Feet First

By Guest Writer Kate McCarthy

In 2014 I’d never seen a single game of baseball. I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t know the teams. I barely knew we played it here in Australia.

Fast forward to July 2019 and there I was ready to fly 13,000km by myself to watch a sport that I’d fallen in love with. The goal was to see as many games as possible, in as many stadiums as feasible – ideally attending a series in each stadium to learn all the quirk the city and ballpark had to offer. Doing this alone was really my only option. There’s not many people that want to pick up for 5 months, fly 16 hours, and travel to a new city every few days just to watch a sport that you can never give an answer for when inevitably asked ‘How long does this go for?’. 

Doing it alone? Slightly scary. Navigating a new city every few days? There were definitely days where I woke up forgetting which city I’d moved on to. But this is something I would continue to do over and over again and would recommend it to anyone thinking about travelling to watch the team they love.

In total I managed to see 47 games across 15 ballparks – 13 MLB and 2 MiLB:

  1. Coors Field
  2. Arvest Ballpark (Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double-A affiliate of the Royals)
  3. Dickey Stephens Park (Arkansas Travellers, Double-A affiliate of the Mariners)
  4. SunTrust Park
  5. Great American Ball Park
  6. PNC Park
  7. Citizens Bank Park
  8. Nationals Park
  9. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  10. Citi Field
  11. Dodger Stadium
  12. Angel Stadium
  13. Petco Park
  14. Oracle Park
  15. Coliseum

My aim is definitely to get to all 30 MLB parks, complete with souvenir ice cream helmets from each! That made for some really hard decisions when planning out which stadiums made the cut for this particular trip. The two stadiums I’m most sad to not make it to yet are Kauffman Stadium and Target Field. 

When it comes to choosing a favourite stadium, as a Dodgers fan it’s hard to go past Dodger Stadium being my favourite. It’s where I’ve made so many memories both on my own, and with many new friends. It’s been the place of playoff jubilation and heartbreak. There’s something indescribable about hiking up Vin Scully Avenue, surrounded by others feeling everything you’re feeling and the excitement of the unknown. 

Dodger Stadium

Outside of the bias, SunTrust Park was an unexpected gem. The Battery means there’s always something unique to check out, with baseball fans milling around for hours pre and post-game out in the suburbs of Atlanta. The Braves also made my visit one I’ll never forget by allowing me a chance to stand on the field, complete with a sweet little Braves swag bag and a signed Acuña picture! Having had the opportunity to watch him play winter ball in Australia before his big league call up and successes, it was a surreal contrast 16,000km away. 

There are so many baseball moments that made the trip special. Witnessing Bellinger’s insane MVP season in person. Ryu’s home run. Seeing an Australian pitch in a Major League postseason game. Meeting the Dodgers broadcast team. Pitching duels between players like Scherzer and deGrom. Crazy walk offs and bullpen capitulations. All the little things that make you hang on every single pitch. 

Kate with Orel Hershiser, Joe Davis and Rick Krajewski

I’ll always be thankful to all the people who engaged in random conversation with me at games, making sure I never once felt alone, and always laughing at my ‘accent’ and why I would choose to do this. I’d often meet people who really couldn’t believe that a girl from Australia really wants to travel to the other side of the world just to watch baseball. But there’s something that makes you step back and realise you really love the game when it’s 115F and you’re alone in the middle of Arkansas watching Double-A baseball.

Double-A Baseball in Arkansas

If there’s anything the uncertainty of the world has taught me right now, it’s that if there’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, go ahead and do it. I would encourage anyone who has every contemplated doing anything like this, no matter how big or small the scale, to absolutely go for it. Whether it be that you have a favourite player, favourite team or that one stadium you’ve always wanted to see – make it happen. Doing it alone might seem scary, but when you’re in a ballpark surrounded by the energy that sports brings us, you can never feel alone.

After setting out alone, I never expected to gain so much from a sport. Of course, there’s the suitcase full of scorecards, ice cream helmets, baseballs, bobbleheads, rally towels and any other possible giveaway. But the biggest thing was to return home with new friends, new memories and an even bigger love and appreciation for the sport that’s got me through so much. 

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