Eugene White, senior and junior, with the Orioles' Luke Scott in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. | Courtesy Eugene White

For many fathers and sons, attending a baseball game at a Major League ballpark is an American rite of passage.

Eugene White and his son, Eugene Jr., have taken that rite a step further.

Over the course of the past nine years, the Whites have attended at least one game at the home of all 30 Major League teams. They have been to 32 parks, counting both old and new Yankee Stadium in New York and RFK Stadium and Nationals Park in Washington.

It began with a trip to Milwaukee when Eugene Jr. was 8 and ended last summer when they saw a Texas Rangers game in Arlington.

“It was great,” White Jr. said. “Not many people get to do that.”

White Jr. graduated in May from Oak Park and River Forest High School where he was on the baseball team and also sports editor of the student newspaper.

Ironically, baseball was not always his thing.

“I had a disability with my eyes,” he said. “After I got surgery on them, I was able to see the ball a lot better and get into sports more. Before that, I hated sports. I hated going to practice and games.

“But I loved baseball. Eventually we started going to games. My sister [Anna] was a big White Sox fan and then I transferred over to being a Cubs fan after the 2005 World Series and that’s where it took off.”

The younger White doesn’t remember much from his first out-of-town foray, a Brewers game in Milwaukee.

“The first park, I wasn’t aware of what was going on,” White Jr. said. “I was along for the ride.

“It didn’t hit me until I started getting older and realizing what this meant because as I grew up, it was kind of this constant thing in my life that was nothing out of the ordinary whereas people looking in from the outside were like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of crazy.'”

The elder White, who is a house painter, got the idea to try to see all 30 parks from the McKune family, which has significant ties to local baseball history.

Pat McKune pitched for OPRF’s 1981 state title team and his son, Joe, was a pitcher on the Huskies’ 2012 state championship team. White Sr., who has a painting business, worked on their house.

“[Pat] and his wife started taking their son to different parks and she was telling me about it,” White Sr., said. “I thought, ‘That’s a great idea.’

“I asked Eugene when he was 7 years old if he wanted to do it and he said, ‘Of course.’ The McKunes did maybe 15 or so. [Eugene] and I just kept going.”

Father and son did not bond solely over baseball. They saw the local sights wherever they went, beginning with the first trip to Milwaukee when they attended Summerfest.

Subsequent trips have taken the pair to a slew of national parks, including Acadia, Arches, Rocky Mountain, Redwoods and Olympic. They’ve also seen Mt. Rainier and the Grand Canyon.

“We made sure that when we went to the different parks, that we’d see different things in the area,” White Sr. said. “When we flew to Seattle, we drove down to San Francisco, went to Redwood National Park and Muir Woods, then went to games in San Francisco and Oakland.

“I think [seeing the sights] is important when you go places because if it was up to him, when he was younger it would just be ballparks every day.”

Now that he’s older and understands the meaning, White Jr. is grateful for his father’s policy.

“Probably the most vivid memory I have from doing that part of the trip was when we to New York,” he said. “We went up to Cooperstown and to Acadia National Park in Maine and then went to Boston.”

The Whites took their time in their travels as they drove to 23 of the parks. Not all of the trips were planned.

“The funny part was the first time we went to Washington, to RFK Stadium,” White Jr. recalled, “I had just woken up and he said, ‘Hey, do you want to go to RFK Stadium [to see] the Nationals? We could drive right now.’

“So we left about two hours later and we were on our way. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

The Whites spent most of that trip on the road, but on a subsequent trip to Washington D.C., they saw Mt. Vernon, the Smithsonian and other museums.

As memorable as the cultural and nature adventures were, baseball was the primary focus and the Whites have seen their share of historic moments, both thrilling and disappointing.

They were at Yankee Stadium to witness Alex Rodriguez’s 500th career home run and in the stands in Houston when the White Sox beat the Astros in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series, clinching their first world championship since 1917.

On the flip side, they saw the Cubs lose games 6 and 7 of the 2003 National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins at Wrigley. Fortunately for White Jr., he was too young to remember that.

Ask the Whites to rate the different parks and they agree on some things and differ on others. Both rate AT&T Park in San Francisco as having the best food and they concur that U.S. Cellular Field is the best place to get autographs.

White Sr. said San Francisco is his favorite park, followed by San Diego and Baltimore. But for his son, there is no place like home.

“Wrigley has just got this homey kind of feel to it,” White Jr. said. “You see every park once and then you realize the park you see the most is the best one.”

The Whites may differ on that point but they agree that every day they spend together at the ballpark is a good one, no matter what city they are in or which teams are playing.

“It was just a great experience,” White Sr. said. “I think it made us really close. I’m definitely going to miss it.”

The younger White leaves Thursday to attend the University of Illinois, where he plans to major in journalism and minor in business. He’d love to be a sports writer but thinks public relations will be a more practical field for him.

While the Whites have completed their tour of ballparks, they still plan to attend plenty of games together in the future.

White Sr. is hoping to get World Series tickets if the Cubs win the pennant. If that happens, he expects his son to take a couple days off school to head to the Friendly Confines.

“We’ve done all of the parks,” White Jr. said, “but [a Cubs World Series game] is one of the last things that we need to get accomplished.”

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