BASEBALL: Minnetonka MLB fan, 70, plans to touch 'em allItinerary: t30 major-league ballparks from April 27 to July 18
"I'd been thinking about this for about 15 years, and when I turned 70 last November, I said, 'There are some things you should really get done,'" Jerry Haugen said. "My wife [Sally] said OK," he added with a smile.
By: Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) / MCT
Spring is coming, and then summer. If you are so worn down by winter that you doubt me, I would like to introduce you to Jerry Haugen of Minnetonka, who is as much an arbiter of seasonal change as the red robin and the crocus.
Haugen, 70, is so sure that warm weather is inevitable in April that he has been dreaming about this spring for years, and planning for it for about three. Starting April 27, Haugen will begin a largely solitary road trip, or series of road trips, to visit every major league baseball park in the country, a bucket-list adventure that is a marvel of logistics.
Sitting in his basement Tuesday, Haugen fanned out a stack of manila folders that make up what I will call The Plan, a document that in its complexity might rival a battlefield strategy or a schematic for an airline.
"Now," he said with the excitement of a teenager, "where is my spreadsheet?"
Haugen has been a baseball fan since he was 6 years old and attended a White Sox-Tigers game at Comiskey Field. Growing up in Decorah, Iowa, he was a pretty decent high school player, and he still plays on a senior softball team.
"I'd been thinking about this for about 15 years, and when I turned 70 last November, I said, 'There are some things you should really get done.'
"My wife [Sally] said OK," he added with a smile.
A few years ago, Haugen looked at team schedules to determine if it was possible to visit the parks in a short time. It looked feasible. He tried again last year, and the schedules didn't match up well. But he checked again a few months ago and concocted a couple of different scenarios on a neatly printed spreadsheet.
"This can work," he thought.
Then came the layering of trip elements, one upon another, a matrix of details that show a mind equally determined and ordered. "I was in finance, OK," Haugen explained. "Type A. When you are retired, you can do things like this."
Don Quixote must have winced in his grave.
Haugen spent hours at the computer, buying single game tickets from each team. He studied flight and train schedules, motel locations, rental car prices and cab fares.
Meticulously, Haugen assembled his dream, leg by leg, in the folders. Each folder contains a plane ticket, a game ticket, printouts on cabs, buses, trains. There are also maps and information on motels, airports, even what time the ballpark gates open "so I can get there early and absorb it."
From April 27 to July 18, Haugen plans to hit all 30 big league stadiums in six separate trips, four by air and land, two by car. A sample entry of The Plan looks like this:
"Take shuttle to 'New Carrollton' station.
"Take Metro to 'L'Enfant Plaza' station.
"Take Metro (green line) to 'Navy Yard' station -- 5 minutes -- walk 2 blocks to ballpark.
"7:05 GAME TIME -- Nationals vs. Mets."
Sally will accompany Haugen on his East Coast trip, where they will spend time with a son in Boston. It will be nice, he said, but also efficient: She will be able to take his luggage so he can go on to another game and then fly home. In some cases, Haugen will check his luggage, then go to a game.
In each case, he sought the best ticket available. But when the only two seats he could get together for the Red Sox game were $11 seats in row 44 of the bleachers, "I had to make a decision. There was one good seat left, so Sally got booted," he said.
Haugen will go to most games alone. It is, after all, his dream.
"It was my trip, and I didn't want to drag someone along, wondering if they could keep up," he said.
In all those road games, he will see the Twins only once. By chance, he will see the Mets five times.
"Dammit," he said.
Then Haugen wanted to show me something. "Every day I get more excited, OK?"
He led me to a table where he has begun pre-assembling the memories: Hats from nearly all the teams he plans to visit. He'll wear the home team hat each game, and have someone take a picture. For the first and last games, he's buying scoreboard messages welcoming himself.
Haugen's daughter-in-law, Simone Haugen, a teacher, plans to use the trip as an educational tool in the classroom, to teach students about living life to the fullest and making dreams come true.
"The only thing I'm worried about is the Lord opening the skies on my trip," said Haugen. "But there's nothing I can do about that."
Upstairs, five boxes had been delivered: More baseball hats. A good omen, I think.
"I don't think anything is going to go wrong," an optimistic Haugen said. "I've been, how should I put it? Diligent."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.