Sports

Chuck Booth's MLB odyssey across America is a renewal and a hoot

Moses had his desert. Magellan had the high seas. Chuck Booth, less renowned but equally driven, has more than 200 baseball games to conquer — one or two a day, across all 30 MLB opera houses in the course of a single season.

This week, he was in Anaheim to notch three Angels games. On Wednesday, after his getaway game in the afternoon, he raced to the airport to catch a flight to San Francisco, where he would take in the evening game at AT&T Park (games 97 and 98 in his season-long quest).

"Why?" you ask. Or, "How?" We'll get to that. To fully appreciate Booth's 200-plus game journey across America, keep in mind he is doing this consecutively, at least one game a day up to the All-Star break, then at least one game a day until the end of the regular season.

Such a task seems nearly biblical, especially given the $100-a-day budget he's set for himself: tickets, transit, lodging, Alka-Seltzer and all.

Look, you've got to love baseball to play baseball. And you've got to love it maybe a little too much to commit to something like this. Just think of all the stale pop music Booth has had to endure ... the flat beer, the not-so-hot hot dogs. Add to that the parking hassles, flight delays, rental car snafus....

Even if you live, drink and breathe baseball, doesn't it get old?

"It's better than work, explains Booth, a 38-year-old Vancouver, Canada, native. "It's still better to go to a baseball game than the office."

The odyssey is part vocation for Booth, part therapy. This hyper-tour gives him fodder for a baseball blog he owns called MLBreports.com (he is not affiliated with or subsidized by Major League Baseball).

His cross-country trip is also part of a spiritual renewal after a devastating hit-and-run accident that nearly put him on the DL for good in 2010.

Dealing with the remnants of a concussion, plus head trauma issues from his own playing days in baseball and football, the trip forces him to stay mentally focused. In the end, baseball's marathon man sees in this as a way to fight off the forgetfulness that often dogs him, and a way to raise concussion awareness.

Besides, it's just a hoot.

On a similar jaunt in 2012, Booth says, he set a record by taking in all 30 parks in 23 days: This has turned him into one of the game's best authorities on the fan experience.

Favorite ballpark: AT&T.

Favorite food: Boog's prime rib barbecue sandwich in Baltimore.

Honorable mentions: cheesesteak in Philly and the pork chop on a stick in Minneapolis.

Least favorite cities: Houston, then Toronto.

Items that add ambience: friendly fans, red brick, organ music, Wi-Fi, vendors who stay out of the way, signage that honors a team's past accomplishments.

At a total budget of $22,500 for his tour, this seems a viable bucket list item for a single super fan with a sense of adventure. But would you ever? And what would your family think?

"They used to think it was crazy," Booth admits. "But once they saw what it did for me as a person ... having my own website and all, they see the merits of it now."

Such a trip seems gluttonous in some ways, in others not. Booth's travel secrets include scouting free parking near stadiums and taking advantage of StubHub discounts. He also brings his own water to games, then adds powdered lemonade. Relying on Megabus.com, he took 150 bus trips in the East that cost him a total of $250.

It's all part of an effort to stay within his $100-a-day budget.

In August, he's back for a Dodgers homestand, where he will take advantage of the all-you-can-eat deal with a group of buddies.

To catch a game with Booth is to hear stories of the road, thoughts on trades, theories on how no one should ever play catcher (it left him with gimpy knees).

It's also a chance to breathe deep a ballpark, take in its musk, sonics, visuals, vibe.

But hanging with Booth reminds us that the best part of baseball — the most cerebral of all the sporting arts — is how it can get you out of your own head.

During a rally Tuesday night, fans throughout the stadium held up their lighted phones. Suddenly, it was as if the stadium had filled with fireflies.

"Wow, is that cool!" gasped Booth, who hadn't seen anything like it in his nearly 100 stadium stops.

In that quirky aside, baseball's Moses had found his moment.

Follow Chris Erskine on Twitter @erskinetimes

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
68°