After mentioning Charlie Hamilton’s Baseball Bike Tour in my last post, I went to his web site and read the articles he wrote for Boston Baseball Magazine. Very good! He had fun rating the fans at each ballpark. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop until I finished.
It reminded me of my 1996 tour of the Midwest League, when I was in the radio announcer booth of the Michigan Battle Cats with Ken Ervin and Terry Newton. It was Ken who had first given me the idea of doing the tour. During one of the first road trips of the 1995 season, the first season for the Battle Cats, I was riding my bike near home while listening to Ken on the radio. He kept commenting on the view from the announcers’ booth, how he could see the boats out on the Mississippi. That and other observations he made about the various ballparks made me think I should ride my bike to see them all for myself.
That’s what I did the next year. I started and ended with a game at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek. At that last game I was chatting in the booth with Ken and Terry before they went on the air. We had in common the fact that we had all been to all of those ballparks. I was excited to have seen them all, but then Ken asked, “Is there any ballpark that just left you cold?” I hadn’t been thinking negative thoughts, but it took me only a second to reply: “Yes, Fort Wayne.” I had to admit it, even though the Fort Wayne Wizards were then a farm club of my Minnesota Twins. Ken nodded in agreement and then turned to his work.
I don’t know that the place was quite as dreary as shown in the above photo. Like I said, I took some really bad photos on this trip. But the huge masses of concrete didn’t make the place endearing.
Even the front row seats were high above the field, so I suppose that didn’t help make one feel close to the action. Note that the dugouts are not dug into the ground even a little bit. One of the reasons I like minor league ball is that you can often get seats close enough to get a good view of what’s happening. Watching a baseball game from far away does not have a lot of attraction for me any more (though back in the 1960s I did get an outfield view of some of Harmon Killebrew’s home runs at old Met Stadium.) But even where we were sitting in Fort Wayne, the game seemed farther away than it was.
On the plus side, the crowd at Fort Wayne sang the National Anthem better than I heard anywhere else. More volume, more energy, more musical. I wondered if it was due to the high concentration of Lutherans in that town.
I took two days to get to Fort Wayne. The first day I rode over 100 miles to Chain of Lakes State Park. This photo was taken where I was getting lost trying to find the entrance to the park. I eventually found someone to ask for directions. I rode the rest of the way to Fort Wayne early the next morning, and we spent the day doing tourist things. At one museum I saw the sword that George Washington had given to Little Turtle.
I had expected the riding through Indiana and Illinois would be uninteresting except for the physical challenge. The interesting countryside would come later in the trip, in Iowa and Wisconsin, I had thought. Little did I then realize that I was coming to like this Indiana and Illinois country best of all.
YTD mileage for 2009: 362