He was driving somewhere deep in the middle of Kansas, long after midnight, when Revere’s Arty DeMattia let his mind wander and he began to contemplate the real importance of America’s national pastime – baseball.
While on his nine-year quest to see a baseball game in every Major League Baseball stadium, DeMattia had hit a snag in his scheduling. After having caught a Texas Rangers game in Dallas, a Greyhound bus that was to take DeMattia to Denver was delayed, and it messed up the game plan for him to see a Colorado Rockies game.
Determined not to miss his date at Coors Field in Denver the next day, DeMattia, now 30, rented a car and drove through the wild expanses of Oklahoma and Kansas and eastern Colorado. It allowed him a lot of time to think about his journey, and the fact that it really was more than just baseball – that it said something about the sum total of America.
“It’s really heart warming when you see father and sons and grandfathers going together for the first time to a game or families going together to the ballpark,” he said. “It reminded me of times I spent at games with my family and friends. I saw this all around the country, even with the new teams. I find it awesome when I run into die hard Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals fans; these are people who bought into the hometown teams no matter how young the franchises were…Everybody has memories associated with baseball in America. Baseball was my first sport. I still remember my first game at Fenway Park on a rainy October day. I don’t remember the game, but I remember being at the park. Also, listening to the games with my grandfather on the radio. We would sit out in the in the summer and listen. It was one of the first sports I grew up with and understood.”
It was recollections like those that really drove home the importance of his undertaking. That quest included DeMattia traveling over a period of nine years to visit 33 Major League Baseball parks (including three now-defunct parks) – starting in Baltimore in 2004 and finishing in Seattle in late 2013. About 25 percent of the games he saw on the road featured the Boston Red Sox – his hometown team. Additionally, he stopped at a number of minor league baseball parks along the way and traveled to a lot of Spring Training stadiums as well.
Through it all, DeMattia saw a lot of baseball and found a lot of interesting things about the country and its traditions.
In Milwaukee, sausages are the biggest things going at the Stadium, and there’s even a sausage race during the seventh-inning stretch where people dressed up as a hot dog, a bratwurst, a chorizo, a kielbasa, and an Italian sausage race around the bases.
In St. Louis, at Busch Stadium, DeMattia was perplexed to find out that the stadium named after the beer conglomerate only served Coors products.
“It’s one of those things you don’t expect,” he said.
He experienced some great food, such as an unexpected delicacy at Tropicana Field – the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The rightly named ‘Devil Dog’ was quite a treat, he said, with virtually everything you can think of on the hot dog.
He did a lot of driving too, crossing through Montana, the Dakotas and “fly over” territory – simultaneously meeting another goal of seeing all 50 states before he’s 50 (he’s seen 49 due to his baseball travels).
Sometimes he even lucked out by getting free tickets.
“A friend and I were in Miami and we planned on going to a Marlins game to help my goal, but we didn’t have tickets yet,” he said. “We were walking along the street in Miami and a lady just came up and gave us Marlins tickets.”
DeMattia said the idea at first was simply about seeing a lot of baseball in different places. He thought it was a great way to take vacation time away from work, and to enjoy his favorite sport. And it did start that way, but it ended up much differently.
“It started out being about baseball stadiums and ended up turning into being about how people live in different cities of the country,” he said. “It was a social study, almost and experiment. Every city and every stadium has its hangouts and customs and special foods. The best teams incorporate that into their marketing and experience. Baltimore does a very good job of it. San Francisco does a good job too. Other teams like Oakland don’t do such a good job. About 66 percent of the games I went to alone, so I got to meet a lot of people along the way. It’s great when cities celebrate their teams as well. Some do it better than others, but for the most part there is baseball pride in all MLB cities.”
After seeing them all, his favorite ballparks were Fenway Park, Petco in San Diego, Camden Yards in Baltimore and the old Yankee Stadium. His least favorites were the Anaheim (LA) Angels in California, Oakland A’s stadium and Tropicana Field in Tampa.
Some of the best fans he said are Chicago Cubs fans, or Kansas City Royals fans.
“The Cubs are the best fans because they’ll talk your ear off,” he said. “Some of angriest fans are Detroit fans. They aren’t very friendly or warm. I would stand up and clap when the Sox scored, and they would yell at me or tell me to sit down. In most places, they were much better sports.”
Now, with a wealth of baseball experience behind him, DeMattia – who graduated from Revere High School and is the son of Arthur and Ellen DeMattia – looks to start another hobby when not working at his day job. That hobby is to write a book about his experiences; chronicling the thoughts that came to him as he drove alone across vast American expanses like Montana to catch one more game in one more Stadium.
And he also said that he doesn’t consider his quest over.
“As long as they keep tearing down old stadiums and building new stadiums, I’ll keep going to them,” he concluded.