A family of four, enjoying a warm summer evening at Busch Stadium, watching batting practice before the Cardinals game against the Pirates. Nothing unusual about that.
Except this family – Steve Haferkamp, his wife Dayna, and sons Grant (11) and Jack (soon to be 9) – had just arrived at the stadium in time for the game, driving from the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky. Oh, and they were in Detroit before that for a Tigers game. And did they mention that after taking in a pair of games in St. Louis, they were headed to Kansas City for two games? And after that, of course, the “Field of Dreams” in Iowa?
What would be unusual for the Haferkamps, actually, would be if they spent a summer evening somewhere besides a big-league stadium. With their arrival in St. Louis on July 8, Busch Stadium became the twenty-ninth ballpark the San Diego-based family has visited.
“It started in 2009,” Steve explained, “when our son was asked to be the ‘Play Ball’ kid at a Padres game.” (A Padres program that allows a youngster to announce “Play Ball” before the start of a home game). “And the next day, the kids said, “Let’s hit ’em all.” So we decided to make that our family vacations.”
Baseballs and markers (for autographs), and the occasional costume piece or prop (just for fun), have become staple supplies as the Haferkamps log one stadium after another into the books – literally. With each stadium they visit, they receive a stamp in their “Ballpark Pass-Port,” a leather-bound journal that chronicles their voyage through the majors.
Showing the savvy of a pair of veteran baseball road-trippers, Grant and Jack followed up on autographs from the Cardinals’ Jon Jay and Allen Craig by donning a pair of Pirates jerseys and black-and-yellow wigs, good enough to land an autograph and photo from Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.
Somewhat divided in their opinions of the best ballpark in the majors – though a common highlight remains their good luck last July, when they watched the Reds’ Homer Bailey throw a no-hitter at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark – the family remains united as they approach the achievement of a lofty goal: seeing a game in every ballpark. It’s a journey that has required two trips to Miami – first at the Marlins’ Joe Robbie Stadium, then at the new Marlins Park after it opened in 2012.
They’ve learned some lessons along the way. “We encourage going two nights per stadium, because you get a better feel for the stadium that way,” Haferkamp said. More important, though: “Another thing we make sure the kids do is say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ to the players when they get autographs, because the players don’t have to stop.”
Five years, 29 stadiums. Let’s see: counting the two Miami stadiums, that makes 31 big-league ballparks, and so only two left unseen.
One of the two, Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, is up next on the Haferkamps’ current itinerary. And the last remaining stop in the family’s journey in the Baseball Passport? Couldn’t be more perfect. After two games at Busch, a visit to Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, and that side-trip to the Field of Dreams, the last stamp in the Haferkamp family’s Baseball Pass-Port will come even further north, when they visit ballpark number 31 – Target Field in Minneapolis, for the 2014 All-Star Game.