Take me out to the ballparks

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Let's see here, it can't be that many. Two, of course … where else? Three, yes, three.

At first I thought it was just a mere three, but then it struck me that I saw the Cubs play at Shea Stadium on Latin Night during a road trip with some friends out East to see a Springsteen concert. So that brings it to four. Yeah, four. That's weak, just four. 

Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, U.S. Cellular, Shea Stadium … ugh … No, not four! I've been to the airplane hangar that is Chase Field in Arizona, formally the BOB or Bank One Ballpark. That's five. Yep, five it is. That's pretty sad, too, just five ballparks in 39 years. Wait a minute … I've been out to Colorado, saw the Cubs lose there once, too. Yeah, Coors Field. Make that six! Still sad. Six ballparks.

Old Tiger Stadium! That beautiful, decrepit stadium where air went to die! I was there. Seven, seven ballparks. That's it, pretty sure anyway.

Why am I racking my brain over this? Because Oak Parker Craig Mindrum and his daughter Jennifer have been to 31 ballparks.  

The pact began when Jennifer, an ardent baseball fan and former OPRF High School softball player, was 8 years old. The plan was to see every Major League Baseball team play in its home park. Two weeks ago, Craig and Jennifer, who is now 22, accomplished their goal by taking in a Rangers game in Arlington, Texas. While it's been done before by others — and in much shorter time than 14 years — this accomplishment for the Mindrums has been personally rewarding.

"It's really been a great way for Jennifer and me to stay connected as she's grown up," says Craig. "There are people who have done this in one season, so it's not that big a deal, but to us it's a memory we'll have forever. And it's been a real hoot."

It began here in Chicago, Jennifer being a die-hard Cubs fan. Planned around out-of-state softball games with her former club team, they knocked off the California parks early on. They were at Olympic Stadium in Montreal before the Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals. They saw the final game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. They sat in seats at old Yankee Stadium, Shea and that monstrosity called the Metrodome in Minnesota.

Craig says the best modern ballpark at which they took in a game was "by far Camden Yards [Baltimore]. You can get a crabcake sandwich delivered to your seat!"

They saw the Cubs lose Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2003. "That was a long, silent walk back to the car," remembers Craig.

Jennifer, who recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, is now in the UK at Cambridge, getting her master's. She plans to enroll in law school.

So what's next for father and daughter? "Well, Jennifer keeps telling me we still have to visit the eight new ballparks that went up during our excursion, so we'll have to find some time for that."

Play ball!

Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports 

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