Five years ago, Cleveland fan Peter Knab couldn’t imagine venturing down to Progressive Field by himself. Now, he’s going to complete 123 games of attendance this season, assuming everything goes according to plan over the next few weeks.
Knab was born with cerebral palsy, in 1996. He had gone to games in the past, but was never alone, which made it easier to get downtown and navigate the ballpark in his wheelchair. Knab couldn't help but crack a big smile when he thought about how nervous his dad, who passed away in 2016, would have been at the thought of his son getting to Progressive Field on his own.
“Just to think about what I’ve done since is incredible,” Knab said.
At the end of the season, Knab will have gone to 77 of the 81 home games for the Guardians -- all of which have been alone. He’s mastered Cleveland’s RTA Rapid Transit bus routes and knows everyone in his section at Progressive Field by name.
“The people here at my second home know me very well,” Knab said. “It’s almost like Cheers, everybody knows your name.”
But Knab was ready for a bigger challenge. He wanted to see the Guardians on the road in an attempt to watch his favorite team at all 30 ballparks. He first traveled alone in 2017 to Detroit and Cincinnati by bus. He took his first flight alone in 2018. He knew he could pull this off, he just needed to get started.
What better way to start than the New York to Los Angeles road trip with no off-day in the middle?
Knab has gone through many layovers and odd flight routes to make his destinations as budget-friendly as possible, as his goal changed from getting to as many ballparks as possible to getting to as many games as possible. He relies on the airport staffers to help him get from Point A to Point B and he feverishly studies the public transportation system of each city he’s going to, so that he has no questions when he arrives.
“I have to do a lot of advanced scouting, if you will,” Knab said, with a big laugh.
He realized at one point that there’s no reason to be hesitant to travel alone, whether it’s by bus, train or plane. Knab admitted that he’s gotten better at asking for help and speaking up for himself when he needs to. He’s learning to best utilize ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft. But most of all, he’s not letting his disability hold him back.
You might be wondering the same thing I did: How, of all things, did baseball get Knab to discover this new sense of independence? He eloquently explained a parallel between cerebral palsy and the sport in a way that had never occurred to me.
“Baseball requires resiliency,” Knab said. “And traveling in my situation is the same way. I’m gonna run into a lot of situations that are not ideal. I live in a world that is still largely not designed for me. But that doesn’t mean that, if you’re creative, you can’t make things work.”
Throughout this entire conversation, Knab constantly related himself to this young, inexperienced Guardians team that’s overcoming the odds that were stacked against them en route to a largely successful season. The more success the team had, the more he was inspired to book another road trip. After next week’s Chicago-Texas trip, Knab will have gone to 46 road games and will have just seven ballparks left to get to (all in the National League).
“I’ve become better at traveling,” Knab said. “I’ve had to fight through a little bit of adversity, but I’ve seen what this team has done on the field and it’s incredible. And it’s kind of motivated me.”
Knab fell in love with the game as a child, listening to longtime Cleveland radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton. He met Hamilton back in 2014 and the two stay in touch regularly, as Hamilton is often a guest on Knab’s podcast. Knab has an interest in broadcasting and is inspired by the guys on the field and in the radio booth, but what he might not realize is how much he’s inspiring others.
Five years ago, even Knab couldn’t imagine doing what he’s been doing. But he’s learned not to let his disability hold him back. And if there’s anyone who’s in a similar situation as he is, he’s hoping that he can be proof that doing anything you want is possible.
“Like I said, it takes some research because there aren’t people out there screaming from the rooftops that this is possible,” Knab said. “And if I can help that in a small way, that would be extremely rewarding.”