Fred Butler has been a baseball fan all his life. He will humbly tell you that his love of baseball is a result of the fact that he “played some ball”, though further study will reveal that he made a much greater commitment to the sport than just "some ball.”
Photo: Fred Butler at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
Mr. Butler grew up in Salem, Oregon. He decided to attend college close to home to make it more affordable. He chose Willamette College, earning a degree in business. While a college student, Mr. Butler was also a pitcher on the Willamette College baseball team.
After his time at Willamette, Mr. Butler spent a year in the military before taking a job with Guy F. Atkinson Construction. The company headquarters were in San Francisco and Fred spent a good deal of time in the Bay area. For the next thirty years, he travelled for work and enjoyed baseball as a Giants fan. He has been watching the Giants, he pointed out, since the days of Willie McCovey and Willie Mays. He roots for the Padres now, too, since owning a home in San Diego. After 30 years with Atkinson, he spent eleven years at the Manitowoc Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Fred’s daughter went to UOP, moved to Manitowoc, met her husband and they started Baileigh Industrial from scratch. Fred is now Chairman of the Board of Baileigh and his son in law is the Chief Executive officer.
Several years ago, Fred and “another chap” entertained the idea of visiting all 30 Major League Baseball parks. They didn’t just want to visit the parks, but actually attend a game. Visiting the parks would be easier, because if the team is away, most ballparks offer guided tours of their stadium. Fred and his friend egged each other on and finally, in 2006, they started their quest. They had made it through about 12 or so parks when Fred’s companion had to attend to family commitments. Fred put the bucket list item on hold for some three years. When it became evident that his friend would not be able to finish with him, Mr. Butler resumed what he started. His son-in-law attended some games with him, and Fred's wife of 48 years, Karen, attended about a dozen outings with him.
Coronado homeowner Fred Butler and his son in law, Stephan Nordstrom, President/CEO of Baileigh Industries.
Mr. Butler told me numerous times that his journey was no big deal because lots of people have done it. Some people may think it's crazy, but if you love baseball and appreciate the game, you understand the journey Fred has spent his time chasing for the last several years. The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, the singing of the National Anthem, the smell of popcorn and hotdogs, beer and cotton candy, the skill of the players and strategy, statistics, and history of the game are just some of the things that draw people to baseball.
So, how does one go about planning trips to some 30 different ball parks? Mr. Butler shared that the primary plan was to fit as many visits into one trip as he could. This multi ball park visit approach decreases transportation costs. The trip planning, however, was a “constant juggling act”. The biggest challenge in executing a plan was working around the schedules of all the different Major League baseball clubs. He tried to combine each trip with additional “side” visits, too. Last spring, for example, he and Karen set out to watch games in Tampa, Miami and Atlanta. They enjoyed their games in Tampa and Miami, but spent three days with a nephew in Tampa (and enjoyed Fred’s favorite steak house) while waiting for the Braves to return home. They did make it to the Braves game and visited a niece in Atlanta too.
Another trip, Mr. Butler saw the Brewers play at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois; and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan but couldn't see the Chicago White Sox because they weren't in town!
Some of the main challenges of such a quest revolve around logistics. Mr. Butler is quick to say he would do it all over again, but the second time around would be better because he learned a great deal from the experience. He made a lot of mistakes, but certainly learned about planning ball park outings. Finding a hotel close to each ballpark proved a grand challenge. Arriving in St. Louis on one occasion, Mr. Butler realized the hotel he booked, which had marketed itself as “near the ballpark” was clear across the river. He booked something closer right then and there!
Coronado residents can avoid traffic on the way to Petco Park (far left) by taking the ferry across San Diego bay.
Another large challenge is finances. It is not an inexpensive endeavor to travel, book a hotel, pay for tickets to a ball game and eat too. One has to be prepared to spend a good deal of money. The greatest challenge, however, was just sticking with it.
Mr. Butler didn’t simply attend games at each stadium. He and his friend developed a rating system for the ballparks. They would judge things like general layout of the park, scorecard the team provides, friendliness of the park employees, the way the National Anthem is sung, location of the bullpens, presentation of the scoreboard, etc. It is Mr. Butler’s opinion that the bullpens (where the pitchers do their warm up) should be out of the way and some are still located on the playing field. A bullpen on the playing field decreases the overall score of the park. A scoreboard with “too much fluff” will also downgrade the experience. A spectator wants to easily find the pitch count, pitch speed, balls and strikes, outs. Too many advertisements on the scoreboard equals a lower score.
The last park Mr. Butler visited, Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Indians, lost points because the entire time he was there he couldn’t locate the pitch speed on the scoreboard.
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California boasts the largest seating capacity in the major leagues at 56,000.
Another thing Mr. Butler rated was the hot dogs. In his opinion, the best hot dog in baseball is at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the Twins. His favorite overall meal, however, was at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. There was an older couple selling from a cooler of brisket that was cooked “just right.”
Ball parks that stood out include Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was “beautiful and open. You can see the playing field all the way around!” The Cincinnati Reds Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio is “very nice” as is Marlins Park in Miami, Florida.
One thing Mr. Butler wishes they had rated, but didn’t, is the best value/best for the money experience. The best value he experienced was at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, also commonly called the Oakland Coliseum. The stadium is old, but he paid $29 per ticket and “the price included a beautiful seat above first base and a full meal with drink.” The home of the Oakland Athletics is the only multi-purpose stadium left in the United States that acts as the full time home to both a baseball team and a professional football team (Oakland Raiders).
AT&T park is home to the San Francisco Giants.
Fred said that where he sat in the ballparks didn’t have a huge effect on his impression of the ballpark. In Miami he was a row behind the visiting team dugout and in about the same place in Philly too. He didn’t have very good seats in Cincinnati, but gave that stadium a very high rating. At each ballpark, Fred bought a home team regulation ball cap. He has his souvenirs lined up on a shelf in his office.
Fred and Karen travel three or four times a year. They spend a little less than half their time at their home in the Cays. They spend the rest in Nevada. They found their home in the Cays by accident. They were originally looking around Pt. Loma and Shelter Island. Karen’s parents lived in Rancho Bernardo and had friends in the Cays. Fred and Karen visited and knew the Cays was perfect for what they wanted. Fred loves to sail and says that this is “a nice place to do that since you can keep your boat in your backyard.” Their dog, Mate, loves Coronado as well. He is a regular at the Cays dog park and loves to play ball. You could say it runs in the family.
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Photos of Mr. Butler courtesy of Mr. Steve Wronkowski.
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