Returning to Bat Flips & Nerds in the first dispatch from his baseball odyssey, it’s Baseball Brit…
This is how…
Depending on who you are, the above tweet may be viewed as an appalling life decision, or the most exciting way to invest your time and money. Since leaving my home of four years in Seoul, South Korea, I have lived the life of a baseball addict, waking up each day in need of sliders, bunts and any type of base hit.
The choice of baseball induced unemployment has been an interesting one to explain, both for long suffering family members and to my close circle of football-mad friends in the UK. I have tended to avoid the question that most seem to ask, about where and what this is going to lead to. I neither know, nor care at present, but one question has stuck out:
“How have you managed to do this?”
This article hopes to outline the logistics and steps to becoming a full-time baseball junkie.
- Fundamentals & Organisation
The least sexy part of this whole process has been the amount of time and effort that went into the logistics of such a lifestyle shift. I informed my previous employer that I would not be signing a new contract as early as I could in September 2017 and alerted my family to my forthcoming unemployment. I’m sure they were delighted.
Then in November I painstakingly created a map that included every professional baseball team, from the Major League to the Minors and also the independents. Cartographic study allowed me to understand the regions and areas that would enable a full spectrum of baseball levels. The map can be seen above and found on my Twitter handle: @BaseballBrit
The ESTA visa allows up to 90 days in the USA so I knew I had just under 3 months to work with in terms of teams and organisations to visit. Schedules for MLB are out early so that helped shape the various routes and dates I could attend different ballparks.
My savings had been tucked away and added to monthly for nearly a decade and I eventually came to peace with my choice of investment after learning that the average wedding costs just over £30,000 – a one day event, that I am nowhere near achieving. If I could spend less than that, over a year watching baseball, I would be happy. So that just left communicating with the teams themselves before deciding exactly where to head.
- Social Media & ‘The Reason’
Seoul, South Korea, in winter
Before October 2017 I had rarely used Twitter. However, in 2015 I set up a handle towards the end of the Korean baseball season to mostly retweet and help promote the art of the only other English guy in Seoul that was interested in the sport, Andy Brown. @BaseballBrit was chosen with next to no thought during a late innings game featuring the LG Twins in Jamsil Baseball Stadium.
Two years passed and the KBO season was again winding down with only a long Korean winter on the horizon. I remembered my old Twitter handle and out of naive curiosity began finding out whether any fans followed the sport in my native UK. From there I discovered Bat Flips and Nerds, MLBUK Community & a sporadic spread of fan accounts for most of the 30 MLB teams.
Posting regularly on Twitter and sending out early messages to various team GM’s and players helped establish a time frame and dialogue that bred a mild form of familiarity when I popped up again in those same inboxes 6-7 months later. The independent teams were the most responsive and helped shape a socially required ‘reason’ for the trip – researching a book on the health of baseball in the USA.
Twitter and the direct form of access to people working in baseball has probably been the single biggest factor in helping the journey once Stateside. Get on board, if you’re not already!
- The Open Road
The Dream vs The Reality
I’m writing this article on Day 50 of my time, thus far, in the USA. In that period I have driven four vehicles, all chosen through www.rentalcars.com. However, the best decision I’ve made all trip was the purchase of a sat-nav prior to flying out to Houston. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of driving two Nissan Versas (under-rated), a Jeep Wrangler (over-rated) and currently a Hyundai Santa Fe (Korea, represent). Get the full insurance, for peace of mind, if you can.
For the first 33 days I travelled with a friend. This helped to halve all costs and provided an element of back-up in case we got into any bother in the various cheap motels and hotels we stayed in. If possible, I’d strongly recommend sharing the journey and costs with another baseball enthusiast, but not for the whole time, and only if you can tolerate living in close quarters with each other!
So far, I have driven just over 3,900 miles. The hours on the road can often be very enjoyable so long as you remember to download as many baseball podcasts as you can, when you have wifi. These are my current favourites, in no particular order:
- Bat Flips and Nerds
- Absolute Bunts
- Fantasy Baseball Today
- Statcast Podcast
- The Football Ramble (just to mix it up)
4. Accomodation & Safety
Simon Pegg, in Run Fatboy Run (2007)
If you’ve got this far through the article then it’s time to be brutally honest with you. The accommodation, on a budget, is rarely going to be great. Get used to stained carpets, hairs on the bathroom floor and a domestic argument taking place in whichever room is adjacent to your own – every other stay.
My budget is under £50 per night so pimps, prostitutes and drug dealing have become fairly familiar sights in some of the less salubrious motel car parks (and hotel lobbies!). Avoid eye contact and politely decline all offers would be my advice.
That said, for around $60 you can often find more than adequate hotel chains. A personal favourite has become Baymont Inn & Suites by Wyndham. The rooms are spacious, include a fridge (important for the next section) and the beds are clean and comfortable.
For the safety part, I began training for a half-marathon in the months leading up to my departure from South Korea. On the morning of my flight to Houston I ran 23km, just so I knew I would be able to outrun any miscreants or bro-dudes experienced in tight spots on the trip. This has not come in handy, yet.
- Diet & Lifestyle
You will be tempted daily as proven by Erie SeaWolves, the official MiLB UK-affiliate
This is the aspect of the trip I’ve still not quite come to terms with. Gaining media credentials to cover various independent, minor and major league games opens you up to a nightly temptation of free hotdogs, chicken tenders, tacos, fries & soda. And that doesn’t include all the cold beer available for purchase along the concourse.
At the time of writing I have probably gained half a stone in weight but there are ways to avoid the alluring fast food stops on the motorway and the ballpark food in the evenings…
Go to Target. Regularly.
Target appears to be a posh version of Wal-Mart. I’ve started trying to purchase plain yoghurt, bananas, breakfast cereal, milk and water from any store within a 10 mile radius of my accommodation. It’s not working, but there’s still time!
- And finally…
All good trips require a colour-coded spreadsheet & the permission of your significant other!
So what are you waiting for?
Quit your job. Watch baseball!
Go for it! There are so many expensive hobbies and high performance cars for example is a pricey one. Money can be replaced but time, opportunity and experiences are precious. Career breaks can be rejuvenating and it’s quite an adventure you’ve set out on.