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Local fan visits all 30 MLB parks

Johnny Wilson points out pins and photos from the baseball fields he and his wife Ruth have visited. He has been to all 30 Major League Baseball parks. Along the way, Wilson has seen 3 World Series games and has been to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Wilson is a lifelong baseball fan and is a former Scrapper baseball coach.
Johnny Wilson displays photos of some of the 30 MLB parks he has visited.
Johnny Wilson displays photos of some of the 30 MLB parks he has visited.

By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

The number “30” has lots of different meanings.

For many decades in newspapers, -30- was placed at the end of a story to show typesetters that it was finished.

For some, especially in the 1960s and early ‘70s, it marked a generational clash, as in “Never trust anyone over 30.”

For Johnny Wilson of Nashville, 30 means that a goal has been reached, in this case a baseball goal.

Wilson, you see, has visited all 30 Major League Baseball parks. Many fans are content to visit two or three if they’re lucky. Wilson has seen all of them.

“I didn’t start to do this,” Wilson said of his journey. He’s been a baseball fan all his life and is a former coach of Scrapper baseball.

Wilson attended games at St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, then Kansas City and Atlanta. He went to Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“I never went to Cooperstown” in New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, until a few years ago. “Since then, I’ve been four times,” Wilson said.

He’s been to Hall of Fame inductions, including 2007 when Cal Ripkin Jr. was inducted.

Wilson’s trips to the far-flung MLB stadiums began in 2006. “I found Diamond Baseball Tours in Kentucky,” he said. Dan Lindsey, who operates the company, “Is an educator and coach,” something in common with Wilson.

Diamond offers five or six tours per year, Wilson said, with most lasting 7-9 days. “It’s really intensive. You may go to 6-8 cities in 8 days.”

On one of Wilson’s early tours, stops included Cleveland, Philadelphia, Yankee Stadium in New York, Boston, Cooperstown and back to Cleveland. “He does everything,” Wilson said of Lindsey.

The group included “45 baseball nerds on a bus,” Wilson said.

After visiting those parks, Wilson headed in a different direction. “It was two years later. I’d never been to California or the Grand Canyon. We had one day for something besides baseball.”

The “West Coast swing,” as Wilson calls it, began with a flight to Las Vegas. From there, the journey took the group to San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to see the Angels and Dodgers. And, the travelers went to the Grand Canyon, “all in a 9-day period. It was pretty intense.”

After the trip out West, “I still didn’t have any idea of doing all of them,” Wilson said of the stadiums. “Seattle and the others were kind of out of the way.”

In 2010, Wilson and his wife Ruth flew to Baltimore and drove to New York City. Afterward, he decided “to go see them all.”

The Wilsons and friends Jim and Paige Todd, who live near St. Louis, “did a road trip” in 2011. They went to Niagra Falls, then on to Toronto for a game. They came back through Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee.

The quest later took them on a cruise to Alaska, with baseball games worked in at Seattle and Denver.

Finally, Wilson narrowed the list down to three – Minnesota, Miami and Tampa.

Ruth Wilson holds some of the scorebooks she has kept at Major League Baseball games. The Wilsons have gone on MLB bus tours and have traveled on their own.
Ruth Wilson holds some of the scorebooks she has kept at Major League Baseball games. The Wilsons have gone on MLB bus tours and have traveled on their own.

“I told Ruth we might as well finish it out,” Wilson said.

In 2013, the Wilsons visited Mt. Rushmore and “veered off to Minnesota” to watch the Twins. “We did the mall too,” he said, referring to the Mall of America at Minneapolis.

After that, it was time for Florida. In 2014, the Wilsons went to New Orleans, where they went on a plantation tour, then on to their last two parks.

“We flew to Tampa, rented a car, went to the Everglades, saw Miami then Tampa,” Wilson said.

Looking back on his travels, Wilson noted that “up to 2007, I’d been to 5 or 6 parks. It got started with two baseball tours. You have to be a baseball person to do it.”

Wilson has seen good and bad parks along the way. “The worst 2 were Oakland and Tampa Bay, with Tampa Bay the worst,” he said. “Oakland was one of the few multi-purpose stadiums.”

Wilson’s favorites – “The new Busch Stadium at St. Louis. It’s really nice, and it’s close to the Arch. My favorites out of St. Louis are Pittsburgh and San Francisco,” he said.

The Wilsons have visited “a lot of neat parks. Baltimore and Arlington are modern but have the old-time brick facade. Wrigley and Fenway are old.”

All of the parks are different, Wilson said. “The newer ones since 1995 are very convenient with big concourses. The walkways at the old ones are narrow and enclosed. I’ve seen them 12 feet wide and dark. The new ones are open and wide.”

Out of the 30 parks, “I’ve seen 22 or 23 since 2007. I got on a baseball roll,” Wilson said.

His trips have taken him to the World Series three times, including two games involving his beloved St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2006, he saw them play Detroit in Game 3 at St. Louis.

Wilson and former Coach Frank Puryear went to Dallas to see the Cardinals and Rangers in 2010.

In 2011, the Cardinals faced the Rangers at Dallas.

Ruth keeps a scorebook at every game, Wilson said.

The scorebooks are part of the baseball memorabilia at their home.

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