Bob Asmussen | Champaign's Elmore seeing the country, one baseball park at a time

Apr. 23—We all have a number. Mine is 21. That's how many Major League Baseball parks I have been to in my 62 years.

Kenton Elmore is going to top me — and most everyone else — by the end of the summer. The 35-year-old Champaign resident and University of Illinois graduate will attend a game at all 30 MLB venues during the next five months.

First question: Why?

"Just to take on an exciting challenge," Elmore said. "I like travel. I like baseball, and I was looking for something new that would be lots of fun."

Elmore is documenting his excellent adventure on the perfectly named blog "30Bagger" (

Elmore includes a story and photos from each game. His schedule is spelled out for the summer.

Elmore provides so much more than a recap of a baseball game. He shares his thoughts on everything related to the trip. In his visit to Kansas City, Mo., for instance, he includes photos and comments about Arthur Bryant's, a famous, tasty barbecue restaurant he visited.

It is part of a section he dubs "Extra Innings."

The best tour any baseball fan could imagine started for Elmore with games earlier this month in St. Louis (he's a lifelong Cardinals fan) and Kansas City.

For his "Extra Innings" in St. Louis, Elmore saw the Clydsdales at Grant's Farm, had a Budweiser and watched the eclipse.

"Writing frames it. I make it not just about baseball," Elmore said.

Next up: this week's trip to Tampa, Fla., Atlanta and Miami. Truist Park, home to the Braves, is one of the places Elmore is eager to see.

How is he traveling?

Elmore is driving to nearby games and flying to faraway places.

"When I first had the idea, I thought I could do it without flying at all," he said. "Flying is fine. I just thought being on the pavement or taking trains would make it more honest."

When the baseball schedule came out for 2024, Elmore realized the no-plane plan could be problematic.

"You've got to leave time in case you hit a rainout," he said. "A lot of these trips, there is just no way (to drive)."

Elmore figured out airfare is less expensive at the times he needs to travel, which helps with the wallet.

His schedule was complete by late November.

There are two "musts" for Elmore at each stop.

1) He will keep score at every park. On his scoresheet, he will note the cost of a beer.

Elmore is grabbing a souvenir cup at each park. He's not buying them.

"I wait until the end of the game and find one in a cupholder somebody's abandoned," Elmore said. "Players steal bases. I steal souvenir cups."

2) He will get a ball at every park — by hook or by crook. At St. Louis, he was tossed a ball from the field. In Kansas City, he spent $40 in the team store for a game-used ball. It had dirt and grass on it. Looked cool.

He wondered in his blog if that was "cheating?" Nah.

To help with his quest, Elmore wears a bright yellow T-shirt to the games that reads, "Please Toss Me A Ball."

"I got their attention," he said.

His goal at each stop is to not pay a bundle for his ticket. No problem at sparsely attended LoanDepot Park in Miami, where he can sit behind home plate for $25.

He hopes to get in for $40-50 at most parks.

Elmore said he hasn't reached out to the teams to let them know about his project and that he is on the way. Friends have suggested he do that.

Bottom line

One of the questions Elmore hears when he talks about his summer excursion is, "How much is it going to cost you?"

And what is the answer? Although, for the sake of this story, he could say, "none of your business," Elmore is too polite for that.

"Here's what I've been telling people: 'Normally, the summer is lots of concerts and other trips with friends here and there. This summer, it's all baseball.'

"I'm not going to be saving any money this summer. The goal is to try to not have to dip into savings."

He is trying to limit the lodging costs when possible.

"I'm keeping a standard of luxury," Elmore said.

In Kansas City, he stayed at a Best Western close to Kauffman Stadium.

The trips are not all booked through the summer. Elmore is taking it a month at a time. No real worry on finding a place to stay, because there are endless options in all MLB locations.

In Toronto, he is staying in the hotel that is part of the Rogers Centre.

He will be at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, for All-Star Week. He has signed up to work the events. He booked a room there for the week at the Ranger Inn, 1 1/2 miles from Globe Life.

He is going to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the first time on May 16. When he scheduled the trip, Elmore didn't realize he was attending the same day as a Shohei Ohtani bobblehead giveaway. Oops.

"I didn't know until a week or so ago," Elmore said.

Tickets are very pricey. But Elmore has to go.

"Sometimes, you just throw money at the problem," he said.

He found a workaround, buying a ticket for a tour of Dodger Stadium that will get him in the building ahead of the huge crowd. That's Champaign smart.

Special stop

Elmore turns 36 on Aug. 1, in the middle of the tour. He is attending a game at Wrigley Field on Aug. 3.

"That's actually going to be a crazy game," Elmore said.

He is taking his aunt Jackie Camden to the game. She is a huge Cubs fan.

"Never been to Wrigley," Elmore said.

He is taking relatives or friends to about 10 of the games and will be attending the other 20 by himself.

"That's kind of by design," Elmore said. "I'm a very extroverted person. I love hanging with friends. A lot of this is getting out, self-discovery, changing things up.

"I like the idea of doing it on my own."

Is there another tour Elmore wants to try?

Well, UI men's basketball is a lifetime passion. So maybe going to every arena in the Big Ten makes sense. But he won't be able to do all 17 in the same season, unless he doesn't care if the teams are playing Illinois. Then, very doable.

How'd he do that?

When he is not going to baseball games, Elmore works for a benefits administration company. His employer is based out of Portland, Maine.

Elmore has no office to go to. He spends his work days at home in Parkland Ridge.

Being home is convenient and leaves a lot of free time. His baseball tour helps Elmore fill the gaps.

"My job is flexible," he said.

He realized he could work part of the summer anywhere. Including Major League Baseball cities.

"The baseball piece came later," Elmore said.

Elmore is not a "massive baseball fan."

"I wouldn't call myself a complete baseball fanatic," he said. "A lot of people try to hit every park as a lifetime thing. Anybody who does it in one season, everybody expects that I would be a total die-hard baseball fan. I love baseball. You have to like baseball in order to do this. But it's really more the means of travel. If you're going to do something really big, and you want to be in a lot of different places going across this country, the way to explore so many of the cities is through their baseball teams."

Background check

Most of Elmore's life has been spent in Champaign. His early years with Mom Susan, Dad Don and older brother Trey were on University Avenue near Dr. Howard Elementary, which he attended. Then Franklin Middle School and Central High School.

The family often went to baseball games while on vacations and made frequent trips to Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals.

"I've been to Busch and Wrigley more times than I can count," Elmore said.

The family took a two-week vacation to New England in 2001. On the trip, the family went to games at Shea Stadium to see the Mets and Camden Yards in Baltimore. That was the final season for Orioles legend Cal Ripen Jr.

"That big road trip in '01 planted the seed for later that when you're traveling, baseball is kind of the vehicle," Elmore said.

Elmore's only time away from Champaign-Urbana was right after he graduated from college with a business degree. He worked in Chicago for four years in the early 2010s. In the shadow of Wrigley Field, naturally.

"I loved it," he said. "It's great. I have a million friends up there. But living in a place like this (Champaign) is kind of more my pace."