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Going Yard, The Ultimate Guide for Major League Baseball Road Trips, provides the information you’ve been searching for about the ballparks you love and the cities that host them. When it comes to little known facts about these famous fields, author Stan Fridstein has uncovered a treasure trove. Here are a few of his gems:

Bet you didn’t know:

  1. 1. Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, is the only ballpark that sells more sausages than hot dogs.
  2. 2. Every seat at Kauffman Stadium, in Kansas City, is blue except for a single red seat behind home plate. It was placed there to honor Buck O’ Neill, star first baseman of the Kansas City Monarchs in former Negro League. Buck viewed Royals’ games from that very location for years.
  3. 3. When you visit Target Field, new home of the Minnesota Twins, be sure to have a drink at the Town Ball Tavern, whose wood floor behind the bar is the actual surface from the Minneapolis Armory, former home of the Minneapolis Lakers before they moved to Los Angeles. family travel baseball road trips
  4. 4. If you notice anything missing when you visit the Rogers Centre in Toronto, you’re not alone. This is the only stadium without bleachers.
  5. 5. Check out the bullpens at Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs) and PNC Park (home of the Pirates). They are the only stadiums where pitchers warm up on the field of play.
  6. 6. Don’t miss the Rose Garden outside Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. It marks the exact spot where Pete Rose’s record breaking 4192nd hit landed in the old Riverfront Stadium.
  7. 7. Babe Ruth’s adopted father owned a tavern in what is now center field at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles.
  8. 8. The sole red seat in the right field bleachers at Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox) marks the spot of the longest home run ever hit there. The 502 foot blast was crushed by Ted Williams off Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Fred Hutchinson in 1946.
  9. 9. Speaking of Fenway Park, if you take a close look at the right field scoreboard you’ll see the following letters spelled out in Morse code: TAYJRY. They are the initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey, the longtime Red Sox owners.
  10. 10. Every time a San Diego Padres’ player hits a home run, a fog horn is sounded. It’s an actual recording from the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier that sits in the Port of San Diego.
  11. 11. Between building Wrigley Field in 1914 and Coors Field (Denver) in 1995, Dodger Stadium was the only National League ballpark built exclusively for baseball.
  12. 12. Talk about a rivalry: Above right center field in AT+T Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) is an actual cable car with a panel stating “No Dodger Fans Allowed.”
  13. 13. When you’re visiting Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, be sure to walk across the street to the parking lot where you’ll find the original section of Fulton County Stadium’s left field wall over which Hank Aaron hit his epic 715th home run, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record.
  14. 14. As you look around Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, you’ll notice that every seat is green except for a single row of purple seats in the upper deck of the ballpark. The reason: These seats are exactly one mile high!

Going Yard helps those completely consumed or only mildly interested in our national sport to optimize their travel experience. Visit every stadium and deal with issues like budgeting, logistics, securing tickets, tours, key facts and sites in each stadium and things to do in each and every city when not at the game. This is your go-to guide for baseball road trips.

You can find Going Yard here.

Published in Find Trips by Age

School's Out For Summer

Ahhhh.... The vibrant sound of the school bell on a mid-afternoon June day is exhilarating.  It signals to rambunctious youth that 20 year-old textbooks, chewing gum-covered desks and tedious homework can all be left behind for a new summer of adventures.  Most kids reflect upon the sultry beaches and crowded amusement parks that they will visit.  But it is different in my family.
My dreams are not of the wonders of silky sand caressing my toes.  Instead I dream of adventure--- rich experiences I can take home with me.  I dream of foreign culture--- exotic encounters in unique communities.  In my family, that unreachable daydream can become a reality overnight. And it did.
It was like I was in a trance, because the next thing I knew, a jungle of mysterious creatures surrounded me. I felt the eyes of the wild animals tracking my every move.  It seemed in this Costa Rican paradise, a blink of an eye can change everything.
 
Into The Jungle
                                           
At one moment I was suspended hundreds of feet in the air, whooshing through a blur of foliage as I glided 2,000 feet over the gorgeous green canopy on my zipline cable.  Volcanoes on all sides hemmed me in, as I took in this rare aerial panoramic view.  Sooner than I thought possible, I found myself riding a roller coaster of whitewater bouncing from boulder to boulder in my humble little vessel -- a rubber inner tube.  It was like hitching a ride inside an aquatic pinball machine.  The next thing I knew, I was strolling the simple, funky city streets of coastal Tortuguera, walking by fluorescent-colored buildings and photographing its lively culture. 
 
Meeting The Monkey
 
I was even lucky enough to encounter two beautiful treetop-clinging mammals.  Before long I caught an almost perfect glimpse of an elusive, wild monkey.

At first it seemed the beast was deliberately antagonizing me, with its mocking howls echoing for miles.  Suddenly, I spotted his full head, which appeared with a surprised expression.  I was thrilled to meet my ancient cousin.  And, just when I thought I had reached the height of wildlife-spotting fortune, the clownish grin of a three-toed sloth came into view; the "lazy animal"  (his nickname amongst the indigenous people) only leaves the top of his canopy perch for a weekly defecation ceremony.

High Energy Adventure

While it may not have been a thoroughly relaxing trip, it was just the perfect tempo for an energetic family like ours.
In fact, I was in Central America to teach photography along with my father for Tauck Bridges- a fun-filled, family-focused program run by a high-end, luxury tour company (You can watch my photo/video presentation about the trip here- http://bit.ly/ontJsd). With my mom an accomplished writer, and my dad an award-winning travel journalist, I have been part of a creative and artistic family since birth. Becoming a photographer was a natural path and seemed an obvious progression that was bound to happen. I got into the art young, having always been transfixed by my father's work.

The Adventure Continues 

The end of our one-week Tauck adventure wasn't really the end of our Central American exploration, it was more like an introduction. Continuing our journey through Costa Rica, we made a luxurious two-day "pit stop" at the Tabacon Resort and Spa. Situated near Arenal Volcano, this dreamlike lodge hosts an array of luxuriant lava-fed hot spring pools and waterfalls deep within the rain forest.  

On To Nicaragua  

After several soaks, I had the realization that we were only five hours away from another intriguing nation--- a melting pot of indigenous Latin culture--- Nicaragua. I looked north towards the horizon, longing to experience a new nation.  

But the next morning, like out of a Biblical passage, it became so. My parents arranged a vehicle that whooshed us north beyond the borders of customs and immigration, and toward fabled Lake Nicaragua. We passed the jade-colored waters of the only freshwater lake in the world that sharks inhabit, before arriving at the colorful lakeside town of Granada.
"The rocking chair capital of the world," my dad proclaimed, as he observed the presence of that swaying furniture on every residential stoop.  I watched as elderly ladies consumed their dinners while rocking away in the doorways of their simple homes. A palpable energy pervaded the nearby market, chock-a-block with live fowl, spicy fragrance, narrow alleyways and frantic hubbub. Straddling the equator, tropical daylight here seems far too short, and this day was becoming shorter and darker as a violent storm ripped across the sky. We had to make the voyage toward the center of Lake Nicaragua in a small boat. As we made our journey across a windswept bay, a waterfall of rain doused our heads and poured on top of the vessel. We finally chugged our way to a Shangri-La--- the only lit island on the horizon of this monstrous lake.

Jicaro Ecolodge is a magical and hidden paradise in the middle of a spectacular volcano-dotted lake. Jicaro was the perfect, relaxing escape from the crowds of the city and the now cascading deluge. That night, the sounds of chirping insects and gulping frogs enveloped us as we indulged in a mouth-watering feast of local cuisine in Jicaro’s open-air dining room. The next morning I acknowledged the sad truth: we had only one day left. But in the Guttman family, no hour goes to waste. So we tried to cram yet more adventures into the trip.

The Powerful Masaya Volcano 

On our last day, we kayaked to a secluded area of the lake, where through a small opening in the marsh grass, we were permitted access to a secret hot spring. In that small cove, we swam and relaxed before hiking the winding trails in search of wildlife. To finish off the afternoon, we got up close and personal with the active, belching, powerful Masaya Volcano.  As night approached, we descended beneath the edges of Masaya’s crater and trekked through a forbidding bat cave.  Our footsteps moved closer to the edge of the pitch-dark cavern and like a scene cut from a horror movie, thousands of bats screamed out of the cave and flew right at me. Crashing into my hardhat, the vampire bats flooded the air and caused the others around me to scream. To make matters scarier, another torrential downpour suddenly began. We managed to dodge a porcupine and get away from the cave, but we still had to somehow get down from atop the crater in the dark.

Beyond The Lava

As we reached our car, the visibility dwindled down to zero. The rain had mixed with steaming lava to create a thick sulphuric whiteout fog.  It was so bad that our guide had to direct the car down the road on foot in the middle of the raging lightning storm.  Save the bolts lighting the slopes, I could see nothing.  All I heard was our guide and driver screaming frantically in Spanish as we slowly crept our way down the mountain. Suddenly, we hit a big bump and I heard a loud thump. Everyone had a shocked expression across their faces. My heart rocketed out of my body as I thought we had fallen off the cliff edge into a chasm of lava. My dad opened the door to double check. It seemed we were still firmly on the road and okay. After playing hide and seek with Mother Nature we finally made it to the bottom. Safe. 

Back at home, I had a chance to reflect. School may be just around the corner again, but as Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Chase Guttman is a passionate and talented photographer, political junkie, intrepid explorer, and world traveler. Chase visited more than 35 countries, 45 U.S. states, and 8 Canadian provinces by the time he was 12. All photographs that accompany this story are his. Find out more at www.ChaseGuttman.com.

Published in Go Global

The take-off is amazing. But, it’s the sound that stays with you, I’d been told. Still, I couldn’t imagine the impending glory of the moment.

I was too cold.

This was my first visit to Willcox, Ariz., for the town’s annual celebration of the sandhill cranes’ migration to their southern Arizona winter home.

Crane Convention

The sandhills’ stop in the Southwest is perhaps their most famous performance. Scouting for a suitable mate, the birds spend nearly a month entertaining avid birders and the casually curious. The crane population peaks around St Patrick’s Day, before they depart en masse for the Arctic, where a demanding breeding season ensues.
I had heard about Wings Over Willcox and had been eager to introduce the birding extravaganza to my sons. My own interest in the cranes began when I first read A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University, 1970) in my 20s. Aldo Leopold, the late Wisconsin naturalist, wrote of his fondness for the sandhills in his 1949 classic.
Each year this farming community in Cochise County, roughly 80 miles east of Tucson, welcomes winter visitors of multiple species. Plenty of heat-seeking humans show up from places like Vancouver and Kansas. And as many as 30,000 sandhill cranes find their way to a 60-sq.-mile roosting site near Willcox. The Arizona Game and Fish Department owns the land where the birds roost and makes sure it is flooded each year to create the six-inch deep pool the cranes find so appealing.

Nature Calls
In an era when Facebook, video games and sporting events are mainstays for the modern teen, it is not easy to arouse enthusiasm for a weekend spent in a small Arizona town, where the adventure’s highlight is a predawn excursion to see a mass of long-necked, pointy-billed, spindly legged birds take flight. I am fortunate to have raised nature lovers. When journalist and youth advocate Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2005), sparked a national discussion about the lack of time children spend in the natural world, I feel grateful my sons have grown up exposed to desert wild flowers, the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and now, the dance of the sandhill cranes.
There is much to be learned from these ancient birds that live long lives, up to 25 years, despite an arduous lifestyle; some are known to commute as far as Siberia. The cranes also are monogamous, have several offspring and even dance for their mates. They will mightily defend their loved ones and their territory. Their young even go through voice changes, just as humans do, says Michael Forsberg, a nature photographer and expert on crane migration and social behaviors.
National Geographic considers this avian traveling show one of the continents two greatest wildlife events, sharing honors with the great caribou migration. The residents of Willcox must be proud.

Familytravel.com

Lift Off

So it was that we found ourselves in the cold, dark Arizona morning, swaddled in warm layers to ward off the chill, waiting for lift off.
Then we heard it. As the rising sun spewed light on the shallows, a jarring whoosh filled the air and washed over us like a wave over sand. In that moment, thousands of birds, with a five- to six-foot wingspans, and weighing as much as 14 pounds, took flight. They were embarking on a day that would include lollygagging in nearby cornfields and flying in V formation to the delight of mesmerized onlookers. Later they would return, to roost once again, in this Sulphur Springs Valley sanctuary.
Thankfully, the rising sun, and the somehow haunting ritual, warmed us as well.
As we settled into a welcome breakfast of eggs over easy and piles of pancakes, we spoke of the birds’ flight. And of the sound. The amazing sound of the sandhill cranes, in unison, breaking the sacred silence of morning.

If You Go

  • The Event.
    Each year, the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival (WOW) takes place during January’s Martin Luther King weekend. While the cranes are the stars of the show, the festival offers tours and educational programs that also explore photography, geology, archeology, history, botany, agriculture and ranching. Visit the Web site to review the seminars and tours that interest you and your family. Reserve early.
  • Just for kids
    Children can explore a nature expo in the community center, which features educational booths, live animal displays, and a wide variety of vendors with nature-related crafts and activities. Free seminars on various topics are offered throughout the day.
  • Be prepared
    Mornings are cold with temperatures dipping well below freezing. (Think 15 degrees Fahrenheit.) Wear gloves, hats and layers. Rain is unlikely, but possible. Bring your camera.
  • Where to stay
    The WOW Web site lists most available lodging options, including chain motels, local B&Bs and guest ranches. Top pick: Muleshoe Ranch. Run by the Nature Conservancy, its simple casitas in a birding sanctuary are ideal for nature-loving families.  

Guided Tours
Every winter, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes come to roost around the town of Willcox, 83 miles east of Tucson off I-10. For several years now, the town has decided to celebrate this event by staging a major festival during the third weekend of January, with birding tours and field trips to Willcox Playa, Cochise lake and the Apache Station Wildlife Area (the main habitats of the famous cranes). Other excursions take visitors to see raptors, sparrows and waterfowl wintering in the mild Southern Arizona climate. Inquire about tour dates and prices. Seminars and presentations on local wildlife are free. Due to limited seating, registration is required for all tours.

If you go:

www.wingsoverwillcox.com

800.200.2272