Above: Dekalb librarian Greg Hutchinson visits ballparks across the U.S. Here he displays part of his collection of postcards showing baseball stadiums. Photo by Joe Earle.
Greg Hutchinson grew up in a small Pennsylvania town about 35 miles from Pittsburgh. As a boy, he loved baseball. He played Little League and remembers wild games of Nerf baseball in a cousin’s basement. Needless to say, he was a Pirates fan.
He started watching the Pirates play on TV. It didn’t take long before he wanted to see a game in person. By the time he was 9, he stayed at wake at night thinking about going to a game.
“I remember getting out of bed one night—I couldn’t sleep—and going to talk to my mother and saying, ‘When am I going to get to go to a baseball game?’”
His grandmother took him to see his first game. “That lit a fuse under me. Every year on my birthday we’d go to a [game].”
Those games were at Forbes Field, the Pirates’ home for much of the 20th century, from 1909 until 1970. Since then, Hutchinson has seen the Pirates play in two other Pittsburgh ballparks, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park.
Pittsburgh’s stadiums were just the beginning. Through the years, Hutchinson, now a DeKalb County reference librarian, has wanted to see games in as many major league ballparks as he can as he’s traveled the country.
“It’s just a situational sort of thing,” he said one recent evening as he sat in a Decatur tavern wearing an old-fashioned Pirates hat. “If we were traveling somewhere, we might go see a game.”
Or he and his friends or family might travel somewhere just to see a game or two in a different stadium or two. Hutchinson has watched baseball games on fields scattered across the country, from Fenway Park in Boston to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
He’s seen games played on historic fields and in newly opened ones. He figures that counting current and past parks, he’s watched games played in something like 43 major league ballparks. The major leagues contain only 30 teams.
He still has a half dozen or so ballparks to go to complete his list. And teams keep tearing down old ballparks and building new ones, so his quest to see them all never quite seems to end.
Since he’s lived in metro Atlanta, the Braves have placed three ballparks on his life list: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field and Truist Park. He roots for the Braves, unless they’re playing the Pirates. “I liked Turner Field,” he said, but he admits the new park “kind of feels claustrophobic.”
He’s visited some storied stadiums that no longer exist. He says he saw the next-to-last game played at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. That was the first time he’d traveled just to see a stadium.
And he realized he wasn’t the only person with an interest in visiting various ballparks. “On the flight back, there must have a dozen other guys wearing their Tiger caps from the game,” he said.
Now, in addition to going to games and picking up a hat or some other souvenir, Hutchinson collects postcards of baseball parks. He keeps scores of them in an album. He’s accumulated images of parks he’s seen and ones that were torn down long before he had the chance to buy a ticket there.
Last year, Hutchinson add one more park to his list. He saw his first game at Coors Field in Denver. He said he doesn’t have any plans yet to travel to a new park this year, but he’s sure he’ll get in a Braves game or two and perhaps one at a nearby minor league ballpark. “I’ll definitely keep my hand in,” he said.
His favorite ballpark of them all? Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. “I’ve always had a good time being there,” he said. “They take care of the fans.”
The worst? The old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. “It was just cavernous,” Hutchinson said. “It looked there was nobody at all in the [stands], it was so big.”
What’s the appeal of traveling around the country seeing baseball games and baseball parks? The chance to make memories, he said. Baseball and its ballparks can provide indelible memories, like the time he saw Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente hit a homer or the time he got to walk on the ballfield at Forbes Field because the ball club let fans exit through an outfield gate.
“There’s a lot more nostalgia in baseball than in other sports,” he said. “I think, in part, just because I’m a big fan, I want to see the games [played in different parks]. A lot of stadiums have personalities. There’re things that some people think about Fulton County [Stadium] and the baseball games they saw there that they may not think about the Falcons [Atlanta’s football team, which also once played there].
Every ballpark—in fact, every game—offers a chance to see something new, he said. “One of the things about baseball stadiums is there is always a potential for a memory you’re going to have forever. It doesn’t always happen, but the potential is there.”