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Baseball park hopper

Morgan man has visited all 30 major league parks

Attending a major league baseball game for the first time, with a stadium engulfed in a myriad of sights, sounds and smells, is generally an unforgettable experience.

Now imagine the experience of attending a game at all 30 major current league baseball parks.

“It was never a goal of mine to watch a game at every stadium,” said Rod Harman, of Morgan. “It just sort of came about, and everything fell into place. I’ve been to 10 or 12 of the ballparks more than once. And I’ve also been to a few minor league games.”

His 30-stadium accomplishment began in 2001 and concluded in 2015.

Harman stands among a sea of pennants in a room in his house. He purchased a pennant at each of the current 30 major league baseball stadiums he was at. Photo by Scott Thoma

Harman, 82, has always been a huge baseball fan. He was a first baseman/pitcher in high school at Lake Wilson. He also coached baseball for several years, including both of his sons, Danny and Dave, at various levels at Morgan. Dave was a pitcher for five seasons in the Texas Rangers chain.

And now Harman’s home in Morgan is devoted to the sport he loves and to his experiences of witnessing games in every stadium across the country.

As you enter his kitchen, your attention is instantly drawn to a wall above his table and chairs. Sandwiched between two left-handed baseball gloves that he once used as a player is an impressive plaque called “Rod Harman’s Grand Slam” that chronologically indicates the date and year he visited each of the 30 major league baseball stadiums, plus the two former homes of the Twins, Met Stadium and the Metrodome.

“My daughter, Rhonda (Crosman) had it made for me,” Harman said, a slight smile indicating his pride. “It was a gift from all three of my kids.”

Crosman’s friend in Colorado is a graphic designer and made the template for the plaque from the information Crosman provided.

A short walk into a room in the back of Harman’s home is like entering a mini museum. A large team pennant that Harman purchased at each of the games he attended in a major league stadium adorns all four walls. The pennants, too, are in chronological order with a game ticket stub affixed to each one.

A T-shirt with the same design as the plaque in his kitchen splashed across the front also hangs in the room. Bobble heads, team caps, balls, a few minor league pennants and other paraphernalia are also on display

“People are welcome to come over and look if they want,” said Harman. “I always enjoy talking baseball.”

The first major league baseball game Harman attended was in 1965 at the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, which closed in 1981 and was torn down in 1985 so the Mall of America could be built on the site. Harman also went to Twins’ games at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before that, too, was razed in 2014 and replaced by the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium.

Of the current 30 major league baseball stadiums, Harman’s first visit was to Coors Field in Denver on Sept. 19, 2009, to see the host Rockies take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. That game was attended on a visit to see his daughter, who lives in Longmont, Colo., only 30 miles from the stadium.

“Even after watching a game in Colorado, I really never had any thoughts of going to all of the ballparks,” Harman admitted.

It all started when his daughter read an online ad from Bob’s Baseball Tours of Redwood Falls regarding a tour of major league parks that she felt her father would enjoy.

“I called my dad and told him I thought it would be something he would be interested in,” Crosman said. “It’s a short drive for him (13 miles) to Redwood Falls to get on the bus.”

That first trip out East would become the first of eight tours Harman would take to seven stadiums and many historic sites from July 22-30, 2009. He and others on the tour watched games at U. S. Cellular Field (now Guaranteed Rate Field) in Chicago (White Sox); Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y. (Yankees); Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Nationals); Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (Phillies); Camden Yards in Baltimore (Orioles); Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. (Mets); and Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati (Reds).

“We also went to Arlington National Cemetery,” Harman said. “And we visited Ground Zero (the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and a lot of other places.”

He enjoyed that tour so much that he signed up for one each of the next five years.

The next current baseball stadium he visited was at the newly built Target Field on May 27, 2010, in Minneapolis to see the Twins play the Yankees.

Tour number two saw Harman and others in the group taking in five more stadiums from July 28-Aug. 3, 2010: Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (Royals); Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas (Rangers); Minute Maid Park in Houston (Astros); Busch Stadium in St. Louis (Cardinals); and Wrigley Field in Chicago (Cubs).

Also on that tour, Harman and others visited many sites, such as the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo., and the Sixth Floor Museum (formerly the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy in 1963) in downtown Dallas.

The third tour came in 2011 when he sat in the bleachers for games at Fenway Park in Boston (Red Sox), Progressive Field in Cleveland (Indians), and Miller Park in Milwaukee (Brewers) from July 25-30. The group also went to Cooperstown, N.Y., the home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and witnessed former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven’s induction ceremony.

The next year’s tour traveled from June 27-20, 2012, to the southeastern United States toTurner Field (now Sun Trust Park) in Cumberland, Ga. (Braves); Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Rays); and Marlins Park in Miami (Marlins).

On that trip is where Harman went to his favorite ballpark at any level.

“We went to Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala.,” he said. “It’s the oldest ballpark in the United State. Everything is wooden like it was originally built. I really enjoyed that.”

Rickwood Field opened in 1910 as the ballpark for the city’s professional team, the Birmingham Barons. Many Hall of Famers played here throughout the years, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial and Satchell Paige.

Harman’s fifth tour took in 6 West Coast stadiums from May 24-31, 2013: Chase Field in Phoenix (Diamondbacks), Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (Dodgers), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland (Athletics), AT&T Park in San Francisco (Giants), Angel Stadium in Anaheim (Angels), and Petco Park in San Diego (Padres).

Because he was missing only four more stadiums to complete the set, Harman’s daughter lined up a trip in 2014 for her father via a LaCrosse, Wis., tour that would take him to three more stadiums out East that weren’t included in any of his previous tours. Those were: Comerica Park in Detroit (Tigers), Rogers Centre in Toronto (Blue Jays), and PNC Park in Pittsburgh (Pirates).

That left only Safeco Field in Seattle to complete Harman’s Grand Slam.

“Rhonda arranged it and went with me to the ballpark,” said Harman. “This was my favorite trip of all of them because I was treated like a king.”

Harman was planning to visit his daughter in May 2015 so she worked out a deal to “piggyback” with a large tour group out of New Orleans. She and her father flew to Seattle to meet up with the group at the airport.

Crosman also informed a Mariners’ official about her father’s accomplishment at the May 28 game, and the team showered Harman with “two bags full of souvenirs.”

Crosman also gave her father the T-shirt she had printed that commemorated his Grand Slam 30-stadium accomplishment.

“The plaque wasn’t ready when dad was here for the Seattle game,” said Crosman. “So I brought it to Minnesota when I visited a month or so later. My brothers went in on it with me.

“But he wore the shirt at the (Mariners) game, and people in the tour group were taking pictures with him. They thought he was pretty special because they knew how hard it is to be able to go to all of the stadiums.”

Harman did make another tour trip, although this one wasn’t to any major league stadiums. This was a Hall of Fame tour in 2015 that included the museums of each of the four major professional sports: the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.; the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.; and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. In addition, the group went to the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

When asked which current major league stadium was his favorite, Harman didn’t need to scratch his head for an answer.

“I’d say Target Field,” he said. “And probably Camden Yards. I’d like to go back there.”

And his least favorite?

“Tropicana Field,” he replied. “They have bad fields, and it’s not a nice looking park at all. I also wasn’t impressed with Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium is too showy.”

Harman currently has no plans for any more stadium trips because a bad back prevents him from walking a lot at one time.

But it’s only a short walk to the rooms in his house filled with memories of those trips.

A small plate hanging above Harman’s Grand Slam plaque in his kitchen features former New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig giving his famous “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech on July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium.

Harman probably feels the same way.

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