If you’ve been reading this space for any amount of time you might know that I’m part of a group of friends that takes a trip every year to see baseball games.
The Great Baseball Road Trip, as we call it, reached season 19 this year. I’ve been on all 19 trips — the only group member with perfect attendance — and over the years the trip has come to symbolize and mark evolutions in our lives and attitudes toward baseball.
As such, here are observations from this year’s trip to southern Ohio and Kentucky:
Our itinerary was four games in four days: minor league games in Dayton, Louisville and Lexington plus Cubs at Reds in MLB. We stayed at a historic home in Kentucky about half an hour south of Cincinnati, which had both modern amenities (flat-screen TV with Roku) and non-modern amenities (several barn animals on the property, including a donkey named Eeyore that all the folks in town knew).
It occurred to me how much the four of us in our group are used to having the sports we want wherever and whenever we want. Upon arrival, we immediately logged in through the MLB app to watch the Twins game and later used a different app to watch the World Cup. I can barely remember a time when such things were not possible.
Days 1 and 2
We were nervous all trip about the weather forecast of rain and thunderstorms — so much so that we flipped our itinerary and went to Louisville on Thursday and Dayton on Friday and asked both franchises if they would honor our tickets (which they did).
Of course there was not a rainout at either park either day — the road trip has only had two rainouts in 19 years — but switching gave us the unintended added bonus of seeing Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 behind the Twins’ Royce Lewis, pitch for Dayton. He touched 100 mph several times and even hit 101 but took the 3-2 loss.
The Dayton game started 25 minutes late because of earlier rain, but it was played in a crisp 2 hours, 20 minutes. We left town by 10 p.m. and arrived back at the house around 11:25 p.m., at which point we flipped on the Brewers/Cardinals game (through the app) which was tied 1-1 and had started well over 3 hours earlier.
Pace of play in major league games has been a hot topic in our group for a few years, and it was only reinforced after watching minor league games (with pitch clocks) sail along.
Along those same lines, we flew in and out of Cincinnati, and the only reasonably priced direct flight back to the Twin Cities that we found left at 5:25 p.m. Sunday. That meant we all agreed to leave the Reds game early (in the seventh inning as it turned out), and nobody minded that. A decade ago, or maybe even five years ago, such an arrangement would have been unthinkable.
Of course, we all had a least a little regret when the Reds rallied for seven runs to beat the Cubs right after we left.
We all still love baseball enough to build a weekend around it — even as we change and the sport changes.