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Baseball Travel Plans for 2011

I have been debating for some time about where to travel this summer in order to see some baseball. Nothing is set in stone yet, because of my schedule at work being uncertain for later in the year.

The options:

1. Late July / Early August – I am thinking of taking off to Taiwan to check out baseball on the island. There are a lot of places they play and its a relatively cheap place to travel to.

2. Mid August – This is my first choice despite the cost. This would be a trip to the Osaka, Japan area. During this time I could check out the summer Koshien, which is the biggest high school tournament of the year. While there watching the games, there is also a chance to see some professional ball in the Osaka area.

3. Late November – Again this will take place in Taiwan, but to me it seems to be a bit bigger. This would be the Asia Series. This is a series of games between the winners of the professional leagues in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia.

I am not sure which one I will pursue. Cost, time off, and other factors will have to be taken into consideration. I’ll be doing a lot of baseball travel around Korea, but I really want to get out and see some baseball in another country this year. This is a work in progress so we will have to wait and see where I can make it to.

Any thoughts on which one I should try to get to?

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Game Souvenirs – What do you take home?

One of my favorite things to do is see a new stadium. I love taking in the atmosphere and views of each new one I visit. But I always try and take something away with me as well. In the past I have gotten hats, t-shirts, towels, and more for souvenirs. But until recently I have never thought about the simple souvenir that I had been collecting already, game tickets.

The problem with hats, t-shirts, and what not are that they are bulky and heavy when traveling. Ticket stubs however are small, light, and easy to keep track of. I kept a stub from each of the games I went to in Korea, and from now on I plan on keeping up with that trend.

What do you keep from new places you visit? I’d be interested in knowing what others keep so leave a comment and let me know.

Below are photos of my ticket stubs. One from each of the 7 stadiums in Korea.

Samsung Lions Ticket Stub

Samsung Lions Ticket Stub

LG Twins Ticket Stub

LG Twins Ticket Stub

NEXEN Heroes Ticket Stub

NEXEN Heroes Ticket Stub

Lotte Giants Ticket Stub

Lotte Giants Ticket Stub

Kia Tigers Ticket Stub

Kia Tigers Ticket Stub

SK Wyverns Ticket Stub

SK Wyverns Ticket Stub

Hanwha Eagles Ticket Stub

Hanwha Eagles Ticket Stub

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Posted in KBO, Travel8 Comments

40 by 40 Baseball Edition

A little over 2 years ago, wow how time flies, I came out with a 40 by 40 list. Of that list of 40 things I wanted to do by the age of 40 (yes I am getting old), 10 of them had to do with baseball. After 2 years I have only accomplished 1 of the 40 – #10. Volunteer at an orphanage.

My 10 items that dealt with baseball were:

1. See a World Baseball Classic game
2. See a World Series game
3. See 10 new MLB stadiums
4. Play a baseball game in a foreign country
5. See a baseball game in 5 foreign countries
6. Go to the European Baseball Championships
7. Throw out the 1st pitch at a baseball game
8. Go to the College World Series
9. Coach a baseball team in a foreign country for a game
10. Go to MLB spring training

I have decided to expand my list of 10 to 40 in anticipation of another year abroad as I dream of more and more travel. So here it goes. My expanded 40 by 40 Baseball Edition.

1. See a World Baseball Classic game
2. See a World Series game
3. See 10 new MLB stadiums
4. Play a baseball game in a foreign country
5. See a baseball game in 5 foreign countries (4 to go)
6. Go to the European Baseball Championships
7. Throw out the 1st pitch at a baseball game
8. Go to the College World Series
9. Coach a baseball team in a foreign country for a game
10. Go to MLB spring training
11. Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame
12. Watch a Braves/Mets game (my favorite and least favorite team)
13. Go to the Junior Worlds in Seoul in 2012
14. Watch a UT/Texas A&M game
15. See a high school state championship game
16. Watch a game at Rickwood Field
17. Watch a Cubs/Cardinals game
18. Visit the Korean Baseball Hall of Fame
19. Attend a minor league all-star game
20. See a game at the new stadium in Pensacola, FL
21. Watch a Cape Cod game
22. Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Japan
23. Watch the midnight sun game in Alaska
24. Visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum
25. Visit the Field of Dreams movie site
26. Visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
27. Host a baseball podcast
28. Read the book Veeck as in Wreck
29. Read the book The Glory of Their Times
30. Attend the Little League World Series
31. Read the book The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento
32. Attend the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture
33. Visit the Ty Cobb Museum
34. Attend a Korean Series Game
35. Attend the Caribbean Series
36. Read the book The Catcher Was a Spy
37. Read the book Eight Men Out
38. See the Dodgers play the Giants
39. See the Red Sox play the Yankees
40. Watch an Arizona Fall League game

I don’t know how many of these I can accomplish in the next 5 1/2 years (wow I’ll be at 40 soon), but I am going to try to do as many as I can. I feel in the next year I can check off maybe 10. No matter how many I am able to do, it will be fun trying. What are the top things you want to see/do baseball wise? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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First Game of 2011 – Belmont vs Illinois State

I have not been writing much of late because I have been traveling before heading back to South Korea for another year. I have had some good times heading to the Smoky Mountains, Florida, and Texas. In between all my travels I have taken in a few games already with plans for another tomorrow.

My first game of the year was an early college game between the Belmont Bruins and the Illinois State Redbirds. It was the 2nd game of the season for both teams and game 1 of a double header.

It was a cold overcast Saturday morning, but it was a great day for baseball. I had been able to watch a lot of baseball online over the winter, but there is nothing like being at your first game of the year live. The sounds and smells of the game are something you can’t get when watching the game on TV.  So armed with my camera and some sunflower seeds, I headed out to historic Shelby Park in Nashville.

It was a good game with Belmont coming out on top 5-4. The game went back and forth with Illinois State jumping out on top early 1-0 in the top of the first. But Belmont bounced back quick scoring 2 of its own in the bottom half of the inning.

Left fielder Derek Hamblen went deep for the hometown Bruins and the senior first baseman Nate Woods came up with the game winning RBI in the bottom of the 6th with a double.

It was a lot of fun with roughly 200 people in attendance. I took advantage of being close to the action and worked on getting better with my camera.

 

Belmont vs Illinois State

Shelby Park - Nashville, TN

Belmont vs Illinois State

Safe at First

Belmont vs Illinois State

On the Hill for Belmont

 

I hope to take in a few more college games before leaving for South Korea. Vanderbilt  University, Middle Tennessee State University and Columbia State Community College aren’t too far from home. I plan to catch a game at each over the next week and a half. I might even try to squeeze in a local high school game if I can.

 

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Best Baseball Stadiums in Korea

One of my goals this year was to see a game in all of the stadiums here in Korea.  There are 7 stadiums in the KBO.  Most of them are older and outdated.  The teams here are used more as marketing objects than money makers so little is put back into the stadiums.  I visited my last stadium after visiting Daejeon Baseball Stadium on the last day of the season.  After seeing the last stadium, I decided to rank the stadiums of the KBO.

Here are my rankings of the 7 in the league.

#7 Moodeung Stadium – Home of the Kia Tigers

Clearly the worst stadium is Moodeung Stadium in Gwangju, home of the Kia Tigers. The most successful team in KBO league history (10 championships) has not use any of that success to upgrade the ballpark. The seats are falling apart, the stadium is plain and ugly with everything made of concrete, and there is nothing aesthetically appealing about the stadium at all. But it doesn’t stop there. The concession choices are limited, and what they do have is not very good.

Moodeung Baseball Stadium Kia Tigers

Moodeung Baseball Stadium - Home of the Kia Tigers

#6 Daegu Baseball Stadium – Home of the Samsung Lions

Daegu Baseball Stadium is only a slight step up from Moodeung. Again a concrete monstrocity, the stadium is crammed with little room to move around with narrow isles. The seats are old and uncomfortable, and the food that is offered is not very good. When going to a game here bring in your own food. The only positive that can be pulled form this stadium is the atmosphere. With so many fanatical fans, the stadium can be rocking when full, but that is league wide and not specific to Daegu.

Daegu Baseball Stadium Samsung Lions

Daegu Baseball Stadium - Home of the Samsung Lions

#5 Daejeon Baseball Stadium – Home of the Hanwha Eagles

Another horrible stadium by American standards, Daejeon Baseball Stadium gets the nod over Daegu simply for their concessions being out among the stands instead of on a concourse away from the action. Again an old, run down place to watch a game with not a lot offered as far as food selection, the stadium could use a lot of work.

Daejeon Baseball Stadium Hanwha Eagles

Daejeon Baseball Stadium - Home of the Hanwha Eagles

#4 Jamsil Baseball Stadium – Home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears

The only stadium shared by two teams, Jamsil was built in the early 80’s like most other stadiums in Korea. It hosted the 1988 Olympic Baseball Games and is situated next to Seoul Olympic Stadium. This is one of the bigger stadiums in the league holding over 30,000. It’s a nice place to see a game and reminds me a lot of the old cookie-cutter fields from the USA. The food selection is much better here with more choices inside and out of the stadium.

Jamsil Stadium LG Twins Doosan Bears

Jamsil Baseball Stadium - Home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears

#3 Sajik Baseball Stadium – Home of the Lotte Giants

Sajik is also known as the Mecca for Korean Baseball. It is a nice stadium that really benefits from being in Busan on the coast. Many nights the air will get cooler and a nice breeze will blow in off the water, which makes the game a bit more enjoyable during summer. It is one of the bigger stadiums holding over 28,000 fans, and might be the most energetic stadium. The food selection is good with a lot of variety, the fans are phenomenal, and it’s just a great place to see a game.

Sajik Baseball Stadium Lotte Giants

Sajik Baseball Stadium - Home of the Lotte Giants

#2 Mokdong Baseball Stadium – Home of the NEXEN Heroes

I got a really good feeling when I visited Mokdong Stadium. It is in the middle of the pack as far as size holding around 18,000. I really enjoyed the stadium because I got the same feeling I did when I went to minor league games in the States in that I felt close to the game. There is no seating in the outfield so it forces you down the baselines where you get the feeling of being close to the players. The food selection was decent, and the fans were again very enthusiastic even for a losing team.

Mokdong Baseball Stadium NEXEN Heroes

Mokdong Baseball Stadium - Home of the NEXEN Heroes

#1 Munhak Stadium – Home of the SK Wyverns

Clearly in a class of its own, Munhak Stadium is a great place to watch a game. This is the only stadium in Korea that could come close to a Major League Stadium in America. Really the only thing it might lack is a lot of luxury boxes. It would make a great minor league stadium as is. It has the look and feel of a great stadium with a grass area in left field to throw down a blanket and watch the game. In right field there is a BBQ area where you can rent a space and cook during the game. It is also the only recently built stadium having been built in 2001. This is the #1 place to see baseball in Korea.

Munhak Baseball Stadium SK Wyverns

Munhak Baseball Stadium - Home of the SK Wyverns

Honorable Mention
Suwon Baseball Stadium – This stadium is no longer being used in the KBO, but it is better than half of the stadiums in use. It is the former home of the Hyundai Unicorns, which is now the NEXEN Heroes. The stadium is still used for high school tournaments.

Suwon Baseball Stadium

Suwon Baseball Stadium - Former Home of the Hyundai Unicorns

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Posted in KBO, Travel, Stadiums5 Comments

5 Places to See That Are Not Stadiums

Baseball has been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. Driving up to Arlington to see the Rangers play as kids is one of my fondest memories. I have an ambitious goal of seeing baseball all around the world, but for me it all starts at home in the United States. Every one knows the famous stadiums to visit or the one down the street from home. But what about places to visit that aren’t stadiums? Here is my list of 5 must see places for any baseball fan that are not located at a stadium.
#1 Baseball Hall of Fame – Cooperstown, New York

This is the Holy Grail of baseball history. Here you will find all the games greats, and the history behind what made them great. Located in upstate New York, the Hall of Fame offers something for every baseball fan. See artifacts from all the great players, games, and events in baseball history. Adults can read one of 3 million books, take a look at 500,000 photographs, or view one of 38,000 artifacts from the game. Kids have their own section called the Sandlot Kids Clubhouse where they can enjoy various activities and exhibitions.

Baseball Hall of Fame

#2 Field of Dreams Set – Dyersville, Iowa

Not only is Field of Dreams one of the most popular baseball movies, but it helps capture the imaginations from young to old. The movie set sits in a field in Dyersville, Iowa where on a sunny afternoon you too can go out for a game of catch. After many years of uncertainty with the field, it is finally owned by one family. The movie company had built it on the land of two farms, but it has since been consolidated and is currently up for sale. The house and ball field used in the movie are still there.

Field of Dreams Movie Set

Photo Courtesy Cindy Chlapek Berg

#3 Louisville Slugger Museum – Louisville, Kentucky

I have had the pleasure of visiting this great institution (insert link) and I think people of all ages would really enjoy the trip here. Not only can you see the world’s biggest bat, but you can watch the process of a Louisville Slugger bat being made and then have your own name stamped on one. They also have a nice museum where you are able to see the evolution of the bat from the early 1900s till now. Oh and don’t forget to pick out a current stars model to practice with in the batting cages before you leave.

Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

#4 Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – Kansas City, Missouri

See the history of one of the most overlooked and fascinating parts of baseball history.  See artifacts, photos, and multi-media displays on the history of the Negro Leagues.  Some of baseball’s most influential characters came out of the Negro Leagues, and there should be more to pay ommage to its history.  So stop by, listen to some stories of Josh Gibson, and take in the history.  You will not be disappointed.

Negro League Baseball Museum

Negro League Baseball Museum

#5 The Grave of George Herman “Babe” Ruth – Hawthorne, New York

Arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, Babe Ruth’s legacy has reached legendary status. Roughly 35 miles from NYC, Hawthorne is the final resting place for not only Babe Ruth but other celebrities as well.  Most baseball fans alive now never got to see Ruth play, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pay your respects.  However, do remember that this is an active cemetery and to be respectful of such.

There are a lot of other great sites.  These are just a few of the great baseball sites around the country.  Want to know more?  Check out a great book Roadside Baseball: The Locations of America’s Baseball Landmarks by Chris Epting.  The book will take you from state to state with historic places in the history of the game.  No matter where you are, there is something nearby that is worthy of a trip to see.

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Louisville Slugger Museum

Just over a year ago, my brother and I took a trip from Nashville up to Indianapolis to see a Jimmy Buffett concert.  We left out early on a Tuesday morning with the intention of stopping for lunch and a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum, and I am glad we did.

I have always wanted to see the museum.  Growing up Louisville Slugger was the wooden bat.  There were no substitutes. It seemed like everyone in MLB was using Louisville Slugger, including my favorite player Dale Murphy. So finally getting the chance to see how the bats were made was a thrill.

The museum, and factory, are located in downtown Louisville.  You can’t miss the museum.  Just look for the 120 ft bat leaning up against the 5-story building.

Louisville Slugger Museum and its 120 ft bat

Once inside there is a lot to do and see.  The first thing you will come upon is the gift shop, but save this for last.  Go grab a ticket for the tour, and then head into the museum to wait your turn.

The tour was what made the trip for me.  It was really interesting to see how each bat is made.  They walk you through the process from taking a simple slab of wood to the final product ready for the players.  We were fortunate to have a good guide with us that day who made the tour that much more enjoyable.  You get to walk through as they are making bats.  Many of them will go out to minor league players, but one section of the factory is set to make bats for a professional player.  That day we got to see bats being made for Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was a lot of fun seeing the process first hand on how they shave down the bats further and further.  Then, depending on the type of bat needed, they run it through a machine that cuts it down to size.  Next they will sand the bat down and put on the finishing touches like the logo which is either a sticker, maple bats, or burned into the bats.  Unfortunately you can’t take photos of the factory, but its really worth while to see.

When you exit the tour they give you a souvenir bat and spit you out into the museum to look around.  The museum is fascinating as well.  Here you get to see old bats from the early 1900s to modern day.  The sizes, and shapes, have varied over the years.  They have showcases of countless models from countless superstars from over the many years that Louisville Slugger has been making bats.

Louisville Slugger Museum - Bats from Clemente, Musial, Ott, and Yaz

One of the coolest things to do in the museum is to handle one of the old bats from the players. These are bats that the players actually used in games.  I choose to pick up an old Mickey Mantle bat.  They had a few to choose from, but with Mickey being my Dad’s favorite player, it was an easy choice.  You have to put on gloves since all the hands handling the bats will ruin them over time.  I was surprised at how big the bat was, but it wasn’t near the biggest bat in the room.  Still an experience I won’t forget.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum

Before leaving there are still a few places to check out.  In the back of the museum, past a really cool statue of a glove and ball, is the batting cage.  You can pick out a bat from a current player, I choose Evan Longoria, and you can take some swings in the batting cages.  That was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it to anyone.  Swinging a big wooden bat is so different than the aluminum ones that you grow up playing with as kids.

Glove and Ball Statue at Louisville Slugger Museum

Me at the Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum Batting Cages

Me Hitting with an Evan Longoria Bat in the Cages

Louisville Slugger Museum Batting Cages

My Brother Hitting in the Cages with a ARoid Bat Model

After you are finished taking your swings, its time to head on over to the gift shop.  Now is your chance to pick up a personalized bat or other souvenir.  I choose to pick up a t-shirt while my brother opted for a personalized bat for his son.

Overall, it was a great trip to a place I had always wanted to visit.  Anytime you are in the area, be sure to head on over and check out the Louisville Slugger Museum.  It is definitely worth the journey.  You won’t be disappointed even if you aren’t the biggest baseball fan.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Dale Murphy's Bat Signature - 1974 is for when he signed his bat deal.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Me in front of the entrance.

By the way, it rained on us at the Jimmy Buffett concert, but we had a blast.  It was actually pretty fun singing in the rain with thousands of other parrotheads.

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Posted in Travel, Way Back Wednesday6 Comments

New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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