More yardage to go on ‘Going Yard’

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In 2005, Stan Fridstein and his son Eric, with Kelvin Yamashita and his son, Ryan, enjoy a moment in the Cleveland Indians’ dugout at Jacobs Field.

Following up on today’s Sunday Q-and-A with Stan Fridstein as we discuss his new book, “Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide for Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips” (linked here), available both on Amazon.com and on Fridstein’s website www.goingyardjourney.com — and not part of our “30 Baseball Books in the 30 Days of April,” but a bonus selection as we move toward the end of this month:

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Q: Was the book a result of the fact as you said you were kind of blazing your own trail and had no real reference guides to go by, so people could learn from your trial and error?

A: I couldn’t find anything out there that was in a single, comprehensive place. I did a lot research, and there’s so much information out there. For example, you go to the TripAdvisor.com website, and you can find 800 things to do in New York City. You’ve got an extra day, so what are you going to do with a 10-year-old kid? What’s relevant to a sports-minded person? It was about ferreting though and all that and calling people and making connections. A lot of the information existed online and if you checked all the blogs and websites, so you could probably find all this somewhere. It just wasn’t in one place.
I was concerned that my son have a great time, and the goal during the first year was to have so much fun that he wanted to do it again next year. So I went overboard in researching to make sure the two boys’ every minute was so full of fun, they’d want more.

Q: Is there also the chance a kid will get exhausted from trying to do too many parks in a row?

A: For me, the baseball park visits were a foil for what the real opportunity was that I was trying to accomplished. For seven to 10 days every summer for seven years, I got to own my son. That’s an amazing thing, to do it a way where there’s so much joy and in a completely unthreatening mode, without his sister and mother and not a lot of static going on. If I had said to him upfront – let’s go on a tour of some interesting cities and see some museums and, you know, maybe take in a baseball game, my son wouldn’t have been interested. But when you position it as taking a baseball trip – that’s only three hours a day. You’ve got another 21 hours to fill. But if you do things right, and pass the time doing the right things, it’s an amazing experience for both of you. You visit cities that you’d otherwise never have a reason to be in discovering really neat things, learning new things.

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Q: In your book, you estimate that it’ll cost about $3,900 per family per trip to do these annual excursions. Is that a number that’s somewhat inflationary proof?

A: That’s a real ballpark figure – no pun intended. But I think the key is you have to be careful who you travel with. The Yamashitas have been great to travel with because we share a lot of the same values. We didn’t need to stay a Four Seasons hotel, or buy great tickets to every game, take guided tours, have unlimited budgets. You have to go with people who you aren’t in a position to start making compromises. These trips can be expensive, or inexpensive. I just sort of came up with $4,000 because I think that’s pretty close for most people who would try this.

Q: You explain in the book about the art of writing a letter in advance and ask each team if they can help you with private tours, tickets . . . Do you think most people are brave enough to ask for those things?

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A: I don’t think most even think about it. People don’t realize that each team has employees full time in the community relations and they want people to feel good about their team. The bottom line is even if they give you a free ticket, you’re still going to spend $100 in drinks and the gift shops or somewhere there. Unless it’s a team like the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs, maybe the Giants, where they sell out 100 percent of their seats, there will always be empty seats. But when you can contact a team ahead of time and arrange for things like access to a locker room, get on the field, meet players and get a sense of standing on the field, realize what it must feel like with 40,000 people screaming in the stands. It’s pretty awe-inspiring than being at a Little League field with just 20 parents there.
I found teams to be very receptive of my letters because I was genuine about it. Some people are less likely and more fearful to use the social network to secure tickets or get special access. But that was hugely successful for us. This was long before Facebook, maybe 10 years ago, and I had no problem with sending out emails to everyone I knew to tell them about what we’re trying to do – go to a city, visit the parks and look for a great experience. I was shocked not so much that I did get help, but from some of the people who helped me. For example, one friend of mine who was so much not a baseball fan, couldn’t name five teams if he had to, was a contact, and it turned out one of his father’s best friends were part of the Katz family, one of the owners of the New York Mets. And through that connection we were able to get on the field and hang out at one point with Tom Glavine. But my friend was the last person I figured could get me on the field at Shea Stadium, but it was really cool he was willing to make that call on my behalf. You might have friends in other cities who have a sister working for the radio station that carries the team’s games and has access to tickets. My experience: Don’t be shy. Today, with a more effective way to ask for things with Facebook, I think other people are excited to see what we were doing and wanted to help.

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Q: What’s your key advice about landing tickets? Do you find some people skimp on buying good seats as a way to save money?

A: As it turned out, in many cases, I got free tickets. We maybe only bought tickets to five or 10 games tops. You can always find tickets. Sometimes we were promised tickets and it didn’t happen. But when you buy a ticket, that’s another personal decision. There’s one who need to be between first and third five rows up, or others are fine anywhere except what they’d consider to be the worst seats. We wanted decent seats, nothing great. Sometimes you’d get the best seats imaginable. If the difference between a good and a poor seat was $10 or $15, we could do that, but we weren’t paying $200 when you could get a perfectly good seat for $40. For me, sometimes I’d rather spend $40 than $25 for another section, too.
The ‘bleacher bum’ seats at Wrigley Field may be the cheapest, but I know some people who wouldn’t sit anywhere else in the park because of the spirit out there. And then there’s seats now atop the Green Monster at Fenway that are ridiculously expensive, and they may be the worst seats in the house.
I don’t think where you sit makes or break the experience. First off, you’ll probably end up walking around, tasting beer, eating hot dogs. It goes back to the same choice if you want to stay at a Ritz Carlton versus a Marriott Courtyard.

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Q: There’s an updated version coming out someday?

A: They’ll be building a new field for the Marlins, and you’ve got to think they’ll be new stadiums someday in Tampa Bay, so there’ll always be more trips to make. The thing I found out – there were some parks where there were places to visit I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t know the Negro League Hall of Fame was in Kansas City, or the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum was within a 9 iron of Camden Yards in Baltimore. So now I want to go back and update all that information. While this isn’t a travelogue, some of the things we did do were kind of yawns, and my son helped me with saying, ‘We’re bored and we hated doing that.’ That’s good to know.

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