It was a Fourth of July weekend to remember this year as Older Son, Younger Son, DSO and I hit three Major League ballparks in three days, a trip that had been in the works for several months.
For years we have tried to go to at least one new ballpark annually (and see a game there) on our way to visiting each one. Not long after a game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. last summer, Older Son was plotting on a map how we might double our pleasure in 2014.
Yes, two would be great. Three? Even better.
After the first of the year we studied game schedules a bit and it soon came together. Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh would be in the middle of home stands over July 4th. And with the holiday being on a Friday, well, it was meant to be.
We weren’t 100 percent opposed to inviting female family members but they were advised that it would be strictly a baseball trip, and a quick one at that. There would be no time for any significant sightseeing or visiting renowned dining spots. It would be “eat when you’re hungry” and no coddling of anyone.
The girls gave their blessing but opted out.
Three of us flew from here to Detroit on Thursday the 3rd where we met Older Son who flew in from Dallas. We picked up a rental car at the airport and drove to our downtown hotel near the ballpark.
Although it had been pouring rain when we landed, the skies soon cleared, giving way to incredibly beautiful weather that would stay with us throughout the weekend. The temperature didn’t even get above 80 degrees until our last day.
On the recommendation of local friends with Michigan ties, we visited the rooftop of “Hockeytown,” which overlooks Comerica Park, where we would see our first game. Although Hockeytown’s obvious main focus is hockey (and there’s a framed Nashville Predators jersey prominently displayed), it’s a great local sports bar paying homage to all Detroit sports teams.
We made our way across the street to the stadium where we saw the Detroit Tigers play the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a hitting fest and the Tigers had three homeruns in the first inning. They went on to win handily.
On Friday, the July 4th holiday, it was on to Cleveland, about a two-and-a half-hour southeast jaunt. It was another gorgeous day and before leaving Detroit we drove near the Canadian border and by the original home of Motown Records. (I had never said there would be no sightseeing – just nothing extensive).
We enjoyed an outdoor lunch in Cleveland’s downtown warehouse district and a stroll along the pier on Lake Erie before checking in our hotel and going to watch the Cleveland Indians play the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. The Royals’ bats were flying and they took down the home team.
A spectacular post-game fireworks show above the stadium was a fitting finale to Independence Day, or so I thought. My young travel companions were soon pushing – or dragging -- me way outside my comfort zone, and keeping me up far past my bedtime. Before I knew it we were sharing a midnight pizza at a nearby “open late” spot.
Younger Son had done some research and learned that the house featured in the movie “A Christmas Story” is in an old Cleveland neighborhood. We thought it was worth a drive-by Saturday morning before going to Pittsburgh. The neighborhood has capitalized on the movie’s popularity with not only the house, but a museum and gift shop across the street, taking up almost an entire block.
We arrived in downtown Pittsburgh in the early afternoon and enjoyed lunch at a local deli and a walk along the riverfront before walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge (closed to vehicular traffic on game days) to PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, for a late-afternoon start time. There was a festive atmosphere around the stadium, similar to football tailgating, as baseball fans enjoyed refreshments, live music and games of corn-hole toss.
The Pirates were playing their intrastate rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies had plenty of fans there talking trash right back to the hometown Pittsburgh fans dishing it out to them.
We saw another great game, a win for the home team with lots of hits, in a beautiful stadium that frames the city’s skyline beyond the outfield.
We spent the night at an airport hotel and we three Nashville travelers were back home early Sunday morning.
It was the perfect trip for a baseball fan – three ballparks in three days, with three great guys kind enough to take an old guy with them.