By Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher
I am not a great lover of sports, but I have always enjoyed America’s favorite pastime: baseball. My uncle regularly took us to watch the Brewers play at the old County Stadium in Milwaukee. Game days were long because we lived three hours from the stadium, but we never complained.
We were the first wave of die-hard Sausage Race speculators. We enjoyed pitching changes because there was always hope the relief pitcher would ride the Harley Davidson to the mound instead of walking. The rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” followed by “Roll Out the Barrels” during the seventh-inning stretch were sacred. And if the Brewers hit a homerun, Bernie Brewer would slide into his giant frosted mug to celebrate. County Stadium’s fan experience made me a life-long fan.
Since the pandemic, we hadn’t been to a new baseball stadium, which has slowed our effort to visit all the MLB stadiums. I planted the seed earlier this summer that we should go east to see some parks. Planning a vacation that requires plane tickets is a bit like spinning a roulette wheel when you live on a farm. It is hard for a farmer to commit with confidence but after some persuasion I got a tentative yes to make refundable plans for a whirlwind four-day weekend, to see three parks in three cities and prayed for rain.
Our first stop was Philadelphia, home of the cheesesteak. On principle, I committed to only eating cheesesteaks while there and was not disappointed by a Segway tour of cheesesteak restaurants. In all, we tried five including the original Pat’s and sampled the Philly Taco (full cheesesteak wrapped in a large slice of pizza) eating challenge. When we couldn’t eat anymore, we made our way to Citizen’s Bank Park to watch the defending World Series Champion Phillies take on the Cardinals. We always root for the home team (unless the Royals or Brewers are in town). We joined in the excitement every time the home team hit a home run to ring the giant LED Liberty Bell. Overall, this was the best stadium of our trip without a bad seat in the house and a great fan experience. I also got to try the “new this season” stadium offering, a cheesesteak egg roll.
A few quick train rides took us to Citi Field in Queens, home of the Mets. Several years ago we watched the Royals at Yankee stadium and were disappointed in the lackluster fan experience, which landed the park at the bottom of my list. I was nervous the Mets would be the same, but I was wrong. Watching for the homerun Big Apple and catching the view from Shea Bridge are a few of their fun customs. We ended up sitting amongst Angels fans having a blast cheering their team to victory. Citi Field had the best food of the parks we visited; I highly recommend the loaded fries.
The famous Fenway Park in Boston was our last stop. The park’s unique design, featuring the giant “Green Monster” wall, is because the park couldn’t expand the outfield because of buildings around the stadium. Nostalgia hit me hard when we entered the park as I am pretty sure it hasn’t really been updated over the years; it took me back to the baseball games of my childhood. Our favorite here were the fans; they had so much pride in their team and stadium.
Baseball games are great for family bonding and great memories; every park has its own culture, history and ambiance. We’re halfway through the list and I can’t wait to plan our next baseball adventure.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.