted out the path for us and reported back =) We took an elevator up to the level where the stadium was and took the route that she suggested, and it could not have been any easier.

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We did a lap of the outside of the park, and we were impressed with the look of it. They don’t have banners on most of the exterior walls, but it didn’t look like it was missing anything. They did have banners for the retired numbers of players on one side of the stadium, which were nicely-done.

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Overall, it gave a very grand impression, and we thought it looked really good. The crowd control barriers they’d put up were very useful in channeling fans efficiently to the entrances, but it did make some of the sidewalks a bit narrow. We were still able to get through without having to get too creative, though. Every time we were approaching one of the gates, park employees were very quick to ask if we were coming in through there, and offered assistance. That was really nice of them, and while I’m sure it’s their job to, it didn’t feel like it was just obligatory. They were also much more prompt about it than any other park we’d been to.

After making our way around the park, we entered through one of the gates behind home plate, and got our first look at the concourse. It was also very nice; spacious with good airflow, well-lit, and cool displays throughout. They also had an area called the Great Hall, which had a cool feeling about it too.

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Unfortunately, we got to the entrance for Monument Park too late; they close it 45 minutes before game time and we missed the cutoff. After doing a lap of the main concourse, we went back into the Great Hall to take the elevator up to our seating level. The upper concourse was nice as well; good views of the field, nice and open, and plenty of food options (not as many as the lower level, but that’s pretty common). We got to our seats, and found that they were in an area separated from the general foot traffic. This is a wonderful thing; it’s not the sort of thing most people think about, but you get enough people bumping into your seats as they walk past and it gets incredibly tiresome. And painful, in MrsIanRogue’s case. So having a protected area behind us is fantastic. Honestly, in terms of accessibility inside a ballpark, Yankee Stadium is the gold standard. The elevators were plentiful, well-marked, large, and smooth; the seating areas were great; the walkways were large enough to easily navigate; there’s really nothing I can criticize in that regard.

The game itself was enjoyable, too. When Aaron Judge came to the plate for the first time, I said something like "It’d be cool to see him hit a homer in person." I barely got the sentence out when this happened:

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If you look really closely, you can see the ball taking off:

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So, yeah. That happened. Anyway, it was a pretty fun game, and it became much easier to actually enjoy it once the sun was no longer directly on us. While walking around and getting a beer, I got this shot:

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Back at my seat, I was looking at the team flags they had around the top of the park. I noticed that they’re not only placed by division, but they were also arranged in standings order, which was a pretty interesting detail:

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Definitely a nice touch; I can’t say I recall seeing that at other parks before. I also had a nice chat with the guy sitting next to me, after he noticed all the ballpark pins on our backpack. We talked a bit about this park, Citi Field, which parks were our favorites so far, etc. Honestly, everyone we interacted with was really cool. This was one of the best ballpark experiences we’ve had, hands-down.

After the game the trip out of the park and back to the car was one of the easiest I can recall. On the other hand, getting out of the parking garage was… not. That was definitely the opposite of the easiest. It took us an hour to go a quarter mile. Once we were finally clear of the ballpark, we made our way back through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge to a little park I’d heard about in the Red Hook area. The Louis Valentino Park & Pier was dedicated to a Red Hook firefighter who died in the line of duty in 1996. Definitely off the radar of most tourists, it provides a really nice view of the Statue of Liberty and some of the Manhattan skyline.

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It would have been awesome to stay until dusk, because the sun sets almost directly behind the Statue and it would make for some incredible photos. But we were tired and getting hungry, and the trip back to the hotel would likely take about an hour again, so we decided not to wait that long. Maybe next time, if we’re more prepared. As we were leaving, there were a couple of photographers with much fancier equipment than ours, setting up with exactly that in mind. Back in Maspeth, we picked up some pizza from a local place that seemed popular and took it back to the hotel. It was excellent, and I’m really glad we found that place. I also got a decent shot of the sunset and the skyline off in the distance, but I had to hold my phone out the hotel window at an awkward angle to do so:

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The whole time I was repeating "don’t drop it, don’t drop it, don’t drop it," because I somehow doubt that it would’ve survived a 4-story fall. I also messed around with some long-exposures of the nighttime traffic going by, but only got one shot worth saving. Still, I find it to be so much fun to do that kind of photography. I wish I had more time to work on it.

DAY 7: LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT NEW YORK METS

The first part of the day, we were originally going to go sightseeing in Manhattan, but changed our minds to kind of rest and recharge. We’ve done a ton so far this trip, and could really use some time that was stress-free where we didn’t have to be seeing something or going somewhere. These trips are especially draining on MrsIanRogue, though she’ll be the first to say that it’s worth it in the end. It just means we can’t take the same pace that some people can. We just took it easy, and took our time getting ready for the game in the evening. We left the hotel with plenty of time before first pitch, even taking traffic into account. We of course hit some, but it didn’t really bother us this time; It was slow, but still moving, and there was less lane-change chaos than in the Bronx and Manhattan. We made it up to Citi Field just as gates were opening, right on schedule.

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We had no trouble finding parking, headed towards the entrance plaza. They had the Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium there, and banners of their legends on the exterior walls.

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We definitely liked the look from the outside. We started to take our traditional walk around the outside of the stadium, and found that the sidewalks were blocked in certain spots. The only way through for a wheelchair was to walk in the vehicle lanes, though able-bodied people could just step up the curb back onto the sidewalks after passing the barriers. We made it about 3/4 of the way around the park, and ran out of accessible routes. We had to just turn around and go back the way we came, which was a bit disappointing. Just inside the Home Plate entrance was their version of a great hall, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. We thought it was really nicely-done: grand, but not grandiose. They had a Mets Hall of Fame, which had team history displays, their World Series Trophies, plaques of their legendary players, and more. This and the Rotunda certainly provide a nice introduction to the stadium.

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Walking around the main concourse, I noticed that it felt more dark and enclosed than some of the other parks we’ve been to. Not the worst, by any means, but noticeable. There was still a lot to see and like, though. The walkways were still spacious and didn’t feel cramped. There were some really good-looking food options, some of which I’ve never seen anywhere else. We took the elevator up to our seating level, and the Mets fans in it with us saw our Giants apparel and said "well, you oughta have no problem booing the Dodgers tonight, huh?" to which we replied that while that wasn't the purpose for our visit, we’d be more than happy to join in. At the upper deck, we found our seats, which were once again protected from foot traffic, so bonus points there. The lack of ushers in the area was surprising, but we luckily didn’t need any assistance. The food we got before the game was great, too (by ballpark standards, anyway). We got chicken nachos and steak-frites. The nachos had well-prepared ingredients, which they definitely did not skimp on. The steak-frites were also very flavorful, and the beer I got was good. Their prices seemed a bit above average for ballparks, but the quality of the food helps justify it. It was threating to rain for the first few innings of the game, but luckily all it did was sprinkle a bit. It did get our food a little damp, but we’re glad it didn’t get worse than that.

The game itself was entertaining, even though the Dodgers won. We got to see Zack Wheeler pitch, saw some great defensive plays, and just enjoyed the evening. It really is a nice place to see a game.

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They announced during the game for us to stick around after the last out, because there would be a special performance from Busta Rhymes. We did for a little while, but we didn’t have a great vantage point from our seats, nor was it really our taste in music. We also had a long drive the next day, so we decided to head out. It took ages to find an elevator that was in service, though. Apparently many of them stop running after the 7th inning. Once we finally found one and got on it, it was smooth getting back to the car. This was definitely another high-ranking stadium on our list. If we were locals we’d be really happy to call this our home park.

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We had no trouble at all getting back to the hotel, and got ready to close this chapter of the trip.

DAY 8: TRAVEL DAY

This day ought to be much shorter than the others; nearly all of it was spent on the road. We checked out of the hotel in the morning and were on our way to the Boston area. More great scenery to behold, and we apparently drove right past the WWE Headquarters (who knew?) in Stamford, CT. We also stopped for lunch in Webster, MA so that we could visit Webster Lake, or as it’s known by the locals:

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Not much to say about it aside from the fact that it’s pretty, and the longest place name in the country.

We were planning on going all the way up to Boston to check out the arboretum there, but the weather had other ideas. It was raining pretty steadily, and even if it was stopped by the time we arrived, the paths would be wet and muddy. After lunch we decided it’d be better to just save that for another time. We drove the rest of the way to our hotel about 25 miles south of Boston without incident. I think this is the trip that we had the worst luck with lodging quality. It’s safe to say that we’ve learned our lesson about cutting costs on hotels, though this trip was long enough and pricey enough that we really didn’t have much other choice. In this particular case, the guy at the front desk was rude and our room was uncomfortable (and hideous). Also, as we’d learn the next day, the advertised "full breakfast" provided at the front consisted of packaged pastries from a convenience store, instant oatmeal, underripe fruit, and some of the worst coffee I’ve had the displeasure of drinking. Glad we were only here for a couple nights…

DAY 9: SEATTLE MARINERS AT BOSTON RED SOX

Well, this was it. We’d been to 29 out of 30 ballparks, and this was the day to cross off number 30. If the weather holds, at least; the forecast was calling for severe thunderstorms starting around the same time as first pitch. We were just going to have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. The original plan was to get up to the ballpark crazy early in order to snag some of the first-come, first-served accessible parking spaces on the nearby streets, but decided that it’d be better to not count on that. We found a garage that was reasonably-priced that we could pre-book a space in, but it was a bit of a walk to the park from there (like just shy of 2 miles). We made our way north to Boston, and made it to the garage with no trouble at all. We had some time before gates would open, so we explored Boston Public Garden first. It was a nice, peaceful place, and one that I’d certainly like to visit again.

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We started off towards Fenway Park and found that the sidewalks in Boston, in a word, suck. They were cracked and uneven, the curb cuts were lousy, and that made for a very uncomfortable couple miles. But it’s an old city, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, apparently. We made it to Fenway, and it definitely has a frozen-in-time quality to it.

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If you look at the bottom-right corner of the photo, you can see the limo that someone thought the best place to park it would be right in front of the only curb cut around, with not enough space for anyone to get down it. Is it really that difficult to take a moment to think of the impact one’s actions has on others? It’s not like we can just step off the curb and walk around the car. And this is the kind of crap we have to deal with dozens of times a day. Any one instance of it, sure, no big deal. But by the end of a day, and especially a multi-day trip, it wears pretty freaking thin. After the driver noticed us, he finally moved up enough for us to squeeze past, and then backed up to block it again afterwards…

There wasn’t an easy way to do an exterior lap of the park, since some of the streets were closed off for pregame events. We could’ve gone through them but we would’ve had to either go through security more than once, or enter through a different gate and still not do a full lap. It didn’t seem like it’d be worth the effort, so we just went in at the home plate entrance after going around about half the park.

On our way through security, we chatted with one of the guards there about our trips (again, prompted by the backpack), and he was saying how this is the best park, and how it’s better than Wrigley because it’s 4 years older. Meanwhile, we’re thinking "great, that means 4 extra years of decay…" but we weren’t gonna tell him that. Inside the park, we got our first look at the concourse. It definitely had an old feeling, but we were very pleasantly surprised at how open it was. There were some more tunnel-like areas, but it was much airier than we were figuring. And while old, it didn’t feel run-down the way that Wrigley, or even "newer" places like Oakland or Tampa, did. Things were well-marked, and the terrain was shockingly smooth and easy to navigate.

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We had plenty of time to explore the whole park before the game. We went up to the upper deck, explored the main grandstand, and checked out the view from the Green Monster (or is it Monstah?). They even have a garden there which provides produce for the concession stands, kind of like at AT&T Park, but this was larger and much more utilitarian. There were some narrow walkways to get through, and it’s really good we didn’t come across someone in a wheelchair coming towards us from the other way because someone would have to back up all the way to where the path widens. Luckily, that kind of walkway was pretty rare. We got hot dogs before the game started, which were, overall, meh. The hot dog itself was pretty good, but it’s another one that is above average in terms of price. It was also relatively small, so we really didn’t feel like we got our money’s worth as much as at some other parks. On the bright side, we were already planning to have a big dinner after the game, so it’s not like we had to get something else to supplement it.

The game experience itself was a lot of fun. We liked a lot of the in-game features, like the scoreboards (namely, how they looked like they were manual scoreboards):

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During the game, I got up and walked around to get more pictures, much to the consternation of the usher =p

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I have to say, I know Red Sox fans have a reputation of being insufferable, and I have no doubt that’s true if you’re talking with one at work, or at a bar, or something. But during a game? In the stands cheering for their team? That was a sight to behold. They were all-in from first pitch to after the last out. They cheered without prompting from the scoreboard, they were starting their own chants… hell, it reminded me of SF back in 2010. After the Red Sox won, the fans just stood there, applauding and cheering. For, like, 10 minutes. The atmosphere was electric. I definitely can’t criticize their enthusiasm at a game, I try to give credit where due.

A couple more photos:

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Chris Sale was having a day

And here’s Mookie Betts, stealing a home run:

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After the game, we made our way back in the direction of the car, but stopped at the Boston Burger Company for dinner, on a recommendation by someone MrsIanRogue corresponds with. It was a long-ish wait (30-45 minutes) for a table, but we were willing to do that. After ordering, we got our food and it was so good that it almost justifies a return trip to Boston by itself. The burgers were perfectly-cooked, the side dishes were excellent, and what really shoved it over the top was the s’mores "Freak Frappe" we split for dessert. I think I described it elsewhere as heaven in, and on, and around, a pint glass. It was a perfect way to close the day in Boston.

We headed back to the parking garage, and the sky was looking much more ominous. We’d been really lucky so far, but we still had a mile and a half walk back to the car and it looked like we were going to get wet soon. It held off long enough for us to get back to the car and on the road. It was raining lightly when we got back to the hotel, and when I checked the weather app on my phone, Boston was right under a naaaasty storm. We definitely lucked out all day, weather-wise. We got our bags packed for our early flight the next day, and called it a night.

DAY 10: THE TRIP HOME

The second morning at this hotel we didn’t even bother with their "breakfast" options, and stopped at a Starbucks on our way out of town. Our flight was scheduled for 10:00, so we left the hotel with an ETA of 8:00. We were not expecting commute traffic to be as awful as it was. We watched our ETA get later and later as we sat in near motionlessness. When we started to finally get close to the airport, we pulled off the freeway to top off the gas tank in the rental car. And my card got declined. No big deal, we’ll use this one. Declined. OK, how about this one? Nope. Of course they decide to freeze my cards on the last day of the trip, and while it’s already looking more and more like we’ll miss our flight. We got it sorted, filled up the car, and got back on the road. We dropped the car off at the facility and they offered to give us a ride to the terminal in the Subaru, since MrsIanRogue had her wheelchair to deal with. While we were riding to the terminal, we got a notification that our flight was delayed. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved to have a flight delayed… We got to the TSA checkpoint, and we were surprised to find they didn’t have PreCheck in this part of the terminal. If we were still trying to get to the gate at the original time, that would’ve been the final nail in the coffin. It took ages to get through there. One agent had apparently never seen some of the equipment in my photo bag, and examined it with such thoroughness that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to reassemble it. After finally getting through there, we made it to the gate with no further incident. We boarded the plane, flew home, and breathed a sigh of relief when all three of our bags appeared at the baggage claim. At that point, we wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to be missing one.

So, there you have it. 10 days, 4 states (5 if you count the layover in Chicago), 1 Canadian province, 1600 road miles, 4 ballparks, nearly 10,000 words. One hell of an experience.

Maybe at some point I’ll do a post that ranks all 30 parks. For now, what I’ll say is that AT&T Park is still one of the best in MLB. Giants fans are supremely lucky to call it their home park. This is in no way meant to gloat or to disparage other teams’ fans. If you have a team you root for, and they have a ballpark to call home, things could be worse. Sure, some could use refurbishing, and some should really get replaced, but baseball in a past-its-prime park is still a good thing. I would advise anyone to travel to see as many parks as they can, and to do it from the ground as much as they can. The ballparks are the dots on the map, but there are so many things connecting the dots that are well worth our attention.

Kudos to anyone who read through all of that. Seriously. When I started this post I had no idea I’d blather on this long. If you, for some reason, have any questions about any of this, or if you want to see any other photos (if I have them), let me know and I’ll post in the comments.

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