Dbacks

“It might be 110 degrees, but it’s a dry heat.”

I have heard this statement, or something like it, from various parties trying to describe hot weather in parts of the country other than the South, where we are often heard to say something along the lines of, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

In the dead of summer in our part of the U.S., we come in from retrieving the morning newspaper (if we’re in that minority of folks who still get a print edition) or taking the dog out, afresh with our first glow of perspiration of the day. As my mother used to say, it’s sticky.

But apparently to some, in desert-adjacent communities out west where it’s hot as blazes but arid, it is more tolerable.

After recently spending a long weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, I take exception to that. I would compare daytime heat there to an oven. At night the only consolation was not having the sun beating down on me.

Maybe I did not sweat as much as I do here (although I did my share of glowing) and maybe it was dry, but it was take-your-breath-away stifling in my estimation.

But the heat did not in any way tarnish a weekend of baseball, which was the reason for the trip. I am pleased to report the retractable roof at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was securely in the “covered” position, allowing for a comfortable low-70s temperature during the two games I attended.

This was the latest installment of a tradition I have with my two sons and son-in-law in which we visit a different Major League Baseball park each spring or summer. We were interrupted in 2020 by the pandemic and somehow never got it together last year either. Our most recent trip was to Camden Yards in Baltimore in 2019, so this one was long overdue.

This was also another step in a journey started nearly three decades ago. Allow me to explain.

During the 90s, due to the increasing coverage of cable television, two MLB teams gained nationwide exposure – the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs, playing on TBS and WGN, respectively. My older son Daniel started watching both when he was about seven.

In 1993 I had a business trip to Chicago which I extended into a family vacation. After landing at Midway Airport, our first destination was to the legendary Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, for an afternoon game. Daniel was seven and our daughter Maggie was four. David, our youngest, was all of seven months old as he was carried into his first MLB game.

About a year later, my wife surprised Daniel and me with a Father’s Day trip to Atlanta to see the Braves play on their home turf, Fulton County Stadium. (That’s two parks ago for the Braves, whose next home was Turner Field, originally built for the 1996 Olympics, and who now play at Truist Park, just north of Atlanta proper.)

After the Atlanta trip, Daniel set the goal of visiting every MLB venue and asked if I would like to join him. With Phoenix now behind us, he has made it to 28 (out of 30), with Los Angeles (the Dodgers) and Seattle (the Mariners) remaining. Those two still remain for me as well, but I also lack the two Bay Area parks (the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics) and Miami (the Marlins).

Obviously, Daniel managed to cover some ground without me and yes, he asked for my OK before doing so.

Our tentative plan is for me, over the next two years, to make it to the three parks he has visited but I have not. We will hopefully take our usual guys’ trip next summer, this time to L.A., and make Seattle our grand finale, with the entire family, in 2024, 30 years after Daniel set his lofty goal.

Although, if I were to rank the 25 parks I have visited, Chase Field would probably be somewhere in the middle (with the D-Backs struggling this year, the vibe there was rather chill), though the trip to Phoenix was excellent. We were incredibly fortunate to have a local host, Adam, a friend to Daniel and my son-in-law Ben from Auburn days who has become a good friend to our family, whose wife stayed with (or fled to?) her nearby parents for the weekend as we took over their home.

Adam was kind enough to plan indoor activities, which included a visit to an excellent tap room and a superb authentic Mexican restaurant, as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, housed at Taliesin West, which Wright built to be a school of architecture and his winter home.

We also took a drive up a mountain overlooking the city and to the Arizona State campus in Tempe, where one among us might or might not have tried to make an (unsuccessful) unauthorized entry into Sun Devil Football Stadium.

As usual, it was a memorable time filled with laughs, stories and, of course, baseball.

Younger Son David and son-in-law Ben were later in joining the quest to visit all the parks. They are catching up as they can.

But as David put it so well some years back when he wrote a piece about our baseball trips for The Auburn Plainsman:

“It’s not really a race. We aren’t in a rush. We’re savoring every hot dog, smelling every blade of grass and screaming baseball cliches one park at a time.”

That still pretty much sums it up.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].