Grand slam memories

Dad, son watch game at every MLB ballpark


Gary Wolters, of Sartell, looks at his son Brent at Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome before making a goal to attend a game at 30 different MLB ballparks. Contributed photo


Gary Wolters and his teenaged son have been making memories that will last forever — one baseball park at a time.

He and his 16-year-old son Brent have been on an odyssey that began almost a decade ago to attend a game at every major league ballpark in America.

“We were in San Francisco at a baseball game — like one of our first stadiums, when I was like 6 years old — and I just proposed the idea to my dad,” Brent Wolters recalled.

The duo, from Sartell, were in the home stretch at the start of the summer and reached their goal last month after visiting their 30th ballpark in Phoenix on July 17, 2015.

Gary Wolters said of the estimated 25,000 miles they have logged on the road: “It’s not so much baseball we love but the traveling and the camaraderie of going and having a goal.”

Well-traveled

The financial controller and human resources director, who is in his 50s, and his son, who will be a junior at school, have spent every summer since he was a boy visiting ballparks.

“We enjoy going to other sporting events as well … but baseball, of course, allows us to take a summer vacation that logistically made sense,” Gary said.

They also attempt to visit local attractions near the ballparks while in the area, and they average attending MLB games at three to four different ballparks each summer.

Gary said, “A lot of times you’d say, ‘Oh, you never will continue to do it,’ but every summer we planned it; we planned the geography, looked at the schedules and then picked the time to do it, and we haven’t missed a summer doing it.”

During their odyssey, they have also attended three NBA finals and usually tour the NFL stadiums of the cities they are visiting while in the area.

“At each ballpark, we buy a souvenir mini-bat with the team logo and a team baseball,” Gary said. “And sometimes we’ll do a tour of the stadium if the timing works.”

Ballparks


Gary and Brent Wolters pose for a photo inside Marlins Park as part of a 30-ballpark odyssey proposed by the teen when he was 6 years old. Contributed photos


Brent Wolters lists Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago among his top ballparks because he likes the older stadiums with their generations of diehard fans.

“Every game is just basically sold out there, so everyone is into the game,” he said of Wrigley Field, which was built in 1914. “A lot of other stadiums are only half full.”

Gary said they have driven to most of the ballparks, which included Detroit, where he recalled embarrassingly ripping his shorts on the way to their seats.

“When we first started this together, I had everything printed out on MapQuest … and that was probably the most challenging, looking back now … driving in New York City and other big cities,” he said of the era before GPS devices and smartphones.

“We like big cities, and we kind of know what we can and can’t do and where to go, but sometimes you wander into areas you shouldn’t be.”

Team effort


Mini-bats collected during the father and son’s travels to various ballparks in the United States, proudly displayed on a wall in their Sartell home. Photo by Frank Lee


The first out-of-state ballpark the father and son visited was in Anaheim, Calif., in 2005 where many of his wife’s relatives are, but the duo have now been to almost 40 states.

“We don’t have a cabin. We don’t hunt, fish or do a lot of the outdoor things that most Minnesotans do,” Gary said of the two weeks or so each summer they travel.

Their favorite team is the Minnesota Twins, but after visiting various ballparks, Gary believes Target Field should have had a retractable roof, given the climate.

“Every summer for about the last five years, I’ve emailed the teams and kind of explained to them what we are doing, and probably half have responded with tickets, on-the-field batting practice … and have treated us extremely well,” he said.

“And kudos to my wife and my daughter for letting us do this or for not feeling jealous; that has been one of the most important features — their ability to let us do this every year because it certainly is somewhat of a hardship for them for us to be gone.”

#BaseballStadiums #SummerVacation #Wolters

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