By Ben Leeds / Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a sports fanatic. This addiction undoubtedly comes from my dad. He loves playing and watching sports as well, and early on he wanted to use it as a way to bond with me. For my entire childhood, we watched games together, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, or hockey.
My dad is a proud New York sports fan, who roots for the Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Rangers. I take after him, rooting for all of the same teams. I maintained this love of sports as I grew up, knowing it would be something I wanted to further pursue with him, and as a career one day.
In 2017, my dad came up with a bucket list for us, involving going to baseball games together. In MLB, there are 30 stadiums, with each team having its own. While he could have done this with any sport, baseball was the perfect choice for a few reasons. For one, the majority of the season takes place during the summer. This allowed us to go when the weather was warm, and I didn’t have to worry about missing school.
Additionally, baseball is also the only sport where the dimensions of each field are different, based on the stadium. This makes for many distinctive features, unique to each park. There is also a historic aspect to the sport. Founded over 150 years ago, there are some parks that are over a hundred years old, including Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Over the years, we had been at a few stadiums near our home in Connecticut together. We had gone to both the Yankees and Mets parks, as well as the Baltimore Orioles’. With our new bucket list, we were excited to expand to new cities we otherwise would not visit. We had a lot of work to do, and we got started right away.
While planning a family trip to Niagara Falls in the summer of 2017, my dad and I were quick to suggest a detour to Toronto to catch a ball game. My mom and my sister Sophie agreed, and on game day my dad and I got there when the gates opened, two hours early. We watched the teams warm up and explored the stadium as we waited for the game to begin. My mom and sister came at game time, and the four of us had a blast watching the game together. It was a fun experience, seeing a new park in a new city. My dad and I were hooked for more.
Rather quickly, we went to all the parks within driving distance of our home. The rest of the parks required either a road trip or a plane ride. One of the most memorable ones was American Family Field, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. For my dad’s 50th birthday, his gift was a trip for him and me to fly to Wisconsin for a weekend. We went to a Brewers game on Saturday, then even went to a football game at the historic Lambeau Field on Sunday.
In the summer of 2018, we were once again able to incorporate some parks into a family trip. On a vacation to Northern California, my dad and I crossed two more stadiums off our list, visiting the Colosseum in Oakland and Oracle Park in San Francisco. Our mission was going great; after about two years we had been to nine of 30 parks together, checking off nearly all of the nearby ones.
Our first true road trip together came one summer later, where we visited PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Progressive Field in Cleveland. The trip generated a lot of fun memories beyond just new baseball stadiums. We saw a Yankees minor league game in Scranton, visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and even had to check into a very rundown motel late one night somewhere in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. We were having awesome experiences together through these trips, exploring different parts of the United States.
Before we could plan another trip together, though, the pandemic put a halt in our mission to travel the country. With no fans allowed in stadiums for the 2020 season and airports and travel being very iffy in 2021, we went two years with our plans on hold.
After I graduated from high school in Trumbull, Conn in June, 2022, we were finally able to get back out there. We went on an amazing trip to the Midwest, seeing games in both Kansas City, Mo. and St. Louis. In Kansas City, we visited the Negro League Museum, a cool piece of baseball and American history. While in St. Louis, we went to see the famous Gateway Arch, which was truly an incredible sight to see. It was great to finally get back on the road with my dad after the pandemic had left us on pause for a little bit.
Looking forward to the summer of 2023, we are already finalizing plans on our next trip, this one to Chicago. Like New York, Chicago has two separate teams, the White Sox and the Cubs. We are both excited to take a look at the city as well, including the famous Willis Tower (previously known as the Sears Tower), and “The Bean” sculpture.
What started as a bucket list for just baseball stadiums, has turned into much more over the years. I have been so lucky to see different parts of the country I otherwise would not have, and to have done it with my dad. The trips have made us much closer, and it is definitely something I want to do when I have kids of my own someday.
Last. April, I decided to attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. While some people struggle with choosing a major, my choice came easily due to my love of sports. I decided to major in communication, with a concentration in public relations and sports communication. For me, this was my best way to get involved professionally in the sports world.
In my first few weeks at Marist, I was lucky enough to land a job on the school's event staff. I would attend the school's Division I games and do an array of tasks. I helped set up the venue before the game or cleaned it up after, ushered the stands, or even was the ball boy for some games. While the job did get me near the action, I wanted to get even more involved.
This January, at the start of my second semester at Marist, I joined Center Field, Marist’s student-run online publication website for all things Marist sports. They were very welcoming to me, allowing me to write some stories just shortly after I joined. Overall, it has been a great experience discovering what journalism truly is like behind the scenes. I am very grateful for all of the awesome writers I have met so far at Center Field, and I am enjoying learning from them.
Recently, I found out that as of this August, I will be on the website’s editorial board, which I am super-excited about. As my first year at Marist comes to a close, I am proud of all that I have accomplished. I have taken some important steps to further my career in sports, and I am excited to see what's in store for me going forward. Stay tuned, sports fans!