On my kitchen counter, I have 28 large, plastic beverage cups sitting side by side. Each has a specific emblem of a different Major League baseball team.
The cups represent the visits I and my youngest son, Michael, who shares my passion for baseball, have made to particular ballparks. This year, we will complete the cycle and visit Toronto and Seattle. As part of each of our trips, which are usually 10 days long, we make sure we see various sites and monuments that each city or region has to offer. We call this part of the trip our “Americana.”
From traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway, to the Grand Canyon and beyond, there is so much to see of this country we call home. Growing up in Levittown and attending a local college, you could say I am a perfect example of a “native New Yorker.” My Brooklyn/Bronx accent is easily picked up and pointed out to me about three words into every conversation, no matter where we are.
The past 15 years of our baseball trips have provided us with a tremendous insight and understanding of what makes people tick in this country. Take Iowa: When we drove through Minnesota on our way to the Hawkeye State, we saw miles and miles of cornfields and clusters of windmills or solar energy fields. Why are Midwesterners so ahead of us in the progressive use of solar energy?
In Dyersville, Iowa, amid miles of cornfields, we saw the baseball field made popular by the movie “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner. It is an experience that I highly recommend to any baseball lover.
To stand on the mound at the field and play catch with my son completed the top item on my bucket list. We were having the catch, and then I threw some batting practice pitches to my son. One by one, people we had never met asked if they could join in. Before you knew it, we were having kids hitting the ball and parents and grandparents chasing the ball. We all laughed, had a great time and never even asked each other our names or where we were from.
I have to admit that I did take an ear of corn from the field as my official souvenir of the visit.
The next part of the trip, we were traveling through Des Moines at the time of the Iowa State Fair. We always stop at a local bar and grill to sample some of the food and to talk a little with the locals. Short of cash, I hit the ATM in the bar. To my surprise, the machine issued my $300 in $5 bills! I cracked up laughing, as did Michael, because could you imagine an ATM in New York dispensing $5 bills?
In a large exhibit hall at the state fair, we were extremely lucky to experience one of the “main events” of the day at a large exhibit hall. It was a sheep-judging competition with hundreds of people parading their prized sheep in hopes of earning “Top Sheep” show honors.
Michael and I have a saying: If we are there, then we do what the locals do. So, we both had the pleasure of milking a cow at the Iowa State Fair.
So, go to a ballgame somewhere and maybe get to milk a cow; play catch on the Field of Dreams; visit Alcatraz Island; stand at the ridge of the Grand Canyon; ride a zip line through the Mall of America. Maybe even appear on the TV show “The Price Is Right”; visit Graceland; take the ride up to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; ride to the top of Pikes Peak; walk the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery.
These are but a few of the sights and sounds of Americana that my son and I have experienced through our baseball field trips.
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