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Sunday October 9, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports): I recently had the pleasure to share my book review of “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” on MLB reports. Following my review, I had a chance to correspond with one of the authors of the book, Doug Booth. We discussed the book, the life and times of Doug Booth, ballpark chasing and much more. Sit back and enjoy my interview with a man who epitomes baseball fandom- Author Doug Booth, in discussing his recently published book, “The Fastest 30 Ballgames: A Ballpark Chasers World Record Story”.
MLB reports: It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports Doug. Thank you for joining us today. Tell us a little more about who is Doug Booth. How did you get involved with the great game of baseball?
Booth: I am a 35-year-old courier from Vancouver B.C Canada. When I was 18 years old I had a chance to play NCAA Baseball Division 1 for Liberty University, but had suffered 7 concussions and multiple knee injuries from playing various sports-so I retired from baseball prematurely. While I still followed MLB on TV and radio for the next decade, a little piece of me lost the zest for the game because I couldn’t play it anymore. To this day, I still can’t even play the game as the symptoms from my previous concussions come back with too much exertion. In 2005, I attended my first MLB Park in the USA at Safeco Field in Seattle. I had only been to Olympic Stadium in Montreal-and The Rogers Center previously as a teenager, so it was nice to find my love for the game re-invigorated. ‘It all escalated into the extreme chaser I am now.’
MLB reports: I very much enjoyed reading “The Fastest 30”, as our readers could tell from my recent book review. Considering the work and effort involved, how does it feel seeing the book as a final product- published book?
Booth: I have to tell you, there were moments where this whole book concept really frustrated me to no end. It was a lot harder to write this baseball book than it was to write my first two books that I have in circulation. It was hard trying to write a novel based on a true story. Having said that, I am very happy that I completed this journey and have all of the memories of the trip chronicled and categorized, but most importantly that there are pictures of journey with my family and friends that will be forever cemented in literature.
MLB reports: The first part of “The Fastest 30” chronicles your two attempts to set the Guinness World Record for attending all 30 MLB parks in the shortest amount of time. Why this record Doug? Why did you want to reach this particular goal so badly?
Booth: The trip originally was going to be 48 states and 30 ballparks in 45 days, but once I had enough money stored for the trip I heard my inspirational ‘hero’ Jim Maclaren had been sidelined with a devastating injury-and his foundation was raising money for him. For those that have not read the book. I heard Jim interview on the ‘Jim Rome Show’ back in 2004. Jim was a quadripeligic motivational speaker who inspired others by his ‘choose life’ motto. It took Jim hours each day to do menial tasks, but he was at a place in his life where he was happiest because he made peace with himself. Each day he would defy the odds of doctors testing his own physical and mental fortitude. But his spirits had been dampened by an accident, and I wanted to do something. I investigated about the world record for this given category and found out the record at that time was 29 days. With some quick re-tooling, and armed with a drive to raise money for the Head North Foundation, (A charity championing the cause for spinal research) I was able to put a streak chase together that would use this charity as my motivation to break the World Record. Much like Jim, I would have to tests the limits of my physical and mental capabilities to pull this off.
MLB reports: After your first unsuccessful attempt at the record in 2008, was there a thought to taking a break or perhaps giving up? What motivated you try again so quickly- no burn out?
Booth: I chased the record for 41 days in the summer of 2008. I used up every ounce of my physical being, and tapped every resource of the money I had saved up in order to break the record. I had put forth a 30-29 record attempt-only to find out the record had been newly set that summer by a man Josh Robbins. The new streak record was 30 games in 26 days. I did not have to submit the record to Guinness because I was not even tied as the record holder anymore. It was all because I had a 3 day break for the All-Star Break that was unavoidable 2 weeks into my trip. I had booked off the time from work, and had bought countless plane fares, baseball tickets and hotels stays-so I was stuck with the 3 day break. That 3 day penalty, plus another day penalty I had received when I met my mother in Toronto, (instead of carrying onto Cleveland from Chicago for a game) when a plane was delayed to Toronto-thus killing my chance for to make it to the Rogers Center for first pitch. If you took those games off-I could have put a 30-25 streak submission up in the 1st year. I did complete 5 doubleheaders in the 29 day trip. It ate at me for 2 months until the schedule for 2009 came out. I saw a perfect schedule looming if it all worked out. When I put together the finances by April of 2009, I knew I had a shot at breaking the record. When an early season rainout added a 7th doubleheader attempt at Yankees Stadium for a 30-23 attempt, I knew I had an opportunity at history.
MLB reports: Please describe your feelings after you set your goal. Did you achieve fulfillment? Any other emotions kick-in post-record?
Booth: In contrast to 2008, when I felt empty and had a downward spiral for about 2-3 months, I was elated beyond control for setting the record on Aug.14/2009 at Comerica Park in Detroit. It was a 1-0 walk off homer by the hometown Tigers in the bottom of the ninth. In somewhat fitting circumstances to the journey’s end, fireworks were shot off at the park for what seemed like an eternity. I had a 10 hour drive back to my brother’s house in New Jersey the next day, during this time I contemplated what had taken place. For me, and this is what people could not understand because they could not fathom a trip of this magnitude-was that this was not the hardest part of the journey. It was the 308 days I had worked in a row in order to secure the money I needed, the rigorous schedule of 90 hour work weeks in which I battled the physical and mental fatigue-and all the times it looked bleak moving towards this , that was the hard part. Once I was out at the ballparks, I was in my world.
MLB reports: Looking back now, if you could do anything different from the second world record-setting journey, what would it be?
Booth: Not much, although I will always wonder what would have happened in Pittsburgh had I received a fluid sedan pick-up? I would have liked to have had the opportunity to make that 5:15 PM flight from the Pittsburgh Airport, leaving downtown at about 3:40 PM instead of 4:15 PM. I will tell you from that point on all of my transportation drivers were probably sick of me going over the game-plans of the pick-up/drop-off strategies.
MLB reports: The second part of the book is the Ballpark Chasers guide to all 30 MLB parks, with ratings. From your own experiences, what was your top five favorite MLB parks and why?
Booth: My top 5 parks in order are: 1. AT&T Park-because it is a beautiful park in the best city, and has the best food, climate and value out of all of the parks; 2. Yankee Stadium-I am a Yankees fan and nothing beats a game in the ‘Bronx’ with the fans. The steak sandwiches and Nathan’s hotdogs do a considerable amount for the park-while New York is also an awesome city to visit; 3. Wrigley Field-It is the best place to watch a game for just the game period. The Ivy, the scoreboard and the history and a little known fact, I spent more time there during the streaks than anywhere else; 4. Fenway Park-Even as a Yanks fan you have to marvel at the history of this Park. ‘The Green Monster’ is the best iconic visual of a Park anywhere in the majors; and 5. Busch Stadium-I enjoy the backdrop of the ‘Arch,’ the baseball fans in St. Louis are the classiest in the majors-and it was the only field I was interviewed on.
MLB reports: To let readers know, you had two other authors assist you with “The Fastest 30”. Why these two particular individuals? How did they get involved in the project?
Booth: My co-authors (Craig Landgren and Kenneth Lee) and I met online at http://www.ballparkchasers.com/ after the 1st streak chase in 2008. Over the course of the next year I would make my way onto the ballpark chaser scene in writing blogs, being involved in major discussions and talking about baseball. At first everyone did not know what to think of me because they had all followed Josh Robbins’30-26 trip. I had joined way after Josh at the site. Soon it would be that I gained some respect from Craig and Ken. Like me, Ken Lee has been to all 30 ballparks-and was most active with the other members. I asked him to help me chronicle my streak by writing blogs-and help post pictures/verify that I was legitimately at all of the parks for evidence reasons. We hit it off right away. It was nice to have a friend keep you motivated on this kind of record. When I decided to write the book I asked for Ken’s write-ups of the 2009 streak to be part of the novel. Craig Landgren is the founder of Ballpark Chasers. He has spent much time and devotion plying his craft of being a website master. The kind of information on all of the 30 parks come directly from all of the diligent work Craig has done in interacting with all of the members-and his own personal research. I knew the novel would be too short with just my streak attempts, and since I never spend too much time in one particular city, it was only natural that we enter this book as a partnership. I was able to add some of my own expertise to each ‘ballpark chaser guide’, so it made the work so much more rewarding. If you added all of our write-ups of expertise it made for a ‘super’ guide.
MLB reports: For readers that starting their own baseball trips, what advice would you give in “how to become a Ballpark Chaser?”
Booth: The first thing I recommend any potential chaser to do is sign up at www.ballparkchasers.com , we have some of the best traveling experts in North America offering free advice and information in a friendly manner. Ballpark Chasers also had a Facebook Group to sign up for. Also buy my book. I hope that is not too direct here, but honestly this book represents all of its members and people that have contributed to these guides via Thousands of games attended. Other than that, always budget $250-350 per road game, book your plane fares in advance, sign up for all of the MLB’ teams newsletters-that automatically send out ticket deals, learn your rewards programs for all of your car rentals, hotels and other travel partners. In addition to this, have a full schedule itinerary 24/7/168 time planner set out for your trip. Have backup plans for each city when it comes to weather, travel delays and fatigue. Doing a little bit of research goes a long way.
MLB reports: Doug, if you could do this all over again: would you? Was achieving the World Record worth the time, money, blood, sweat the tears that you invested in your journey?
Booth: Absolutely it was worth it. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t thank the game of baseball for molding me as a man in this journey-and also for the newly found friends I found. Baseball is truly the game that defines ‘pastime.’ I can’t think of another sport that can unify generations of families to be at the same place and same time. It is ageless and timeless. I have seen infant babies to a 100-year-old men and women at the game. Each of one of them at the game represents something different, but they all come for the experience. This journey has challenged me to rise up to the occasion and fight for what I believe in. I have a focus like I have never had ever before in my life.
MLB reports: What does the future hold for Doug Booth? Will we see any follow-ups to “The Fastest 30” and what are your goals professionally in the world of baseball?
Booth: I am putting together another ‘ultimate road concept’ in 2012-that will make my other baseball journeys seem like a kindergarten class for longevity. I implore anybody to follow my future journeys at my website www.fastestthirtyballgames.com. I also plan on asking MLB for a job, in firing up people in some kind of motivational capacity. I will be attending Broadcasting School in the near future and I will always continue to write about the game of baseball in some manner. My life as a ‘ballpark chaser’ has just started!
**The photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth**
*** Thank you to Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***
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