Adam Kraemers, left, of Denver and Chase Higgins of Minneapolis could be forgiven if the idea hatched at the Metrodome years ago seemed like a better idea at the time than in the execution this summer.
"It still is a good idea," Higgins said, however, when I stopped the pair along a road in Dakota County this afternoon.
Higgins, Kraemers, and two other friends -- Steve Lunn of Boulder and Rex Roberts of Eagle, Co. -- have put 6,500 miles behind them already in their goal to cycle to all 30 major league cities, conducting baseball clinics for kids at each one. They were on the way to Minneapolis this afternoon, following the All Star break in Kansas City, the hometown of both. They've cycled almost 500 miles in the last four days.
"The foundation was baseball so we were thinking it's a dream of every baseball fan to see all 30 (stadiums), so we thought, 'let's go cycling,'" Kraemers said of the discussion at a bar after the last baseball game ever played at the Metrodome. "We met someone in Anaheim who drove to all 30 stadiums and he said if he could do it again, he'd do it in a minute."
Four cyclists left Seattle around opening day, headed for California, then Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Florida, snaking back west by way of Atlanta, St. Louis and Kansas City (See route).
"When we had the idea,I had just become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and I could see with my little Shontrelle right then how important it is to be a positive influence in a kid's life," Kraemers said. "So we partnered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Colorado and starting putting on baseball clinics, and soccer clinics, and volleyball clinics."
It was natural, then, to add the idea of clinics to their dream of spending the summer riding to baseball games. And now, it would seem, it's the kids that are the dream more than the games.
The idea of riding a bike across America -- several times -- in this summer's heat seems hard enough to believe. But it's nowhere near as puzzling as this: "A lot of the kids have never played baseball before so we show them how to put the glove on their hand and how to step up to bat," Higgins said.
When you're riding across the country, you pass a lot of ballparks -- usually empty ballparks. "Do you see a lot of pick-up games that kids are playing on them?" I asked.
"No," Kraemers said. "The thing we see predominantly the most everywhere are baseball fields. Everywhere. But you rarely see actual playing." But, he says, "it's America's pastime and it always will be."
"We get to work with kids in every city and we get to teach kids the game of baseball. It's cool to introduce people into a new game. After the clinics we hear, 'I'm going to go to Toys R Us and get my glove and my bat,' So that's pretty cool," he said.
The two admit, though, admit there were times they thought the idea wasn't such a good one. "Pretty much right from the start," Kraemers said. When they started in Seattle last spring, "it was really cold and really rainy. We didn't anticipate the effect on our knees. It was really slow to go 100 miles from the start. But we talked to people who had ridden long distances and they said it would go away, 'just ride through it.' And when we got to San Diego, it was, like, 'boom,' and it went away."
"We thought we were going to be able to watch a lot of baseball, but that hasn't been the case," according to Kraemers. "We get most of the baseball through social media. When we come into a city, we start interacting with the fans and you hear a totally different perspective on everything."
The cyclists will take in tomorrow night's game at Target Field, then conduct the youth clinic on Thursday night from 6-8 at Bryn Mawr Park in Minneapolis, and then head back on the road with four days to ride 460 miles to Chicago.
Interesting how the initial fun goal evolved into one that is service based and indubitably just as fulfilling, if not more so.
I bet there's a message there someplace... it all starts with allowing oneself to have fun? You can help others by helping yourself? Participating in sports is about much more than playing a game and winning or losing?
It's a sad commentary on our youth baseball organizations that these baseball cyclist pilgrims pass empty baseball field after baseball field in every city, town, and village they visit. No kids are playing pickup games during these hot summer baseball perfect days. During my own endless summers as kids we would have given anything to have had real fields to play pickup games on. The lady whose house served as the left outfield fence probably would have replaced fewer windows.
We rarely went to ball park across the street. We had a nice cul-de-sac for our pickup games.