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Dixon Family Completes Monster Road Trip

Vacation of a Lifetime Features Seven Major League Ballparks

Todd Dixon

Jessica and Teemo pose with Cal Ripken's Number 8 outside Camden Yards.

It all started with a simple wedding invitation. But by the end of it all, the Dixon family -- Todd (Dad), Grace (Mom), Timothy (Son, AKA Teemo), and Jessica (Daughter) -- had experienced one of the coolest family vacations imaginable. It was 15 days long and included 13 cities, seven Major League stadiums, three Minor League stadiums, a near perfect game, five museums, a waterpark, and of course, 15 baseballs.

What follows is Todd Dixon's day-by-day recap of the trip.

The Plan

Need to attend a family wedding in northern Mississippi near Memphis, TN during Memorial Day weekend. But Memphis is at least a three hour drive to another major city and in the middle of a few MLB team. What kind of a family vacation could we do around going to Memphis? Numerous routes were examined as Memphis is not the easiest place to get to from Honolulu. Connecting flights or long drives would be involved. In the end the goals for this family vacation was

  1. Go to the wedding
  2. Visit and learn about middle America
  3. Visit at least two new MLB parks and
  4. Try to see a Phillies game (Timothy or Teemo is a Phillies fan with Shane Victorino being his favorite player)

Long hours of checking various websites, drop fees, airline routes and trying to match the major league schedule. After re-reading Todd & Tim's Cook blog about their annual Grandfather, Father, Son trip it was decided to try and see as many different MLB ballpark. Everything started coming into place. We decided to fly to Cleveland, OH and fly home from Newark, NJ. In corresponding with Todd Cook we found out they would probably be at Camden Yard the weekend after the wedding. So it was time to fill in the schedule and this was plan number 6:

May 26th (Cleveland)

Flew through the night from Honolulu to Cleveland via Los Angeles. Arrived at 7:00 am in Cleveland. Quick breakfast and headed for Jacobs (Progressive) Field for a 12:05 pm game with the Indians/White Sox.

It was Weather Education Day and thousands of Northern Ohio students were there to learn about the weather prior to a baseball game. What a deal - learn about the weather for an hour and then sit through a three hour ballgame. How come I could not get this kind of field trip when I was growing up?

Got Diamond Box tickets (row 2) through Stubhub- What a surprise I was in for. The only good padded seats are in the first row of the Diamond Box and rest of the Diamond Box seats are normal seats. Won't make that mistake again. After the game the Teemo & I were taking pictures by the dugout. Bat boy tosses up two baseballs and a bonus - AJ Pierzynski worn out batting gloves

May 27th (Cincinnati)

Drove through Dayton, OH, and stopped by the United States Air Force Museum - This place is huge. After spending half the day seeing every type of fighter aircraft it was onto Great American Ball Park. An uneventful night at the game. Sat in the Sun-Moon Deck section at Great American Ball Park. Nice marketing as this is basically outfield seats with no covering. Teemo loved the Skyline Chili for dinner. Nice clear beautiful night overlooking the Ohio river and seeing into northern Kentucky.

May 28th (Louisville-Nashville)

Pit stop being made on the way in Louisville, KY. Stopped by the Louisville Slugger Museum to see how major league baseball bats are made. Interesting tour and it was a thrill to hold Mickey Mantle heavy bat. Next stop in Kentucky is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park. Nice walk in the park and visitors center. Unfortunately the Memorial Building was closed for renovations.

May 29th-31st (Kentucky/Tennessee)

Family wedding (remembering what the trip was originally for). Lots of eating involved including ribs and fried chicken. Able to sneak out and catch a Nashville Sounds game with a small, limited amenities ballpark and Memphis Redbirds game with a sharp looking throw back ballpark. Amazing the vast differences between two Triple A ballparks in the same state. Enjoyed both games.

May 31st (St Louis)

Traveling from Memphis to St. Louis. Listening to the Cardinals-Reds broadcast crew commenting on the impending rain. We are watching the lighting and thunder as we enter downtown St. Louis. Game is in a rain delay. Rain stops and we walk from our hotel to dinner near the Busch. Scalper offering cheap tickets as we walk by Busch. Get the don't you even think about it look from my wife about buying the tickets. Decided not to press my luck. Only get a peek into Busch from the outside gates. Great time after dinner at the indoor pool with Teemo and Jessica.

June 1st (St. Louis)

Did all of the tourist things and eating places around St. Louis. Wonderful day going to Arch, Grants Farm, Brewery tour and eating at Pappy's and Ted Drewes. Almost forgot about the game. Met a co-worker who is a season ticket holder with incredible seats. Section 150 right behind home plate. Teemo & I sit in their seat there for a couple of innings. No Albert Pujols homer. Spent most of the night walking around the ballpark with the family. It was hot and humid. Great planning went into this ballpark with the St. Louis Arch in the background.

June 2nd (Detroit)

Question: How do we get from St. Louis to Baltimore via Pittsburgh and schedule a fun day for the children? Also don't want to spend long hours driving. We live on an island and 30 minute drive is considered long. So is it possible to fly to Pittsburgh, Akron, Cleveland? Start checking airlines and car rental drop fees. All of a sudden inexpensive airfare from St. Louis to Detroit. Drop fees from Detroit to Newark are reasonable. Are the Tigers in town? Yes! Double check airlines flight time and we get into Detroit mid-day. The drive from Detroit to Pittsburgh via Sandusky, Ohio is manageable. A Sports Illustrated article I read last year about the Tigers and Comerica made this a place I wanted to visit. It was the "perfect" opportunity to add Comerica into the family trip.

Expecting an uneventful night seeing the Indians/Tigers. All we could see flying into Detroit was rain clouds. Were we going to have to sit through a rain storm? Weather was holding up but batting practice cancelled. Both Timothy and Jessica get a ball tossed up by the Indians dugout. They are happy and ready to explore Comerica.

Comerica is such an interesting park with details in the sculptures made it a treat. The historical time lines around the ballpark and statues of the Tiger legends in Historical Park made this place come alive. There were no disappointments. Completed all the children things in the Tiger Carousel, Baseball Ferris Wheel along with a boo Mickey dressed as a Tiger. Game starting and Timothy is cheering for the Indians tonight. His spring little league team is the Indians. First pitch and its time eat dinner. We finish eating and its the start of the fifth inning. Fifth inning? This game is going by fast and wait no Indians got on base yet. Hurry up its time for an ice cream helmet. 7th inning and still no Indians on base. Getting Teemo and Jessica to finish eating ice cream quickly. Timothy is still cheering for the Indians to get a hit. Great, he is the only person at Comerica still cheering for the Indians. I am trying to explain to him why I started cheering for the Tigers. Still doesn't get it. Eighth inning the anticipation is growing.

Finally the ninth inning the time has come. Would we see history? Yes, Timothy is still cheering for the Indians. First batter up, long drive to left center and an amazing catch by Austin Jackson to save the perfect game. Everyone is going crazy. Nobody wants to say Perfect Game. You could feel the excitement unfolding. Second out. Last batter, 26 straight. Here it comes. Grounder to first, Armando Galarraga covering, ball in glove and Jim Joyce calls him safe.

Everyone at Comerica can't believe it. There is 1-2 seconds of joy followed by total disbelief. What ? No replay on the ballpark screen. I check the video on the camera and yes he is safe. Everyone around is on their cellphone calling to confirm the blown call. Biggest blown call. Next batter up - Out #28 and game ends. We cannot believe what we just saw. Anti-climatic ending. One eight year old boy at Comerica that night cheering for the Indians all the way to the last out. Remaining crowd is giving Armando Galarraga standing ovation after his television interview.

On the cab ride home, Timothy finally understands the impact of the blown call.

As a family we feel blessed to have seen such an unbelievable game. We are not big baseball followers. We were casual fans until Timothy started playing baseball two years ago. I have only been to 15 MLB ballgames. Its Teemo's 10th MLB ballgame. This is the 6th MLB Grace and Jessica have attended.

June 3rd (Ohio)

Time to drive back to Ohio and listening to sports talk radio - Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce - class act. Mixed feelings. Even if Selig overturns the call, the moment of joy in celebrating with all of the Tiger fans and baseball team is gone. Finally its clear to me - its a 162 game season and this is only one game. Historically it would be great to acknowledge the 21st perfect game in MLB history. But for the 2010 Detroit Tigers,it is one win towards trying to achieve their team goal of clinching the AL Central and making it to the post-season. Life moves on.

The Detroit Historical Museum was a fun place to learn about the history of Detroit. Beware it closes at 3:00 pm on weekdays causing us to come back today to visit. Family day at the Kalahari Waterpark in Sandusky, OH. This place is a huge indoor/outdoor waterpark.

June 4th (Pittsburgh)

We are excited about going to PNC Park. All of the bloggers and ballhawks have mentioned what a beautiful ballpark this is. What a sight as we walk to PNC. Walking down Roberto Clemente yellow steel bridges, placed along the Allegheny River with great views of downtown. Huge statues of Pirates greats.

No batting practice and its a bright clear day. Waiting for autographs (Timothy's uncle is a Giants fan). No luck as the groundskeepers are pinning down the tarp. Here comes the clouds and the rain and then lighting and thunder. Its 10:00 pm and after waiting for a 2 hour 55 minute rain delay - Play ball.

Sitting in the Dugout Box seats above the Giants Dugout. Note: Ushers were making sure we didn't sit in the front row as these weren't our seat. No one in row one in our section. Did we not just wait through a three hour rain delay? To Pirates Management: Your ushers are keeping order no matter what the circumstances. Third out ball from the Giants catcher, Eli Whiteside. Four balls on the night and Timothy ends up giving a ball away. Leaving the ballpark at 1:00 am and it is clear as can be. What a beautiful sight with PNC lights glowing in the night. What thunderstorms?

June 5 (Baltimore)

Went to the Carnegie Science Center and in particular the SportsWorks area. The best science museum we have visited. Need to cut our visit short as its a four hour drive to Baltimore. We were looking forward to seeing Camden Yards (missed it last year) and look forward to meeting Todd & Tim Cook. Got into Camden right before the first pitch. What a different feel with the B & O Warehouse dominating the bulk of the view. Inner Harbor has been over run by Red Sox Nation. Watch the 1st inning from the Eutaw St. Bleacher. Time to look for Todd & Tim Cook in right field. They are easily spotted with their Mariners clothing. We have been looking forward to meeting the East Coast version the dad named Todd and son named Tim. The two Tims have fun playing catch, running in their make believe infield, fake pitching to each other and playing with the camera. We split up so Tim Cook can eat his ice cream helmet and time to feed Teemo dinner. We get Jessica and meet up the Cooks again. The three of them are playing together and quickly its the ninth inning.

Todd & Tim Cook are getting ready to try for an umpire ball. Todd Cook leads the way. Top of the ninth and we are sitting in the handicap section. Foul ball pop up - getting closer, Todd Cook has an angle on it and clank it hits the advertisement board above his head. So close. Bottom of the ninth - straight to the umpires area - Scoutsville - different MLB scouts checking out the game. Todd & Tim Cook get the umpire ball and they are kind enough to give it to Teemo. What a wonderful night together for the two dad Todds and the two sons Tim.

June 6 (Philadelphia)

Dilemma - Try to get to Nationals Park (ballpark #7) for Kids Run the bases on Sunday, catch the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park (ballpark #8) on Monday and Citi Field (ballpark #9) on Tuesday before returning back to Honolulu on Wednesday or go to Philadelphia on Sunday for Shane Victorino Foam Finger Day. We let Teemo decide and he wants to go to at least two Phillies games. Teemo still wants to get Shane Victorino's autograph on his baseball. We went to three games last year at Citizen Bank Park and Citi Field without success. So off to Shane Victorino Foam Finger Day.

First stop for the day. Fort McHenry outside Inner Harbor. Timothy enjoyed his time learning about the background of the Star Spangled Banner. Wonderful couple of hours spent at the fort.

Chaos is the only word for the day as this was a Sunday day game. Basically, kids and more kids and even more kids. Extra innings, long game and a Phillies loss. Teemo and Jessica at least had fun playing the playground which they missed last year. There was no chance at getting Shane Victorino to sign the baseball but we leave with two foam fingers. I can't believe someone paid over $20 on ebay for the free foam finger from the game. And no it was me selling our kids foam fingers from the game.

June 7 (Philadelphia)

Family day around Philadelphia. Dropped the wife and daughter at a mall in Delaware and the boys are out to the ballpark again.

Teemo & I were off to Wilmington, Delaware for a Blue Rocks game - Why? Why not - how many people from Hawaii can say they went to a ball game in Delaware - well at least two. We go to the box office to buy tickets. The box office person gives us two free tickets. Walk up the ramp and the ticket taker exchanges our tickets and gives us a season ticket holder seats. Fifth row behind home plate. Get two Carolina League ball along with great seats for free. We love Delaware.

June 8 (Philadelphia)

Last day planned - Wife and daughter off on their own touring Philadelphia

Guys game plan for the last day:

  1. Go to Independence Hall Visitor Center to watch video we missed on Independence.
  2. Visit the Civil War Museum on Pine Street - Its closed - We walked in on an open house as the unit was sold and renovated. The former museum can be yours for $2,900,000.
  3. Cheesesteak in South Philly. Lunch at Geno's. Note: also dinner at Tony Luke's (in the ballpark) and after game snack at Pat's - Timothy favorite - anything with cheese wiz.
  4. Afternoon tour of Citizen Bank Park
  5. Shane Victorino to autograph Teemo's baseball.

First three accomplished. Arrive early for batting practice. We find our spot in the left-center field junction with hope he will walk near the wall to pick up a ball. At that point we will ask. Oh no fans 3 sections over have irritated him. He gives them the lecture about saying please in order to get a toss up. Five minutes later long ball to centerfield and it rolls to wall. Shane is walking over - we say something about Maui to get his attention. He looks up. Timothy ask for his autograph. We talk briefly about coming from Hawaii to see him play. Shane Victorino signs Teemo's baseball. Mission accomplished.

Timothy is happy and not interested in getting balls. After being bored for 10 minutes he calls out to Jose Contreras and gets a ball. Teemo is done as he got his autograph and a ball from Citizen Bank Park.

After sitting and watching batting practice for another 15 minutes he decides he is going to get a baseball for his sister. We are about 365' in left field and there is a long fly ball. Teemo is tracking the ball, he sneaks in front of a couple in the first row and reaches to his right. The ball hits the tip of his glove and falls out. Ball is loose but he gets it. I was amazed that he almost caught his first BP HR ball on the fly. He returns next to the boy he was standing near. The boy ask to see the ball and Teemo shows him the ball. The boy gives it back and Teemo tells him to keep it. Later he tells me he wanted to make the boy happy by giving him the ball. What a life lesson. As a dad that was a great moment seeing him willing to share.

Game time and we got our seats in the weird short section 148 in left field. Great seats and fans around. Teemo wanted to watch Shane Victorino up close to see how he plays defense. At the beginning of the second inning we notice Shane Victorino is tossing his warm up ball into the stands. Timothy hustles down there during the third inning. Ball thrown back to the bullpen. Top of the fourth inning, Teemo gets his glove out in front of the other children in the area and catches Shane Victorino's warm up ball. Everyone in our section is excited for Teemo. Big plus for the night - Phillies win.

What a last day for the trip:

  1. Mission accomplished in getting Shane Victorino's autograph at Citizen Bank Park
  2. A warm up ball tossed from Shane Victorino.

June 9th (Newark)

Short drive up to Newark, NJ. A nice long 10 1/2 hour direct flight home to Hawaii. Back to baseball practice and games, judo, summer school and work.

Summary and Highlights

At least we had a trip that exceeded our expectations.

What a great trip. We had looked forward to enjoying the wedding, spending time with family, learning about America, visiting places only seen on the Travel Channel, and see 7 different MLB ballparks and 3 minor league ballparks. In the end we got more than we had expected.

Highlights from a baseball prospective:

  1. Timothy getting Shane Victorino's autograph and getting a warm up ball during the game.
  2. Meeting Todd & Tim Cook at Camden Yards
  3. Near Perfect Game * in Detroit

Personally as a father the two highlights from the trip:

  1. Seeing Timothy's willingness to give balls away at PNC and Citizen Bank Park (especially the one he almost caught). I am proud of him as this is something I did not suggest to him but something he did on his own. He feels having a few balls is enough. He is also giving some of the balls from this trip to his cousins who play high school and Pony baseball.
  2. Jessica wanted to go to a ballgame while in Nashville. Teemo decided to stay at the hotel with his mom. Father-Daughter night out to see the Nashville Sound-Iowa Cubs game Jessica asked so many questions about baseball that night. It was a wonderful night just hanging out with my daughter for four hours (rain delay and fireworks show). At home time we are always juggling school, homework and their sports practices/games/matches. It was a good reminder that I need to have some alone time with each child doing fun stuff as they are still young children looking to have fun.

I would not consider ourselves ballhawks but as being fortunate enough to be able to travel around the country on a family vacation. It was an adventure to see the character of each city, while enjoying the sights, food, ballparks, people and culture which makes each city unique. This not only includes the physical structures and amenities at each ballpark but the people who attend the baseball games. It was interesting sitting next to Pirates season ticket holders who passionately cheer for their team even though their team is at 17 straight losing seasons to the Delaware Blue Rock fans who cheer for Mr. Celery as the Blue Rocks score a run to the Red Sox Nation that will invade a city to cheer on their team. Timothy hasn't played or followed baseball for a long time, but as a family we are beginning to understated the passion people around the country have for America's past time.

PS - The day after I get home from the trip, my supervisor sends me a note asking when can I go to Southern California to do some work. So Dodger and Angels fans you may see me soon.

Todd Dixon

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