On July 17, 1998, Mark McGwire hit his 41st and 42nd home runs of the historic 1998 season, on the way to breaking Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 amid a classic chase with Sammy Sosa. Dave Kaval was there on that Friday night at Busch Stadium because he was
On July 17, 1998, Mark McGwire hit his 41st and 42nd home runs of the historic 1998 season, on the way to breaking Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 amid a classic chase with Sammy Sosa. Dave Kaval was there on that Friday night at Busch Stadium because he was part of a remarkable two-man pursuit of his own.
Kaval, now the A's new president, sat alongside fellow Stanford graduate Brad Null as they visited ballpark No. 20 in a stretch of seeing all 30 Major League Baseball venues within 38 incomprehensible days. They logged 14,455 miles by car and air to get it done and saw landmarks like the Hall of Fame and Louisville Slugger Museum along the way. Three years later, they chronicled their epic adventure in the book "The Summer That Saved Baseball."
"One of the best parts of visiting multiple ballparks is that you can compare how different cities uniquely celebrate baseball," Kaval said nearly two decades later. "From the 'OK Blue Jays' song in Toronto to the special Fenway Frank's buns in Boston, each ballpark offers its distinctive take on baseball and the community it represents."
Undertakings like theirs are infinitely easier in today's more connected world. You can experience other ballparks and still follow your favorite teams on the road in 2017 by signing up for Spring Training travel packages or Ultimate Baseball Road Trip tours involving all 30 stadiums throughout the regular season.
"A ballpark trip is the quintessential American experience, combining all the excitement of baseball with the fun and adventure of a road trip," Kaval said. "From the sights and sounds of the ballpark to the fun of exploring a new city, a trip can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share our great pastime with friends and family."
Spring Training is a natural starting point. As an example, let's say you're a Cubs fan who can't wait to see your team's first game since it ended its 108-year World Series-championship drought last fall. The Cubs Spring Training Grand Slam Packages, which start March 2-5, include your choice of accommodations with optional additional nights available, four-door intermediate car with unlimited mileage, exclusive postgame dinner with select Cubs players and team personnel, game tickets, a custom Cubs Spring Training merchandise package and more.
More than 73 million fans attended Major League Baseball games last season, and most of them showed up at their home ballpark with a single-game or season ticket. But there is another way to see your favorite team, and it won't require "begging" family and friends like Kaval had to do back in the day. In fact, the Dave Kaval of today is exactly the kind of person the Dave Kaval of 1998 would try to persuade for help in defraying the cost of a graduation odyssey.
It has all been done for you. Yes, even Kaval himself is now on the extending end of such gratitude, and that original 30-ballpark trip probably helps explain why he holds "office hours" each week with A's fans to hear their thoughts and concerns about his new team.
Oakland Coliseum is on the itinerary of four of those 30 tours operated by Big League Tours, starting with the California Gold Tour on May 5-12. That five-ballpark trip begins at Petco Park in San Diego, then goes to Angel Stadium in Anaheim and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, then heads up to the Bay Area to watch Michael Trout and the Angels play a day game at Oakland, capped off the next night with Reds vs. Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Ultimate Baseball Road Trip packages offer at least one tour to each of the 30 MLB ballparks. Tour packages range from two stadiums over three nights up to seven stadiums over eight nights. You'll sit in premium seats, take behind-the-scenes stadium tours and meet with former big leaguers. Vida Blue, Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Dave Parker, Len Barker, Tom Browning and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan are among past examples.
The experience carries over into the cities, too. Tour packages include first-class accommodations in the heart of these great baseball towns.
"We know that fans have their own bucket lists, some that include Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, the Hall of Fame, or visiting all 30 Major League ballparks," said Glenn Dunlap, president and founder of Big League Tours. "We offer the Ultimate Baseball Road Trip that enables fans to make their dreams come true."
Dunlap knows from experience, because in 2014 he and his son completed their own quest of seeing all 30 ballparks in use at that time. The trips are designed for fans of all ages.
"After looking for companies that offered baseball tours the way that I wanted them, I started to realize that they didn't exist," Dunlap said. "I kept thinking if you only visit each stadium once, you'd better do it right. Doing it right means sitting in great seats, taking behind-the-scenes stadium tours, meeting baseball insiders and staying right in the heart of MLB cities. Since nobody else was doing it that way, I began wondering if there were other people who wanted those same experiences."
He and his son did it over nine years. Kaval & Co. did it over 38 days, before half of those ballparks were replaced. This season, another new ballpark arrives with Atlanta's SunTrust Park, and that's included along with Tropicana Field and Marlins Park for those who order a spot on the Southeast Tour, from May 5-11.
"A sublime trip" is what Kaval and Null called their journey in their book. "Although there was one constant of baseball throughout, it was a rich and varied canvas of experiences." A similar road awaits at Spring Training and in the regular season, only much easier now.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.