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Trip of Dreams in California

My sister and I were born to love baseball. We never had a chance not to.

Our father was a Mad Men-era sportswriter with two daughters and no sons. While other girls were having pretend tea parties with their daddies, Linda and I were learning how to score a baseball game. To this day, we still know the difference between a forward K and a backward K.

Linda and I have a mutual bucket list. We want to see all the major league baseball parks. Living in Kentucky made the California baseball trips a problem. Would several different trips be required for California teams?

Fortunately, a friend told us about Diamond Baseball Tours, which offers tours of baseball parks around the country. We chose an itinerary called “West Coast Swing+Seattle.” It promised seven ballgames in seven nights, covering all five California teams. Linda; my husband, Larry; and I signed up.

Travelers arranged their own flights in and out of Las Vegas, but otherwise Diamond Baseball Tours took care of all the details. The price included motorcoach transportation, air travel to Seattle, hotel rooms and game tickets. We didn’t have to worry about directions, car rental or the sometimes-insane parking charges.

The motels were all two- and three-star properties. We spent very little time there, though — just enough to sleep, eat breakfast and then depart for the next day’s baseball adventure.

Heading West

The tour started in Las Vegas on July 5, and all 45 of us were on the tour bus and headed to Phoenix early July 6.

The group was heavy on retirees, both men and women, but also included whole families traveling together for the love of baseball.

Fans were from all over, including two families from Canada. As the trip progressed, an easy sense of camaraderie developed.

This is decidedly a trip for hardcore baseball lovers. There was not too much time for sightseeing. There was a lot of time spent traveling between ballparks. The focus is on the ballparks and the games.

Our tour guide, Steve, a retired teacher and school principal born and raised in California, was personable and funny.

The first night was Phoenix to see the Diamondbacks play. The park is good, but the stadium food — especially the churro dog — is fabulous.

The next morning, we all caught a flight to Seattle and were able to do a little sightseeing before watching the Mariners play that night. Their stadium includes a beautiful abstract sculpture made entirely of white baseball bats.

Friday morning meant flying into San Diego just in time to make the game at Petco Park. The Padres had the largest crowd of the whole trip.

Saturday in Los Angeles, our first stop was a private tour at Dodger Stadium, which was very impressive. We got to go behind the scenes of the legendary venue, sitting in the Vin Scully press box, walking along the warning tracks in right field and seeing the Dodgers World Series trophies, as well as Jackie Robinson’s uniform. It was a real treat.

Some sightseeing in Los Angeles was followed by a trip back to Dodger Stadium that night,  which was particularly fun, knowing we’d been on that very field earlier in the day.

Baseball by the Bay

Oakland the next day meant seeing the scrappy A’s at the Coliseum. Since the Coliseum was built in 1966 and has seen nary a renovation, there is a scruffy beauty to the place.

The next morning included sightseeing in San Francisco. There was time to explore on your own, but Steve took anyone who was interested to his favorite spot to catch a cable car. Since Linda and I had a grandfather who sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” to us like a lullaby, of course we had to take a little cable car that climbs halfway to the stars.

We explored Fisherman’s Wharf before going to Oracle Park to see the Giants. This park has the most amazing setting. On a bay next to a marina, it felt more like we were walking to a resort rather than a ballpark.

The last game was at Anaheim to see the Angels play. It was a bittersweet ending to the trip, since some tour members opted to stay in Anaheim to visit Disneyland.

Dad would have loved this trip. Whether or not Walt Whitman did say the quote Susan Sarandon’ character attributes to him in the baseball movie “Bull Durham,” it’s still a great line: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”