Baseball fan Mike Nolan of Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

It wasn't that long ago that Major League Baseball was still considered America's favorite pastime. This was, of course, before the "Steroid Era" and the lockout of 1994. However, there are still millions of baseball fans out there that still hold this game close to their heart and have made baseball their lifelong hobby.

One such fan is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Mike Nolan, otherwise known as 'The Baseball Traveler'. Having attended baseball games in all fifty states in America, he represents a dying breed of sports fans that few of us have been lucky enough to become acquainted with. From This Seat was fortunate enough to have him share with us just a few of his journeys.



1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Who is your favorite MLB team and what do you do for a living?

I live in the Philadelphia suburb of Langhorne, and I have been a lifelong and until recently, long-suffering Philadelphia Phillies fan.  I retired two years ago from teaching high school mathematics.  Presently, I am an usher with the Trenton Thunder, AA affiliate of the New York Yankees.


2. How many ballparks have you visited to date including both the Major and Minor Leagues?

I have been to 151 ballparks to date. This includes 39 major league ballparks, 79 affliated minor league ballparks, and 20 independent professional parks as well as all but 2 of the spring training parks. I've been to a game in each of the 50 states. In 49 of the states, the game(s) were professional, leaving Alaska as the only state without professional baseball. There I went to the Midnight Sun Game, a summer collegiate game in Fairbanks which begins at 10:30 PM. They don't turn on the lights, because the sky never gets dark, or even enters twilight.


3. Which MLB Ballpark would you say is your favorite and why?

This actually is a two part question, pre Camden Yards and post Camden Yards.  My favorite older ballpark is Fenway Park in Boston.  Every time I've been there, before the current renovation and after, when I step out from the darkened concourse onto the sun-splashed field, you know 100% why you're there. You're going to see a baseball game and it's going to be good, and you're going to walk away happy. There really is no upper deck.  Everything happens on one level. There are people who complain that the uppermost seats are too narrow, but that lets you get close to the field. And the Fenway Frank is one of the best hot dogs in baseball.

My favorite newer park is PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Like all the new parks, you're close to the field, but the close-up view of downtown Pittsburgh is magnificent. Park downtown and cross the Roberto Clemente Bridge. You look straight into the ballpark.  Even though you can enter the park at the end of the bridge, walk around to the home plate entrance, and enjoy the statues of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Honus Wagner. Manny Sanguillen has the BBQ place in CF and he should be there signing autographs. In the concourse behind first base are 3 good restaurants, including Primanti Brothers. If you leave Pittsburgh without having a Primanti Brothers sandwich, you may as well have stayed home. The club level is one of the best in baseball. The club has 5 top-notch restaurants.  I had a steak there that was great. Plus the bar in the club behind the plate is a traditional mahogany bar.  Only problem with the place is that you have to watch the Pirates.


4. Which of the 30 MLB Ballparks are your least favorite and why?

Dolphins, er ah Pro Player, uh Land Shark, uh Whatever it's name stadium in Miami Gardens. I was there in 2007, and it was obvious that the Dolphins didn't want the Miami Marlins there. They were installing premium seating clubs for football during the baseball season. Because it's a football stadium, there are too many seats in the lower level and it feels like you can't get close the baseball game. Look at the dimensions of the field, and what the Marlins tried to do with it to make it a ballpark. Thank goodness they're moving out next year. Then the Oakland A's get the bottom spot.


5. What is it about MLB Ballparks that makes visiting them so much more special than visiting venues from other professional leagues?

It's the game. Football, basketball, hockey and soccer demand too much attention. You might get into a conversation during one of the other games with someone you never met before, but it goes quick. Baseball in the stands is all about the conversations.

Each of the other sports are played on fields with the same dimensions. There isn't a view to capture your eye, or a nuance in the outfield or in foul territory that might affect the way the game is played. And then there's the position of pitcher. In none of the other sports do you have a person out there all alone who does what he does his way. Do you hear anyone talk about how the quarterback's throw has that little tail at the end?


6. After the incident with the San Francisco Giants fan, other fans are now stereotyping all Dodgers fans as being unruly. What is your perception of Dodgers fans after visiting Dodger Stadium and would you agree that every MLB team has fans that misbehave?

I've been a Philadelphia sports fan all my life and all that you hear about us is that we booed Santa Claus. Well that happened in the 1960's at an Eagles game when the Santa on the field was drunk and wouldn't get off the field to allow the second half kickoff to commence. We've had some ugly incidents here, and we have a few ugly fans, but it's the same in just about every MLB city. You get a big rivalry with big crowds with young adult fans who have been drinking way too much, and you'll have problems.

Dodger fans are like everyone else. They want to see the Dodgers win. When I went to Dodger Stadium, we had seats in the lower level near the LF foul pole. The Mexican-American fans in the corner were absolutely great. They led cheers, and they made sure that you were having a good time.


7. The Miami Marlins will finally have their own ballpark next year. The stadium is being built in Little Havana which many think will boost attendance because of the high Hispanic population in the area. Do you think more attendance, thus, more revenue is the formula the Marlins need to finally be more consistently competitive?

There are a few things you have to look at here. First, new ballpark brings curiosity seekers. How easy is it to get to the park?  Where can I park my car and how much is it going to cost? How are the concessions? Where's my seat and how close can I get to the playing field while still affording the seat? How safe is it to walk to my car after the game's over? Curiosity seekers will produce a bump in attendance, which will bring more revenue to the ballclub.

It's year three or four that will tell you about the effect the new park has on the club. It's the question that I ask when I go to a Minor League ballpark. What is the ball club doing to get people to come to the ballpark again and again?


8. Additionally, would you say fans of teams like the Marlins, Pirates and Royals need to attend more games so that their teams would have more to spend? Is it that simple or is it justifiable for fans to sell out to teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies when they live elsewhere?

Oakland and Minnesota are very competitive every year, and their metropolitan areas are just about the size of the three that you've chosen. The big thing about the 3 teams in question is more of a scouting and player development question than an economic one. Are they finding good young players and are they developing them? We get the Altoona Curve in the Eastern League, and they always seem to have a good competitive club. Why aren't they producing on the Major League level, or are they producing on other clubs, while the big club tries to make it on trades and free-agency? Every MLB team can make it on their own.  By the way, who was in the World Series last year?


9. Have you begun planning your trip to the new Marlins ballpark in 2012 or do you plan on visiting in its inaugural season?

Absolutely. Not only that, I hope that they play in the first week. I have to go to Estero to see the Red Sox new spring training park. It would be nice to do it in one trip.


10. MLB ticket prices, concessions, parking as well as airfare are at an all-time high. What advice would you give to fans that are on a budget but would still like to visit a lot of ballparks like you have? For example, is traveling by train their best option?

Train travel is nice if you have the time and the scenery is great. We took the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and it was beautiful. I have also gone from Philadelphia to Chicago twice on the train, and I wouldn't do that again. 19 hours on the train vs. a 3 hour flight? No. Fly or drive.

My limit on driving is about 5 hours.  After that the cost to my body gets to be too much. The neat part about driving is that you find great places to stop. Traveling from Springfield, MO to Kansas City, I had to get gasoline. When we pulled off, there was this junk dealership across the street from the gas station. All kinds of antique machinery, and stuff there that I remember as a kid.  Couldn't have done that on any other transport mode. And then there was the Pigout in Oklahoma, and the Mexican restaurant halfway between Houston and Dallas.


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