February 19, 2013
Pitchers and catchers report. Opening Day. The All-Star Game. The World Series. These are some of the events that stand out for baseball fans. There is one other that I'm a little crazy about: The day MLB releases its schedule for the next season.
Last September, I was in Baltimore when the schedule came out. I couldn't even wait to get home to New Jersey the next day to start planning out my 2013 season. I scribbled potential dates on hotel stationary and assembled a tentative plan like a puzzle well past midnight.
I acknowledge this is kind of nuts. More patient, sane ballhawks have probably only recently started planning out their trips for this summer. So how do you determine where and when you will go each season? I'll walk through what I take into consideration when I'm mapping out my season.
First, I want to see my hometown A's as many times as possible. Because I live on the opposite coast, this can be difficult and expensive.
I start by planning to see the A's when they visit New York, Baltimore and Boston. Then I pick a good week to head out to Oakland and attend an entire homestand. Finally, I look at their other road trips and see if anything jumps out at me. When I saw they had a series in Pittsburgh this season, that was a slam dunk.
My second priority used to be visiting stadiums for the first time. I finally knocked the last one off my list with a visit to Busch Stadium last August. Now my goal is to snag at least one baseball in every current stadium. There are eight ballparks I visited when I wasn't actively ballhawking. I will make it to five of them this season.
Next I plan trips to ballparks where I can pad my stats. By now I've already nailed down all of my long-distance trips and start filling in the blanks with shorter journeys to Baltimore and D.C.
Finally, I figure out which New York games will fit into my schedule. But those stadiums are so awful for ballhawking that I'll often just hit weekday games right before first pitch and simply enjoy the afternoon as a fan.
For the longer trips, cost is always the main issue. Inviting along a friend or another ballhawk to share costs is always helpful. And if you have friends or family in certain Major League cities and don't need to worry about a hotel, those can be cost-friendly yearly destinations.
The more well-traveled ballhawks are surely experts by now when it comes to travel sites. Hotwire and Priceline can come in extremely handy. Or it can pay off to use one airline or hotel chain regularly to rack up loyalty points for free flights or nights.
Also reach out to your myGameBalls.com brethren. This site has created a wonderful community. The locals are always good sources for travel tips, food recommendations and ticket hookups.
One highlight of any trip to an unfamiliar ballpark is meeting fellow ballhawks. Many of us have e-mailed and tweeted each other for years without a face to face meeting. I look forward to seeing many of you in 2013.
Rick Gold is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.