CINCINNATI -- A local father and son spent the past 13 years crossing Major League Baseball stadiums off their checklist of places to visit, but this past weekend, they finally completed their baseball odyssey.
After attending a Colorado Rockies’ home game Saturday in Denver, Jim Yunker, 68, of Anderson Township, and son Andrew Yunker, 26, of Wilder, can now say they have visited the home stadiums of all 30 Major League Baseball teams.
Their quest, which took them through 18 states, plus the District of Columbia and Toronto, began on a weekend road trip to Detroit’s Comerica Park and a “Battle of Ohio” game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland in 2003 when Andrew was in eighth grade. His late grandfather, Duane Simpson, who was Jim’s father-in-law, joined them on that trip, giving them an especially fond memory to start with.
“We thought we would be finished by the time Andrew graduated high school,” said Jim Yunker, president and CEO of The Yunker Group, an executive search and fundraising consultancy in Cincinnati. “Then, it was college, and now here we are, but it’s been fun.
“People ask why we wanted to do this, and we say why not? We like baseball and traveling. Why wouldn’t we want to? We’ve been to a lot of Reds games. We had weekend tickets at Cinergy and now Great American Ball Park, so we thought it would be fun to go see the other stadiums.”
Cincinnati Fans Since 1995
The Yunkers have been attending Reds games since 1995 after moving to Cincinnati from Chicago. Jim had been to other ballparks like the old Tiger Stadium as a kid and to the Mets’ old Shea Stadium the year it opened in 1964 when he was a senior in high school, and he thought it would be fun for him and his son to see all the stadiums together.
Some trips were planned specifically around baseball, while others worked into family vacations when the local teams happened to be playing at home. A few trips allowed them a chance to cheer on the Reds on the road, including at Arizona last year, at the Dodgers’ stadium in Los Angeles in 2010, and on that first-trip stop to Cleveland.
“We typically root for the home team unless they are playing the Reds,” Jim said.
Boston’s Fenway Park and the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field were their two favorite stadiums, but both said Great American Ball Park is in the top three. They never did find a fireworks show that rivaled Cincinnati’s.
Andrew said his fondest two memories, aside from that first trip and the last one, were their 2005 East Coast trip that took them to both the Yankees’ and Mets’ stadiums in New York, as well as ballparks in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and a 2010 West Coast swing through San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.
“My mom and sister went on those trips with us, so it was a nice family vacation, and we hit a third of the stadiums just on those two trips,” said Andrew, who is founder of American Island and Senior Account Manager at ColorNine.
There were three or four trips in which Andrew’s mother, Dawn, and sister, Alison, joined them. They usually flew but drove to Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburg, Toronto and Atlanta.
Souvenirs And Highlights
The Yunkers arrived at stadiums early to check out special landmarks and displays, such as one for Ted Williams in the “Hitters Hall of Fame” at Tampa’s Tropicana Field. They kept ticket stubs and collected about a dozen hats of the teams they saw.
Other highlights included a Chipper Jones’ game-winning RBI during his final season, followed by a post-game Styx concert, at Turner Field, in Atlanta and a “Split-the-Pot” win at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The winnings of $2,970 paid for the next leg of their tour, which included home games for the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.
The final play of the tour was also one that will stick out – Rockies’ right fielder Carlos Gonzalez hit a two-run walk-off home run to beat the Dodgers, 8-6, in a game that started with a grand slam plating the first four batters for the first time in franchise history.
But it wasn’t just the baseball games they will remember about their trips.
“Just by traveling, some of the excursions we’ve been on have been great,” Andrew said. “When we went to Seattle, my mom and sister went with us, and it just happened that John Mayer was in town so we got to see him at the Gorge. I went skydiving in Arizona. When we went to New York City in 2005, we saw an ad in the newspaper for a Dave Matthews Band concert and scalped tickets. Here, in Denver, hiking the Garden of the Gods – of course we wanted to see all the ballparks, but also some of the other things we’ve done on these trips have been amazing,” he said after visiting the final stadium on the list.
Jim credited his wife and daughter for helping them plan their trips. Dawn even booked the flight to Denver, despite the trip falling on their 29th wedding anniversary.
New Ballparks To See
“We know we’re not the first to do this, but we have a lot of great memories,” Jim said. “It’s time for the two of us to spend together and really grow in our father-son relationship. It was a lot of fun. Everyone that hears about it is envious.”
Although they accomplished their original goal of seeing a home game for every MLB team, their tour could continue. Three stadiums they visited no longer exist, as the old Busch Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium have been replaced by new ballparks.
We went to a home game for every team like we set out to do,” Jim said. “Now there’s some new stadiums we need to go to, so maybe that will be the next thing we do.”