Book Update

Can you believe it’s nearly baseball season?! I can’t. As much as I bemoan the winter months, I’m shocked at how quickly we’ve pushed through them. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camp! It’s crazy how fast the offseason has blitzed by. It’s as if the 2014 MLB season lasted a month longer than normal here in KC…

Anyway. I want to update you all on where I am in terms of my book.

The writing is ongoing. I’ve had a couple setbacks, but I also seem to get more and more excited daily as my vision for this book has taken its final shape. Let’s start with the setbacks and end with the exciting bits.

The first bit of bad news is that my publisher went out of business. The House Studio was a part of the Nazarene Publishing House and had to close their doors at the beginning of December. I held out hope that they might re-form under a new group and retain my project, but alas, that’s not the case. So I’m back on the prowl for a publisher. I have a couple leads, and self-publishing is always a last resort option. I figure I’ll let that play out when I’ve completed my first draft and can submit it around to various publications. We’ll see what works out – this could end up being a good thing in the end. I’m hopeful.

The other bit of bad news is probably more neutral news. I’m in my final semester of classes in seminary and I’ve discovered that as my classes have gotten tougher, my workload has increased and my time to write a book on the side has decreased. The book has to take a backseat to my academics. Seminary is hard work. Imagine that. I call this “neutral news” because with every class I attend, book I read and paper I write I’m gaining more and more insight into themes this book will revolve around. So while it’s a slight delay in the writing process – I’m about 6 months behind schedule – it’s leading to better content on the back end, so I feel great about taking my time. I don’t want to throw together some sloppy piece of work. Writing is an extension of self, and I want something I’ll be proud of in the end, so bear with me!

Okay that’s the bad/neutral news.

Here’s the good news.

First, the ballpark tour was an incredible success. I had no rainouts or missed flights or delays in my schedule, which is a borderline miracle in itself. I’ve never experienced a busier, more exhausting or more exciting season of my life than the 2014 baseball season, and I have all of you to thank. I also got to share experiences with old friends and new friends across the nation (and Toronto!), which was an incredible blessing. I think a lot of my emotions surrounding the Royals’ World Series loss was due to the realization that not only was the season over, but it was the end of a long string of wonderful relational moments as well.

In the midst of my travels, I experienced how difficult it is to be a beat reporter in baseball. I was able to post 27 of the 30 blogs as I went along. The only three I couldn’t complete in time were the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles which felt too meaty to do justice in a quick postgame blog. They’ve been placed on the “you’ll have to wait till the book is out to read about those games” list.

Which brings me to my next piece of good news: my outline is finished and a handful of chapters have already been completed. My outline for the book consists of all 30 MLB ballparks and a spiritual insight discovered in each place…and an October Epilogue! When my classes wrap up in May, my writing calendar opens up completely to this project, which is going to be SO refreshing. A draft is due to my seminary by December in order to graduate next May, so I can pretty safely say that’s about when the book will end up coming out as well: Spring Training 2016.

So there you go. An update on where my project stands for those keeping track at home. Believe me, I wish I could get this out of my brain and into your hands sooner. Thanks for your patience and for your continued support!

-apc.

The MLB has hijacked kairos. It needs to be returned.

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Last week, Keith Olbermann took on MLB commissioner, Bud Selig, questioning whether or not the MLB truly wants to shorten games like the commissioner suggests it does.

Essentially, Olbermann’s argument was, “Why aren’t baseball games getting any shorter? Well, because Selig won’t tell the umpires to enforce the two rules that are already in place to speed up the game (8.04 & 6.02b). The MLB would rather make tons of money on more TV advertisements. Time is money. Duh.” Paraphrased, obviously.

Watch the entire segment here.

It really is a problem. Even those of us who can’t get enough baseball (me) wouldn’t mind the ballgames speeding up by 20 minutes or so. The batters readjusting their gloves between every pitch, the pitchers stepping off the rubber to go back through the signs – and now, play stopping for 3-5 minutes per game for the umpires to initiate an instant replay challenge – it’s all making the game juuuuuust a bit too long.

It’s also, supposedly, the number one reason kids these days aren’t interested in the sport of baseball*. It’s slow. It’s boring. There’s no explosive action. It’s dull.

* – I’m pretty sure I disagree with this argument, by the way. Kids want athletes who they can emulate, and athletes who are franchise faces make the best options. That doesn’t seem to exist like it did in the 70s and 80s. Lots of reasons, but that’s an entirely different post. I’ll talk about that when Alex Gordon signs his extension with KC and becomes a career Royal.

I go to baseball games with my wife, for example, and she has about a 6- or 7-inning threshold, which, honestly, is pretty decent from a husband’s perspective. Around the 6th, I notice her starting to glance at the scoreboard clock trying to do the math on how much longer it will take: “So we’re 2/3 of the way through right now…and it’s taken just under two hours so far…so that’s like another 50 minutes? I can do that…just don’t let it go into extra innings, please.”

Which is not good for the game. When we go into ballgames watching the clock, we’re rarely going to have a good experience.

Baseball should never be about watching the clock.

When you watch football or basketball or hockey or soccer, it’s perfectly acceptable to clock watch…because there is one. What’s more, the clock directly effects the game itself. When you’re winning in football, running the ball runs the clock down faster. If you’re behind in basketball, you gotta foul and roll the ball inbounds to save the precious seconds left. In soccer or hockey, clearing the ball/puck deep to the other end forces the opponent to waste more time corralling it and advancing it again.

And all the while, it’s totally appropriate to anxiously count the seconds down until the game ends. We even root for it.

Baseball doesn’t utilize a clock. You can’t run the clock down, foul, spike the ball, clear the puck, etc. The game doesn’t end until 27 outs are recorded and one team has more runs scored than the other.  Clock watching in baseball is irrelevant to the on-field product. It is only relevant to our own concept of time outside of the game itself.

Baseball games vary in length significantly. Two weeks ago, it took the Angels six and a half hours to beat the Red Sox. Last week, the Yankees/Astros game only lasted two hours and seven minutes. In baseball – in an attempt to sound as much like Ron Swanson as possible – it takes the time that it takes.

When you’re at the ballpark, there are only two reasons to check the clock:

  1. “Wow, it’s already the 7th inning stretch? This game is flying by! How long has it been?”
  2. “Finally, the 7th inning stretch. This game is a friggin tortoise. How long has it been?”

The first is rare. The second is too common.

Which is why the conversation about game length exists at all – we are only really conscious of time in baseball when it interferes with our own internal clock. We’ve got to get the kids to bed – or ourselves, for that matter – or we’ve got a train to catch after the game from Philly back to NYC.

Baseball in its purest form doesn’t care about clocks at all. Everything occurs outside of a specified timeframe.

At this point, I have illustrated two different concepts of the same word. The Greeks had two different words for the concept of “time” – chronos and kairos. The former concept is conscious of hours and minutes and seconds. It’s the root of the word “chronological.” Chronos is what football teams are conscious of when they spike the ball or kneel at the end of the game. The game only lasts a certain amount of time, so teams execute “clock management” as best they can.

As a culture, we run on chronos time constantly. Meetings. Appointments. Punch in, punch out. There’s a never ending tick-tock cadence to our days. Chronos is why we celebrate birthdays and New Year’s. Radio stations air their top shows during rush hour traffic. Our world is extremely chronos conscious. Thank the Lord for DVR, which allows us to make TV fit our schedules instead of the other way around.

Kairos is an entirely different understanding of time. In ancient Greek, it referred to a supreme or opportune moment, or an unspecified amount of time in which everything takes place. Instead of being quantitative, kairos is qualitative. Kairos is the reason we throw around the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” – quality time doesn’t worry about minutes and seconds. Quality time is simply present to the moment. This is a kairos experience of time.

In Christianity, it’s a reference to God’s action on Earth. Jesus uses this word when he talks about the Kingdom of God arriving in Mark 1. “The time (kairos) has come,” he says. God is acting, and Jesus is cluing others into what’s going on around them in the present moment. It’s not a specific timeframe that God was working and then he wasn’t anymore. God was already acting; Jesus is just trying to clue people into it.

Ideally, baseball happens in kairos, not chronos.

Unfortunately, the ideal has been breached. I believe this is why ballgame length is truly an issue for us. We don’t want ball games that even remotely remind us of our chronos mindset. We want to be removed from that tick-tock reality and placed firmly within kairos.

The issue, to me, is not whether games are too long. The issue is that the MLB has hijacked the kairos-ness of baseball for their own profit, and we’re subconsciously aware that something is amiss. Baseball fans don’t want 20 minutes less baseball. Baseball fans want to eliminate the urge to check their watch in the middle innings.

Which probably explains why attendance is down across the MLB over the past 6-8 years. Sure, ticket prices are up, and it’s completely relative based on the success of each team’s franchise, but with the MLB catering to TV viewership and advertising, it’s no wonder that we’d rather stay home and watch from our living rooms. But perhaps the underlying motivator isn’t that we’d rather watch on TV than in person – I wonder if it’s actually because staying home keeps us comfortably within our chronos mindset.

If the MLB is going to keep hijacking the kairos mentality, less and less people will be interested in not only going to games, but watching games in general.

If they actually want more people to love the game of baseball, then Selig and future-commissioner Rob Manfred need to make moves to eliminate the clock checking wherever possible. Listen to Olbermann. Actually enforce 8.04b and 6.02. Not with the goal of simply shortening games, but with the understanding that every time a baseball fan looks at their watch, it’s bad for the game.

Baseball allows us to step out of our agendas and be present to a different time and space. Simply the fact that we’re talking so much about how much time it takes is evidence that we’re focusing too much on the chronos.

The MLB has hijacked kairos, It needs to be returned.

-apc.

BOOK PROJECT: FUNDED!!

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It’s official: thanks to the generosity of you all, I will be writing a book on baseball and spirituality this year!

As of 10:45AM CST this morning, my Kickstarter campaign officially reached it’s goal, and my project is now officially underway!

Thank you so much to all who helped make this happen. Whether you pledged to it, posted about it, retweeted it, told a friend about it or just gave me a high five, I am grateful for you and your role in this project.

If you want to pre-order and help support the experience more fully, there is still time. The campaign will be active through Saturday evening at 7PM CST.

Thanks again everyone. What an honor to have the support of all of you. I can’t wait to share the final product of this amazing adventure with you!

-apc.

Ballpark Tour 2014: Personal Hermeneutics

busch wrigley kThis is the third post related to my new project: visiting all 30 MLB ballparks this season and writing a book about the experience in the context of spirituality. Click these links to read the first two posts: announcing the project and how i created my itinerary. If you haven’t already, go pre-pre-order my book and help fund this project. Thanks errrbody!

I was sitting with a few of my friends in the cheapest seats available at Kauffman Stadium. Way up in the 400 sections. It was a gorgeous Thursday afternoon game. It was one of those games where you step outside in the morning and immediately start calling the people you have afternoon meetings with asking to reschedule because “something came up.”

The Twins were in town, and the fan split was pretty much even. Half KC. Half Minn. It’s crazy: Twins fans always seemed to have a strong contingency at Royals games before they moved to Target Field in 2010. They must’ve been itching for some fresh air outside the Metrodome. I don’t know if their traveling has dropped off since they made the switch, but I’m pretty sure this game was 2008 or 2009.

Despite the near-50/50 split, we were in a crowd of mostly Royals fans with the exception of a dad and his son a few rows down from us. The kid was probably 8 years old. He was eating Cracker Jack* and wearing a Joe Mauer #7 jersey. The dad was wearing Kirby Puckett’s #34.

* – “Cracker Jack” is plural, by the way. File that under “Things I Learned from Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

A Twins player was batting with two outs – I honestly don’t remember who it was, but lets say it was Delmon Young – and he struck out looking on a knee-buckling curve. Half of the crowd erupted in cheers. I was right with them and shouted out, “Sit down Delmon! Try taking the bat off your shoulder next time!”

The kid down in front of me – the Twins fan – turns around, and squints up in my direction looking simultaneously perplexed and furious.

The Royals come to bat. The first hitter up, Joey Gathright, singles and the Royals chatter raises up a notch. I clap my hands a few times and holler something down to the runner on first base. The whole section is into it. The next batter doubles, and Gathright – who is insanely fast – scores easily from first base. We go bananas.

I pause from my cheering when I notice the kid in the Mauer jersey turned around again. This time he’s giving me a serious death stare. I make eye contact with him and he gasps, panics and abruptly turns back around as if I was the South Bend Shovel Slayer. Then he taps his dad on the shoulder and gestures back toward our group. His dad laughs, shakes his head a bit and pats him on the shoulder.

The kid takes another quick glance back at me then turns his attention back to the game.

I nudge my buddies and clue them in to the kid’s antics. We start experimenting with our shouts starting with the general, “Here we go, Royals!” to more specific comments directed at the Twins players with funny names like “Nick Punto” and “Boof Bonser”. We space the comments out every few minutes so that the Puckett/Mauer Family doesn’t get wise and figure out what we’re doing.

And the kid turns around every single time.

And every time he wields the same puzzled stare.

And then it hits me: he doesn’t understand why I’m not rooting for the Twins too.

I imagine this kid’s whole life has been Twins baseball, and I wonder if he’s ever encountered fans of another team. He’s probably angry that we are cheering against his team, and it probably doesn’t really make sense why anyone would do something so ridiculous. He’s probably wondering why would anyone do something silly like that? The Twins are the best, after all. He’s been raised a Twins fan, and that’s all he knows. I wonder if he’s discovering for the first time that there are other ways of cheering besides his own.

And you know what, we’re all like Kid Mauer.

It might not be the Twins, and we’ve probably (hopefully) encountered alternative perspectives by now, but depending on our family of origin and where we grew up, we have learned certain ways of thinking, certain values and beliefs. From the moment we enter the world we begin a sequence of sampling, testing and drawing conclusions on the world around us. The team we root for is rarely a conscious decision on our own part. Most of us have been groomed in our ways by our family history and our geographical location.

For example, I was raised a Cardinals fan in Kansas City.

My great-grandfather was a Cardinals fan living in the bootheel of Missouri. He raise my grandpa to cheer for Stan Musial, Red Schoendiest and Dizzy Dean. Then Grandpa raised my dad in the years of Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. And sure enough, I was raised in the days of Willie McGee, Jack Clark and, one of my top two all-time favorites, Ozzie Smith*.

* – Alongside Bo Jackson, if you MUST know…more on that very soon.

Cardinals baseball was life for me in the 80s and 90s. It was all I knew. And as such, there is a list of qualities I bring to the game of baseball when I’m rooting for the Cardinals. For example, Cardinals fans are expected to…

  • hate/make fun of the Cubs
  • label myself as one of the “Best Fans in Baseball”
  • hate the Reds too
  • whine about Dan Denkinger the 1985 World Series
  • brag about the 11 World Series championships
  • root for and defend their allegiance no matter what

I have adopted all of these during my life at some point. These don’t make me a better person or a worse person, they’re simply undercurrents of being a Cardinals fan. Probably overgeneralized, sure. And I’m sure you have more scathing things to add to this list of you’re a STL hater, and I’m sure you’re offended by it if you’re an STL lover.

But then I grew up in Kansas City. And with every passing day, I become a bigger KC Royals fan. I don’t know the history of the Royals like I do the Cardinals, but over time I’ve grown to love this team. Through all it’s futility over the last 20 years, I have come out rooting harder than ever. In fact, I’m often asked, “If there’s a 1985 rematch – STL vs. KC – who would you root for?” And today, my answer is easy: I’d be for my hometown team. Mostly because I’ve seen the Cardinals play in the World Series a few times now and win a couple. But also because the Royals fan in me wants it more.

But my Royals fandom has established a totally different outlook on the game and how I approach it. Pretty much all Royals fans…

  • complain about teams with larger payrolls
  • loathe the Yankees and everything they stand for
  • begin every new season with unfounded hope
  • brace for imminent disappointment
  • expect a different manager every few seasons
  • hate the St. Louis Cardinals
  • root for and defend their allegiance no matter what

Obviously, I have never hated the Cardinals because of how I was raised, but the rest of these are accurate. I gripe all the time about the unfairness of our small market in Kansas City. What if the Royals could sign elite players to $100M contracts over 6 years? The Yankees do it with little hesitation. It drives us all nuts. It’s an unfair game! Unlike the Cards, there aren’t many “Royals haters” out there, so it should be easy to look at this list, shrug and agree these all make some sense.

All of that is to say – I have a certain set of values, memories, allegiances and enemies based on where I was raised and by whom. And now, when I walk into a stadium, I bring my own personal hermeneutic with me.

Personal Herme-whaaaaaaat?

When we read any text – billboards, headlines, Scripture, novels – we bring with us our own memories, emotions, histories and traditions. We each have our own point of view. When Yankees, Royals, Orioles and Cubs fans read the headline, “Masahiro Tanaka to Yanks for $155M,” they each have a different reaction. Something like…

  • Yankees: “Aw yeah! We got him! Welcome to the Bronx, Tanaka! Let’s bring home championship #28!”
  • Royals: “Zero surprise. Typical Yankee payroll nonsense. Grrrr.”
  • Orioles: “Oh great. Now we have to face that guy 5 times this year. So long AL East division race.”
  • Cubs: “Dang. I really thought we were going to bid enough to sign that guy. Not that it would matter.”

Picture it like a pair of sunglasses. I see the world a certain way because I’m Caucasian, in my 20s, American, Christian, married, from the Midwest, attended the public school system in an upper-middle class setting – you get it. I also bring psychosocial dynamics from my family of origin, both positive and negative. I bring years of relationships, conversations, histories and memories. Joy and sorrow. Celebrations and tragedies. It’s not necessarily good, bad, ugly or beautiful. It just is.

Our personal hermeneutic informs how we naturally interpret everything based on life’s experiences.

If we each have our own personal hermeneutic, when we have a shared experience, our reaction to that experience is naturally going to differ from person to person.

Hence, why I got fired up when Gathright scored, and why Kid Mauer wanted to throw his Jack in my face. Only I was self-aware enough to realize the dynamics happening between us as rival fans. The kid was not. He was experiencing a clash of personal hermeneutics, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.

I think self-awareness is so underrated in today’s world. Amid the informational noise of social media, technology, television and entertainment, I think we’ve become distracted from actually discovering who we are and what has impacted our identity, and our personal hermeneutic. We also forget to consider how our perspective and our reactions, rub up against the perspectives of those around us.

Throughout this project, I want my experiences in each ballpark to be as authentic as possible. I want to understand and experience these games based on the personal hermeneutic of those around me.

Buck O’Neil, the former Negro Leagues star and later scout and coach for the Cubs and Royals, used to always root for the home team. No matter the team, he was there to support the fans that came out to cheer for their team that day.  Nobody likes to celebrate while everyone else is glum. You go to cheer for the home team; at least, that was his motto.

In his book, The Soul of Baseball, Joe Posnanski tells a story of Buck leaving a game in Houston disappointed because the Cubs had beat them. “Buck should have been happy with the result, since he had worked with the Cubs organization for more than thirty years. But we were in Houston, and Buck always wanted the home team to win. He never did like seeing the home fans sad.”

One of my disciplines as I enter into this crazy ballpark tour, is to adopt Buck’s mindset. I will try my best to remove my personal hermeneutic and approach the game from the perspective of the individuals I’m sitting among at each venue. In other words, I’m rooting for the home team.

I want to be self-aware enough to understand what it is that I am bringing into each of these games and leave it at the door. I want to enter the gates expecting to experience community and friendship and camaraderie in new environments and without the baggage I bring along. I want to ditch my Kansas City/Cardinals sunglasses and put on a different pair at every game.

It will also give me a better gauge of what it is truly like to be a fan of these teams. Will I step into Fenway Park and allow the history and legend to permeate my soul? Can I enter Yankee Stadium without wrecking the experience with my pre-conceived judgements of Royals fandom?

But…will I root against my own teams?

If you saw my itinerary in my last post, you’ll notice two major emotional conflicts for me in the first and last games on the list. March 31: STL @ CIN and September 24: KC @ CLE. Somehow, someway, I’m going to have to ignore the tension I already feel, and enter Opening Day as a Reds fan. I can do that for one game, right? There are 162, and one game isn’t going to make a difference, right?! It’s a tall order, but I’m going to try my best. By far the more difficult task will be the Cleveland game. I just hope* the Royals have locked up a playoff spot by late September. Otherwise this may be a struggle.

* – there I go with my excessive Royals hopes again.

So as you follow me along the journey, and you see an Instagram update from U.S. Cellular Field, and it says “Go Sox!*,” please, refrain from blasting me with hateful texts and murderous tweets. Don’t look at me like Kid Mauer did on that beautiful Thursday at The K. Try to understand there’s a larger purpose behind it all. And if I have to shelf my fandom for a day to more securely put myself in another’s shoes, so be it.

* – Even as I typed this, I struggled to write the entire name of my least favorite team in the entire MLB. I panicked and just said “Sox”. Help me, Lord, to overcome.

I hope you understand. And I hope I can be remotely successful.

-apc.

Past posts on my project…
APC is Writing a Book
The Itinerary
Kickstarter Campaign

Ballpark Tour 2014: The Itinerary

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A couple days ago, I broke the news that I am writing a book. I’ll be spending the 2014 Major League Baseball season traveling the country visiting all 30 MLB ballparks. This experience, I hope, will provide a skeleton outline of my book, and the countless stories will be the backbone. For more information on my project and why I’m doing it, check out my Kickstarter and consider helping me fundraise by pre-pre-ordering the book before 3/1.

So this trip. Its going to be nuts. Even now that the Kickstarter has launched and that I’m under contract with a publisher, I’m struggling to comprehend the fact that I’ll be traveling to 30 different cities within 6 months.* It seems impossible, yet I look at my calendar and there it is. All 30 cities in one MLB season. It looks foolproof and easy on paper…not unlike my fantasy football team this year. Hopefully this pans out better than that did.

* – Throw a trip to Myanmar in there too. I’ll be traveling there in March for two weeks with my CBTS seminary cohort taking classes at the Myanmar Institute of Theology. Yep, that’s MIT.

Want to hear something even crazier? When I first had this idea, I wanted to do all 30 of these games in 30 days. It’s doable, and it’s been done before. But as I thought about the writing process and I pictured myself coming home exhausted, sleeping for eighteen consecutive hours, waking up and trying to write a book…and spending most of my time asking myself, “wait, where was Game 6 again? Oh yeah, San Diego. And who were they playing? Oh gosh, maybe Washington? Colorado? Dodgers? Shoot I don’t remember.”

So I wised up. And I spread it out over the entire season. Here’s a look at my current itinerary:

  • March 31: STL @ CIN
  • April 11: WAS @ ATL
  • April 14: SEA @ TEX 
  • April 15: KC @ HOU
  • April 16: NYM @ ARI
  • April 17: COL @ SD
  • May 7: NYY @ LAA
  • May 8: SF @ LAD 
  • May 10: KC @ SEA 
  • May 11: WAS @ OAK 
  • May 12: ATL @ SF 
  • May 18: BAL @ KC
  • June 3: ARI @ COL
  • June 25: OAK @ NYM 
  • June 26: MIA @ PHI
  • June 27: BOS @ NYY 
  • June 30: CHC @ BOS
  • July 1: COL @ WAS 
  • July 2: TEX @ BAL
  • July 18: TB @ MIN
  • Aug 5: BOS @ STL 
  • Aug 6: TEX @ CWS 
  • Aug 7: SF @ MIL 
  • Aug 8: TB @ CHC
  • Sept 17: NYY @ TB 
  • Sept 18: WAS @ MIA
  • Sept 21: MIL @ PIT
  • Sept 22: SEA @ TOR
  • Sept 23: CWS @ DET 
  • Sept 24: KC @ CLE

(It’s okay if you just scrolled through all that quickly without really looking at it. I understand.)

Not only will spreading it out make the entire project more manageable, but I imagine the storylines will be way more enjoyable as well. I’ll get to follow teams from start to finish. If this was the 2013 season, I’d remember how terrible the Dodgers were early, and how Don Mattingly was on the hot seat for his job, but then the Human Firecracker, Yasiel Puig, showed up and Hanley Ramirez got healthy and the Dodgers went on a tear and became one of the NL’s top teams. Storylines like that.

By spreading it out, the entire season comes better info focus. By zooming out, the stories become larger and the entire journey is able to gain more momentum.

The toughest part of creating the itinerary is maneuvering through the MLB schedule itself. On any given day of the week, only half the teams are playing at home. Throw in off-days and an All-Star break, and there’s something like a 40% chance* that any given team is actually playing in the city between Opening Day and the end of the season.

* – Just did the math…between March 31 and September 28 there are 210 days and each team only has 81 home games. Which makes it a 38.6% chance the team is in town. Basically, I nailed it.

So where to begin my scheduling?

Obviously I have to take my own personal schedule into account – I’m still working full-time and taking classes full-time through May and beginning again in August – but the best place to begin, I discovered, was finding the times where nearby teams were in town at the same time. I clustered teams together into a few geographical groups…

Chicago +1: Cubs, White Sox. Brewers
The Californians: Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres
The East Coast: Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, Red Sox
Florida: Rays, Marlins
Lake Erie: Tigers, Indians, Blue Jays, Pirates
Texas: Astros, Rangers
Middle of Nowhere*: Mariners, Rockies, Braves, Diamondbacks, Minnesota
Missouri…ish: Cardinals, Royals, Cincinnati

* – also a terrific Hanson album. #mmmbop

I knew I wanted to go to Cincinnati for Opening Day – the Reds have a long history of doing Opening Day (more on that later), and it served as the “official” OD location each year until recently. And since I live in Kansas City and St. Louis is only a few hours away, the “Missourish” section was easiest and most flexible. I decided to begin by finding the dates for the most difficult trips first.

One thing I discovered very early: cities with multiple MLB teams don’t schedule them at the same time. In order to hit two teams in one trip, I had to catch the last game of one series and the first game of the next. For Chicago, having Milwaukee in the mix, that was the most difficult task. I found my answer on August 6-8: the last game of the White Sox series, a Thursday afternoon game up in Milwaukee, and the first game of a Cubs series. Book it.

Then I checked out SF/OAK & LAD/LAA. Found both sets ending and beginning series right by each other in early May. Stuck a quick flight to Seattle in the middle…book it.

Then I went searching for NYY/NYM & BAL/WAS. Found the former in late June, the latter on the first two days of July. I squeezed Philly and Boston in between…book it.

I had a couple different possibilities for the Lake Erie group. I could hit the west side cities – Cleveland and Detroit – as a part of the Chicago trio. I could hit Toronto and Pittsburgh in between the New York and Baltimore/DC sections too. There was some flexibility there.

Then I looked at the teams I was dealing with and realized the right answer: I need to visit these games in September. As a fan of both the Cardinals and the Royals, I’ve watched the AL and NL Central compete over the last few years and know it will be a dogfight for the last two wild card games – Cleveland*, Detroit, Pittsburgh…and if Toronto can have a bounce back year anything like last year’s Red Sox did, it should be the perfect storm of drama leading up to the playoffs. And with all four teams playing home games the second to last week of the season, that’s where I want to be as the season is winding down….book it.

* – Especially if my Royals are fighting for a spot too, that last game in Cleveland could get pretty exciting.

Then I noticed that Tampa and Miami were playing back to back just a couple days before the Lake Erie tour…book it.

Here’s something funny: it took me months – months! – to remember that i was already going to Denver in June with my youth group. Duh! Sure enough, the Rockies were in town the exact days we were going to be there. Guess what students?! I just figured out what our evening excursion is going to be on June 3…book it.

So that leaves the two Texas teams, 60% of the Middle of Nowheres and the Padres. What do I do with a smörgåsbord like that? Solution: bunch em all together, get em out of the way early, and move from east to west so I’m gaining hours and not losing them.

I found a stretch in April that worked out almost perfectly: Atlanta to Arlington to Houston to Phoenix to San Diego. Six days. Five games. Book it.

That just leaves Minnesota.

And I am NOT going there until it is nice and toasty this summer. Did you guys hear it was -36F there yesterday morning?! Why does anyone live there?! I just don’t understand how that’s possible. But wait a minute…where’s the All-Star Game this year?

Minnesota.

Ooooooo. So tempting. We’ll see if I can make that happen, but if not, the Twins are for sure in town the weekend immediately after the ASG so that can serve as a safety net regardless of if I can figure out a way to finagle my way into the ASG or not. Also, I’m still uncertain whether going to the All-Star Game at Target Field actually counts – it completes the ballpark requirement, but I won’t even see the Twins play! So I might end up spending a few days there and hitting both just to make sure I’m covered.

Plus the closest IKEA is in Minneapolis*, so….book it.

* – That is, until September 2014, when we finally get one in Kansas City! I hear we’re getting color television soon too. And Creed was just here a few months ago. Look out world.

So there you have it. The itinerary split up into major sections…

1. The Smörgåsbord (April 11-17)
2. The West Coast (May 7-13)
3. The East Coast (June 25-July 2)
4. The Chicagoans +1 (August 6-8)
5. Florida & Lake Erie (September 17-24)

…with a few single game additions in between…

1. Opening Day, Cincinnati (March 31)
2. Dressed to the Nines Day*, Kansas City (May 18)
3. Youth Group, Colorado (June 3)
4. All-Star Week, Minnesota (July 15&18)
5. World Series Rematch*, St. Louis (Aug 5)

* – More on these later. For now, you can get some more info in these two places: Dressed to the Nines Day on Facebook and this Instagram post from before Game 4.

And when you put it all together it looks a lot like a Table of Contents. Interesting.

1. Opening Day, Cincinnati (March 31)
2. The Smörgåsbord (April 11-17)

3. The West Coast (May 7-13)
4. Dressed to the Nines Day, Kansas City (May 18)
5. Youth Group, Colorado (June 3)

6. The East Coast (June 25-July 2)
7. All-Star Week, Minnesota (July 15&18)
8. World Series Rematch, St. Louis (Aug 5)

9. The Chicagoans +1 (August 6-8)
10. Florida + Lake Erie (September 17-24)

So there you have it. My itinerary and how it came about.

It may not stay all the same. (Read: it probably won’t all stay the same.) There may be opportunities along the way to hit games earlier or later than planned. There also might be a missed flight or flat tire or death or dismemberment that may throw a wrench in the whole thing…sorta like my fantasy football team when half the team gets injured. Things will happen outside my control, and I hope those make for some of the best moments in the whole book.

Or, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann once said, “The road emerged only as I walked it.”

-apc.

PS – Thanks to everyone who has pledged to this project so far – I’m 17% of the way to my goal in just 2 days – and thanks in advance to those of you who are going to follow this link and help me out by pre-pre-ordering the book.

Image cred: http://moneyqanda.com/major-league-baseball-stadiums/

Baseball and Spirituality: APC is writing a book!!!

photo-mainOkay everyone. I’ve got some killer news to share…

I’m writing a book exploring the spirituality of baseball.

…but wait, it gets better…

To create a narrative framework for this project, during the 2014 MLB season I will be traveling the country visiting all 30 MLB ballparks. These stories will be the foundation for the resulting book.

…HOLY SMOKES. THIS IS HUGE.

I’ve been exploring this possibility for about a year now. Researching, studying, making connections between the two in my brain and putting together short sample pieces in hopes that this could actually come to fruition. A few months ago, I put up a pseudo-cryptic post asking for research suggestions, and then last week I posted on Instagram a photo of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati utilizing the hashtag: #ballparktour2014.

Then this past week I got confirmation from The House Studio, a publisher in Kansas City, that they want to partner with me on this project and help create and produce this book.

So this isn’t just a hypothetical dream anymore. It’s happening. And it’s happening soon.

Something even cooler about this project: my seminary, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is letting me utilize this book as my capstone project to complete the program and finish my Master’s of Divinity. Pretty awesome, huh?

I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign as a way of doing some fundraising, but more importantly help market the book. Assuming I reach my fundraising goal, you can pre-pre-order the book by contributing to the campaign.

That’s all I’ll say about it for now, but expect updates, news, tweets, blogs and more to start popping up from me all over the place. Thanks for helping me out everyone. I’m so thankful for each of you and can’t wait to get rolling. It’s going to be an exciting 2014!!

Here we go!

-apc.