It’s easy to forget here in the cold and snowy early days of February, but baseball season is closer than you think. With pitchers and catchers on the verge of reporting, it is almost time for spring training. Before you know it, it’s April and baseball’s back.
And so is Josh Pahigian.
Pahigian is one of the best there is when it comes to baseball-related travel writing. His latest offering is “The Amazing Baseball Adventure: Ballpark Wonders from the Bushes to the Show” (Lyons Press, $19.95), a collection of 101 interesting aspects of ballparks from all across the spectrum. Minor league parks and major league stadiums alike; Pahigian takes the reader on a tour like no other.
With sharp photos to accompany its thoughtful and concise descriptions, the book allows the reader a quick and easy tour of some fascinating people, places and things.
The people are mascots (the San Diego Chicken; the Phillie Phanatic) and fan subsets (Oakland’s bleacher diehards; the New York Yankees roll call). There’s even the guy who has been drumming in the Cleveland bleachers for years, rooting on the Indians.
There are minor league parks where scoreboards are guitars or dragons. There are fields that feature oil derricks (Tulsa) and snorting bulls (Durham), parks that are overlooked by roller coasters (Altoona) and Ferris wheels (Quad Cities). There’s even one (Visalia) where part of the left field wall is a red barn. Like, you’re literally hitting the broad side of a barn.
There are looks at unique seats and seating, as well as plenty of stadium decoration. Some of the features are buildings that pre-date the stadium and have been incorporated into the overall aesthetic – often with stunning results. There are also a handful defined by the view, impressive vistas man-made and natural alike.
(Note: Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs, pops up twice on this list – once for the 16-foot lighthouse that rises up following every Sea Dogs home run and every win, and once for the “Maine Monster,” the left field wall that drew inspiration from the famed Green Monster at the parent club’s Fenway Park.)
In addition to the 101 wonders, Pahigian offers a handful of historical interludes. Each “Blast from the Past” looks back at a bygone ballpark wonder, talking about characters and promotions and stadiums prominent in the game’s history.
While the collection of big-league stuff is definitely interesting, the book is at its best when Pahigian dips into the minors. The sprawling nationwide nature of minor league baseball allows for a lot more in the way of regionally-inspired quirks. There’s plenty of stuff to look at when you’re in an MLB stadium; it’s the unexpected off-the-beaten-path wonders that truly delight.
And while Pahigian is focused on sharing his wonders, he is also conscientious about offering up related
“The Amazing Ballpark Adventure” makes for a handy travel guide, to be sure. But even if you’re not the type to for a baseball road trip, there’s a lot to like here. Lovers of the game will love the opportunity to glimpse bits and pieces of baseball’s regional uniqueness; it’s a chance to get an idea of the sport’s aesthetics as seen from another fan’s seat. And with baseball season fast approaching, many of those seats are soon to be taken.
So why not go on an adventure with Josh Pahigian? He’s proven to be a first-rate hardball tour guide in the past; this book is one more example of just how good he is. Nobody captures the in-person spirit of the game quite like him.