Time zone traversing
of Eric Thames
of major leagues
to look forward to,
some place new
to go each day.”
not seeking wealth, fame
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Intimidating skies, whipping winds, and an abundance of severe weather watches and warnings kept the majority of the Hammons Field crowd at home.
But Joey drove 400 miles to watch a baseball game — Game #50 on the year — and I was honored to accompany him.
For the past two years, Joey, better known as “Baseball Brit” on Twitter, has been traveling the world attending baseball games in hopes of increasing interest in the sport throughout the United Kingdom. We connected last year with a game of catch when he came to Springfield for his first AA game.
“In 2019, I will be attending 162 baseball games,” Joey declared. “An unofficial, unpaid, beat writer of sorts.”
The whole purpose of his baseball adventure is to get his countrymen prepared for the event taking place later this summer.
On June 29 and 30, the New York Yankees will play the Boston Red Sox.
In London. At London Stadium. In front of a sold-out crowd of more than 60,000 fans.
“I love the sport of baseball, but not enough people in my home country know much about it. I’ll be going to all 30 major league ballparks, along with minor league and independent ballparks, too.”
Joey started the 2019 season with the MLB opening series, watching the Mariners and Athletics play in Japan. “In Japan, there’s lots of brass instruments. The fans are organized into cheering sections. It’s really loud.” He was at the game when Ichiro announced his retirement which had to be an incredible sight to witness live. I only saw the replays hours afterwards.
Joey has already conquered the east coast, from New York and Boston to Tampa Bay, along with an abundance of minor league parks in between including the famous Durham Bulls. With the Cubs and Cardinals scheduled to play in London in 2020, Joey came back to Springfield to do some advance scouting of the AA team.
I wore my Royals hat to the game in specific hopes of connecting with Jay, the in-game emcee. I introduced Joey to Jay, who entertained us in-between innings with trivia, donut-eating, daughters-decorating-fathers, and musical chair contests. In the fifth inning, I received a text from my wife that a tornado was on the ground in Bolivar, thirty miles away. It was one of 19 tornadoes that touched down across 4 states yesterday. Lord, have mercy.
The game itself was a low-scoring affair until the visiting Tulsa Drillers took the lead with four runs in the top of the 7th, eventually winning 5 – 2.
Joey doesn’t really have to explain his quest to me. I understand completely the passion and contagious joy of spending time at the ballpark with friends new and old. I loved hearing his stories of adventures on the road and in the ballpark. He was the subject of Jeff Passan’s first in-game interview at a New York and Boston game. He’s eaten gumbo and alligator and Chick-fil-A and survived driving in a blinding storm with his head out the window. He’s crashed on couches of strangers and driven thousands and thousands of miles all for the sake of baseball. I shared some of my own stories as we settled into the simple rhythms of conversation in between three outs, watching outfielders do their best to chase down wind-blown pop-ups and line drives.
I gave Joey a copy of America at the Seams for reading when he flies back home in June. Maybe he’ll get the chance to meet one of my Seams friends for a game at some point this season. I invited him back to Springfield in August or September to witness the tripleheader Sundays of the Grip ‘N’ Rip League and confessed my earnest efforts to try and get back on the field. If I make the cut, I may have to honor Joey’s adventure by choosing his walk-up song, Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas.
“I’m learning about the different cultures, the different people, about the USA. Talking to people and hearing their stories of life and home and baseball.”
He’s currently on his way to St. Louis to watch the latest iteration of the I-70 rivalry. I know he’ll be cheering for the Royals and can only hope he’ll bring them some much needed luck.
Baseball brings the world together.