Twenty-Seven Outs

The Globe and Mail

The bus rides are long; the constant travel admittedly more tiring than I anticipated. Tuesday's journey from Chicago to Minneapolis was eight hours, and both the internet connection and electrical outlet at my seat weren't working. Megabus fail. That meant a whole lot of time to read, and think, as we trudged north along I-94.

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1. The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime would not have been possible without the support of family and friends. You know all about Detroit with Dad, and how this journey began, but there's more. Case in point: I spent a full two weeks in New York City with my dear friends Karan and Tiffany, in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. They so graciously allowed me to make their living room my own, and gave me a set of keys to come and go as I pleased. Bus journeys from Baltimore and Boston had me return at four and five in the morning, but they never said a word, and never asked when I was leaving. They even cooked Rogan Josh, a Kashmiri delicacy, for me. Thank you, guys. Words cannot express how much I appreciated your hospitality. I'm grateful, and your kindness will never, ever be forgotten.

2. "I love [baseball]because it's so simple, yet it can be so complex. There's a lot of layers to it, but they aren't hard to peel back." - Ernie Harwell

The baseball Gods acquired one hell of a broadcaster yesterday. If you haven't ever read Ernie Harwell's 1955 essay "The Game for All America," or would like to read it again, today's the perfect day to do so. Rest in peace, Ernie.

3. As I journey from city to city, and ballpark to ballpark, I've been keeping all my ticket stubs. I figure I'll do something with them when this is all said and done. Well, last Friday night's stub from Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is sadly nowhere to be found. And you know what? That was bound to happen. Frankly I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

4. Sticking with Philadelphia: the Phillie Phanatic is without a doubt the best mascot in baseball. It isn't even close.

5. Between writing that Philadelphia Phillies fans aren't as bad as they're made out to be, two idiots decide to make the field at Citizens Bank Park their personal playground. Typical.

6. The Toronto Blue Jays will finish higher in the standings than the Boston Red Sox this season. And, after trading Roy Halladay, wouldn't that be a positive start to the Alex Anthopoulos era?

7. I believe the competitor in Roy Halladay misses pitching in the American League East. Doc became the best by consistently pitching to, and beating, the best.

8. However, it will be fun over the next few years to watch Halladay pitch to Albert Pujols. They've met during four at-bats so far, and Pujols has, naturally, put up zeroes across the board.

9. Would anybody mind if, for the rest of #TBRTOAL, I referred to the Rogers Centre as the SkyDome? Because I really hate calling it the Rogers Centre. We know Rogers owns the team, and the ballpark. If you're listening, Rogers, make it the SkyDome once again. Because she'll always be the SkyDome in our hearts.

10. Every ballpark I visit has a statue or three, either outside or inside the building. Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh; Carlton Fisk and Harry Caray in Chicago; Mike Schmidt in Philadelphia. The Toronto Blue Jays, and the SkyDome, need a statue. Outside the ballpark, preferably. Here's my question: who do you choose? Roberto Alomar, in his infamous pose after he hit the most important home run in Blue Jays history against Oakland's Dennis Eckersley? Joe Carter, immortalized while leaping down the first base line? King Carlos Delgado? Roy Halladay? Dave Stieb? Tom Cheek? Have your people call my people, Rogers. Let's do lunch.

11. I can't tell you how sick to death I am of reading stories about the Blue Jays' attendance. Or lack thereof. The rumours of baseball's death in Toronto have been greatly exaggerated. Anyway, a former colleague of mine, TVO producer Melissa Martin, has taken it upon herself to organize Let's Fill The Dome on Facebook, scheduled for May 28. So head out to the SkyDome that night and, for one night at least, let's fill that bloody ballpark to the brim. An added bonus: it's guaranteed win night; the Baltimore Orioles are in town.

12. When I was in Pittsburgh and met with Pirates fan Dan Getkin, he asked if I'd heard anything about Indian prospects Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. I hadn't. Until last week. They're back. And I still can't get enough of these guys.

13. Okay, I've got a bone to pick with Megabus. And a travel tip for you, if you're ever in the business of heading to Baltimore from New York City. While your reservation says you'll be going to Baltimore, you'll actually be going to White Marsh, Maryland, which is, depending on your route, 14 to 17 miles northeast of Baltimore. Megabus drops you off at the White Marsh Mall Park & Ride; literally on the side of the road adjacent to a parking lot. Good luck finding a taxi; there are none. I arrived in White Marsh in the afternoon, so getting downtown was easy. I hopped aboard a local Baltimore bus for $1.80 and got off at the foot of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. My bus back to New York City was scheduled for 12:55 am and, let me tell you, what a nightmare. The last bus to White Marsh on a weeknight leaves around 9:40 pm. I did my homework and, knowing the Orioles game wouldn't be done by then, knew I'd have no choice but to take a cab back to the bus stop. I hailed a taxi at midnight and made a deal with my driver to pay half the meter charge up to White Marsh. I'm Indian, and recently returned from two months in India; my haggling skills, right now at least, are on point. As we pulled up to the White Mash Park and Ride, the metre, including toll, read $87 and change. Eighty-seven dollars! For a cab ride! I was incredulous. And decided it was time to haggle again. We reached an accord at $40, no receipt. The round-trip ticket to Baltimore cost $22.50. So, yeah. As I exited the taxi, my driver, looking around, said: "Are you going to be okay out here?" I assured him I would, and went to wait for my bus, which showed up 20 minutes late. If you need to take a bus to Baltimore, take the Greyhound. It drops you downtown. You're welcome.

14. It was my goal on this trip to find the baseball player whose entrance music is Soulja Boy's Turn My Swag On. The song is a guilty pleasure of mine. Well, I've found him. Them, actually. Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz and Chicago White Sox outfielder/designated hitter Andruw Jones are two of my new favourite players ever. Bless them both.

15. Some more excellent musical selections: Detroit's Austin Jackson comes to the plate to Jay-Z's Say Hello (To The Bad Guy). That song's just about perfect; exactly what you want the opposing pitcher to hear. Well done, Mr. Jackson.

16. Young Dro's Shoulder Lean plays on Progressive Field's speakers when Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo makes his way to the batter's box. And, for some reason, that one took me completely by surprise.

17. Boston's Dustin Pedroia impressed me with his choice: G'd Up, by Tha Eastsidaz and Snoop Dogg. But he still can't hit the high-inside fastball.

18. By my calculations, I've spent approximately 56.5 hours on the bus so far on #TBRTOAL.

19. I'm about halfway through Joe Posnanski's "The Soul of Baseball; A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America." And enjoying it. O'Neil, by all accounts, was one fantastic human being. Especially after all he'd been through. About the memories of his days playing in the Negro Leagues, he once said: "In our beautiful memory we were all handsome. We all could sing. We all had the heart of the prettiest girl in town. And we all hit .300." Amen.

20. Up next on the reading list: Dirk Hayhurst's "The Bullpen Gospels." I've heard and read great reviews. Can't wait.

21. It's the e-mails, Facebook messages, and Twitter replies I've been receiving that have really made #TBRTOAL that much more special so far. The love of baseball brings strangers together, and I think it's a beautiful thing.

22. Speaking of which, I'll be meeting a couple of die-hard Milwaukee Brewers fans on Monday. If the weather holds up, we'll likely partake in some tailgating, "... pretty much a religion at Wisconsin sporting events," according to my new friend Seth. I'm looking forward to it.

23. Major League Baseball's first postponed game of 2010 took place on April 23. It was the longest start to a season without a postponement in 25 years. I told you: the baseball Gods are on my side. Twelve ballparks out of 30 have been crossed off the list, and I've had to deal with one rain delay of an hour. I know what you're thinking: that can't possibly last.

24. I almost forgot to tell you about the great T-shirt I saw in Philadelphia on Friday at the Phillies game: "Choke: Official Soft Drink of the New York Mets."

25. Not baseball related, but the next time you're in New York, head to 53rd and 6th for some "Chicken and Rice." Go easy on the hot sauce.

26. I'll be at Minnesota's new Target Field Thursday night, to take in a Twins game. I already know I'm going to love the ballpark, love the experience, and come away thinking that if Minnesota can have an open air stadium, so too can Toronto.

27. I'm celebrating Cinqo de Mayo in the Mexican hotbed that is Minneapolis. It's the first time I'm in America on this auspicious day. I'm staying with another good friend of mine here who has just informed me that the drinking will commence at 3:30 pm. I can't imagine this ending well.

28. Vin Scully's tribute to Ernie Harwell during last night's LA Dodgers game was a thing of beauty. Check it out here.





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