Women Who Travel Podcast: Criss Crossing America to Visit Every Baseball Stadium

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Tiffany Mathias, a self-confessed “baseball stadium chaser” (and, incidentally, Lale’s sister-in-law) recounts her quest to visit every ballpark in the United States, touring the stadiums, chatting to ushers and fans, and sampling the often eccentric local concessions—often as a solo traveler. To watch a game in a new stadium, says Tiffany, is “to be in her happy place."

Lale Arikoglu: Hi there, I'm Lale Arikoglu, and this is Women Who Travel. This week, I'm chatting to my very own sister-in-law, she's Tiffany Mathias, who is a self-described baseball stadium chaser. I'm fascinated and it's not anything that's familiar to me, so here we go.

Scoping the ballpark, chatting to fans, sampling the different hot dogs and of course criss-crossing the country on the most amazing road trips.

Tiffany Mathias: You can get to the stadium and make up your mind and talk to some ushers. There's just so much that's involved. Customer service will actually stamp a passport that says you've been at the stadium and so people collect passport stamps. You can obviously, like I did in Texas, get an usher to take you around and check out the whole stadium, and then there's times where I've just walked in and just watched a game and left.

I think the brewers gave out hoodies one year that were pretty phenomenal. Some of the giveaways are pretty great. People get really passionate about what details a greater stadium, and then you get into the mix of the culture, and the food, and the atmosphere, and the outside of the stadium going into the stadium.

The only reason we went to Kansas City was because of the stadium, so it does bring in people to the area because of the team. I know that for X amount of hours I'm going to be sitting there and just enjoying the game, just alive but happy. The adrenaline and the peaceful calmness, it just happens when you're in a good atmosphere.

LA: Tiff, you're my sister-in-law.

TM: Yes.

LA: We've known each other for many years. We spend holidays together, many summer weekends together. I know that baseball is a big passion of yours, visiting stadiums all over the country is a big passion of yours. I know nothing about baseball. You know this about me, when it's Thanksgiving, which I understand is not baseball season, but when it's Thanksgiving, I'm reading my book when everyone's watching sports. Where did this passion for baseball come from and for wanting to visit every stadium in the US? Did you inherit it or is it just something that you found on your own?

TM: I blame my mom. She's amazing. Growing up, I was running in and out of the house playing in the neighborhood and my mom always had TBS on. She watched the Braves nonstop throughout my childhood and she was just a massive fan and we grew up watching her watch baseball and then us watching baseball and my brother and I played. I played with the boys until little league.

To get to your original question, what made me start doing baseball stadiums, I was dating a gentleman and I had followed him to Toronto and he was talking about how people chase stadiums and I was like, "Oh, I think this is five or six for me," and because of where I live in central Pennsylvania, everything is within four hours, a very easy drive to get to 5, 6, 7 stadiums. And so I was like, "This could be a feasible thing for me." When it comes to chasing stadiums though, there's no true line of what's right and what's wrong. Some people are phenomenal and do 30 stadiums in 30 days and they make a true road trip out of it.

LA: Wait, that's crazy because you're zigzagging all over the country.

TM: Think about the logistics of just trying to get all over the country, getting to the stadiums, getting day games, night games, to do 30 and 30 is phenomenal. It's amazing. It took me 20 years to accomplish the 30 stadiums, so kudos to those 30 for 30 people.

LA: Look, that's just so extra.

You've done two road trips, right?

TM: Two specific road trips for it, yes.

LA: Two specific road trips. Clearly you weren't doing 30 in 30 days, but it must've been quite intense.

TM: It's crazy because some games could be a day game and then you drive to your next location and take in a night game and then you turn around and try to get to a day game and part of the reason it took me so long to get all 30 stadiums was because for the longest time I needed San Francisco and Oakland, which are like 30 miles apart, but I couldn't get the schedule to coordinate where one was home, the other one was away and it would be four days in between, and I'm like, "I can't spend four days in California waiting for the A's to come back to town."

LA: Even I know this is crazy.

TM: Yeah, I need a weekend guys. Someone come home, someone go away. Split it up so I can get it in there.

LA: You keep on using the phrase, "chaser," which I like. You get tornado chasers, you get the eclipse chasers. What are the characteristics, and this isn't necessarily to describe yourself, this is what universe of baseball stadium chasers that you have now become a part of, what are the characteristics of those people? Does it really run the gamut?

TM: It does, and that's one of the great things about being "a chaser." It can be male, female, young, old, some people might not even like baseball as a sport, they just love the stadiums because it really gives you the culture of the area that you're in and who's attending the games and what the city is like. It's just a different experience. Even in New York between the Mets and the Yankees, the atmosphere is different.

LA: You get people who genuinely don't actually care that much about the sport, but it's like they see it as an access point to a place, and for people watching, and it's like a cultural moment rather than a sports moment.

TM: Yeah, there's a few of them. A majority of us are passionate about the actual game of baseball, but you do get into a lot of arguments about which stadium is the best, which stadium is the worst. Generally you get the same consensus, top three stadiums.

LA: Wait, what's considered the top and what's considered the bottom? I'm interested. Can you reveal this?

TM: Yeah, so for me personally, PNC Park in Pittsburgh is just a phenomenal stadium, as well as the San Francisco Giants. The way that the baseball stadium is laid out within the city, at least in Pittsburgh, you're sitting in the stadium but you're looking at the skyline of the city and it's perfection, as well as San Francisco, maybe it's because it has the Bay right there, but just the way that it's laid and positioned within the city, it's just phenomenal. The bottom, everyone that you talk to that's a baseball chaser will say, "Oakland number 30," but they're 29 for me. I am not a big Tampa fan. I love that they have the Stingrays in the stadium, but for me it's just so old, and cold, and dilapidated.

LA: Where do you think what city, or town, or stadium has the best energy when it's a game? Which is the one that's just a ton of fun?

TM: Oh, there's so many. Washington D.C. does it really well. The Metro lets you out right near the stadium. There's a ton of bars and areas that are just having tailgating going on and it just brings a ton of energy. Milwaukee does cornhole in the parking lot and there's a ton of, almost like a football game weekend where people are just going early and setting up. There's Cincinnati and even San Francisco where you walk great distances to get into the stadium. It's almost how soccer is, where you're getting groups of people and you're walking in herds to the stadium. There's a lot of energy that comes with that as well.

LA: Yeah, so when you were describing it, I was thinking about going to football matches in London and so much of actually the experience is walking with all the fans to the stadium and you go past people selling knockoff merch and there's food stands and there's drunk people and all that stuff. It is part of the experience.

TM: I would be remiss if I didn't mention Detroit is one of my favorite ballparks. It's probably in the top five, but I think it's also because that energy is there and they embrace the other sports and they're all in the same area of town, and there's a lot of tailgating and just pure energy that just comes from being in that area as well.

I have been to all 30 in my head because I've been to the Rangers, but had I not visited them last year, somebody would say to me, "Oh, you haven't been to the new park. You were at the old parks. You haven't been to all 30. Have you been to all 30?"

LA: Well then ultimately you're doing it for yourself. You're not doing it to prove something to someone else or some person on the internet who's in one of these groups that says, "Oh, you didn't visit the new stadiums so you don't count." This is for you. You love it. It sounds like you have to visit during a game, right?

TM: For me, for it to count.

LA: You can't just show up and just take a peek and say you've seen it.

TM: Do the tour? No.

LA: Are there any other rules of the road when you are visiting where you're like, "These are all the notes I need to hit to be able to get a full experience of this stadium."

TM: For me, you have to go into the stadium. One of my favorite experiences, my husband has joined me for a lot of my pursuit of the 30 stadiums and one of my bucket list items was to go back to Toronto, but I wanted to watch the game from the Marriott hotel that sits in the outfield. Your window opens in your hotel room and you are in the stadium, so you're watching the game from your hotel room, they have seats, you can bring in food. It's phenomenal. It's just a different experience.

LA: This is lavish.

TM: Yeah, the sounds and the atmosphere of the baseball stadium is inside your hotel room. It's something I wanted to do, but because my husband had never been to a Blue Jays game, I said, "We're staying the night, but the next day we have to go in so you can count this as one of your stadiums," because even though the hotel's connected, I can't consider it a game for you.

LA: Obviously I know your husband Devin very well. He is the brother of my husband. I know that he loves sports very much. He wasn't chasing baseball stadiums before you guys met, as far as I'm aware. How did you get him on board? Was he like, "This is a wild characteristic of you?" Or was he just like, "I'm so game."

TM: He loves it, but for the most part, one of the road trips was when we went out and did a majority of the California teams, but we'll do it in conjunction with his passion, which is going to U2 concerts. We will find a U2 concert, and fly in, and then plan a baseball game around the same time the concert is. We'll do a twofer to satisfy his passions, but at the same time, taking in a game.

LA: And it's like you've both got your obsessions and you accommodate both. I have to say, I do disagree on his U2 obsession, not the biggest fan.

Coming up, what to wear when you want to be loyal to your team, but not annoy everyone you are meeting.

When someone goes to see their team play, they usually wear their team's shirt, or hat, or something. You're going to see every team play. What do you wear?

TM: I'm a loyalist to the Braves. I have my old Braves hat that I've had for probably twenty-plus years, but for a while I had a T-shirt that just had the Major League Baseball logo on it, so if you don't know the logo, it's just a batter swinging and then there's a baseball down in the logo and it's red, white, and blue. My shirt, instead of the baseball had a little heart on it, just to show that I was there for the love of the game and for the actual organization.

One time I had a tank top for a few seasons where the shirt itself was glittery and it was a baseball, so it had the baseball red stitches going down it and it was just a white tank. It was just, you wear stuff that shows the love of the game. If I like a shirt when I'm there, I'll buy it, because I do visit the stores inside. If I'm there to see the Red Sox play the Yankees, obviously that's a very heated rivalry, so I'm not going to wear...

LA: You're not taking a side.

TM: Yeah, I'm just going straight baseball. I just love baseball guys.

LA: Neutral. You're like, "I'm neutral. I'm just here to watch."

TM: Go teams.

LA: Are there stadiums where you're like, "This food is actually a real insight into the culture of this place," or it's just actually stellar?

TM: I would say food is a pretty huge factor when it comes to stadiums. I will seek out a hot dog just because I feel like that's how I rank the stadiums.

LA: Wait, I love this. And our social media director, Mercedes Bleth is going to be so obsessed with this. Every city she goes to, she eats a hot dog and she ranks them. You guys should talk.

TM: Yeah, it's amazing. Pittsburgh just came out with this, I think it's a bratwurst with some pierogies on it. Texas, they do barbecue and you make sure you pick that up when you get there. Baltimore, make sure that you get some crabs or some fish fry, whatever, Old Bay, whatever you can put Old Bay on, Baltimore wants you to be there for it.

LA: Oh my God.

TM: It's an experience in itself just doing the stadium foods. It's really great to see the variety that they're offering and how they cater to the fans that are coming in.

LA: Clearly that was a lot of driving time, a lot of highways, a lot of road stops, but you are from the East Coast and you were getting to be in different parts of the country. What sort of flashes of America were you getting? I just feel like this whole thing must be giving you such a better understanding of this country.

TM: Yeah, you get to see all the great stuff. You get to see is it wall drug? You see billboards for miles for this pharmacy and you finally go and it's ginormous, but it's such a tourist trap, or I've seen a Jolly Green Giant, or the world's largest basket.

LA: Wait, we had someone on here last year who said they saw the world's largest chair at a roadside stop.

TM: I don't know that I've seen the chair, but I believe the basket is in Ohio and I think it's a Langenberger basket.

LA: America's so weird. I just [inaudible 00:15:00]

TM: It's amazing. Yeah, there was some kind of corn maze that I saw on the way. There's just historic landmarks that it's not too far off your path, so you just pop off an exit, go and see it, and then pop back on. What I like about going in and seeing a stadium and knowing you have some free time to explore, you find places that just you might've had the best meal of your life and you're just like, "Why is this in this small random town that I don't even remember the name," or I bought the pint glass from it and now I have it and it reminds me of just being on the road and just having that freedom and just having a supportive partner that says, "Hey, this is your passion. How do we make it happen?"

LA: You mentioned a big glass. Are you collecting souvenirs on these trips? Because I will say that your house is very, it's not filled with knickknacks, it's not filled with some, as far as I'm aware, some secret room filled with baseball stadium paraphernalia and kitsch picked up from the side of highways. Do you reign yourself in?

TM: I initially started, this is going to age me, when I first started doing it, I had the actual ticket stub. It was when you actually had a ticket that they ripped at the gate. Obviously technology destroyed that for me. I know that there are other people that collect dirt from the field. They'll go down and ask an usher, someone to put it in a little vial, and I'm super jealous about those people.

LA: I'm obsessed.

TM: They're so ingenious to do that. It's incredible.

LA: Wait, how are they organizing the dirt? They must label them and archive them.

TM: They do, and they put them in a shadow box or somehow they display it in their house and it will have a little tiny vial and it'll have the dirt from either the infield or the warning track and it'll say, "Wrigley Field," or PNC, or whatever baseball stadium it is, and I think it's just genius.

LA: People are amazing.

TM: It's just next level and I love everything about it.

LA: After the break, befriending the ushers and the eccentric forms of entertainment that can capture a place.

I have a fun little question. You have, "Take me out to the ball game," is the song that I think of as getting played in baseball games. Do you get other versions? Do different teams and different places have their own music or go-to classics that they blast?

TM: Sometimes. They generally do Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the seventh inning stretch. If there's a variety or a version of it's they're trying to get the crowd entertained in between innings, so they'll put three songs up and have the crowd vote on what song they want to hear. I think more specifically, and not necessarily music, but there are, I'll call them character races and I love them.

LA: Wait. Explain.

TM: Washington D.C has, and it's my favorite, it's the presidential race. They have, and this is going to be terrible, I think it's Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy and Roosevelt all come out and run the edge of the wall or the warning track. Pittsburgh has a pierogi race. Milwaukee has a sausage race.

LA: When you say sausage race or pierogi race, people dressed as sausages or pierogies, are they carrying them like an egg and spoon race? Are they...

TM: It's a full-on costume.

LA: Incredible. Incredible.

TM: They'll have some indicating factor, most likely a color, where the pierogi is purple, orange, pink and red. I always pick Lincoln for the record, but there's different races that each stadium will put on to engage the crowd. I think there's one stadium, and I don't even know if it's baseball related, where there's a guy that takes off and then another guy chases him. I think he's like some kind of crazy world renowned sprinter because nobody ever wins.

Speaker 3: Call the Brooklyn Cyclones box office for more information or call 718-37-BK.

LA: When I've gone to these Coney Island Cyclones games, they always have some sort of entertainment. They've definitely had some sort of version of a race. They have themes every weekend throughout the summer. One they do every year that sells out really quickly is they do a Seinfeld one and they have an Elaine costume contest. You have all of these women who come dressed as Elaine and then they go out on the field and they have to compete to do the best Elaine dance.

TM: That's amazing.

LA: I don't know if they win anything or if it's just sort of the glory of doing it, but it's the most New York thing ever. It captures the place.

TM: There's giveaways the stadiums do. There's themes where it's Star Wars night or Bark in the Park where you can bring your dog.

LA: Okay, now sounds like my kind of game.

TM: Yes. You want to go to bark in the park.

LA: That's the one I want to go to.

TM: But there's great themes and great giveaways. I think the Dodgers gave coasters, really great coasters. We still have them. We use them constantly.

LA: You've created such a picture for me of what these events are like. There's such a community to them obviously that sport's so wrapped up in that and it's so colorful and eccentric. It really does feel like it shows a lot of the eccentricities of America and the things that are so endearing about it. You've seen such a breadth of America by doing this. It's more than I think most people who live and have grown up here. It is really cool. Who do you make an effort to talk to when you're in the stadiums? Is it people in the crowd, people you're sitting with in the bleachers? Is it the ushers? Who are you talking to try and get a feel for the place?

TM: It depends on if I've traveled alone or if I've traveled with somebody. In Dallas, the Rangers just built a new stadium and I had been to the one previously, but I was on a work trip and I went, and I went up to the usher and said, "I've never been to the stadium. It opened during 2020. What am I missing? What are the highlights?" And he gave me a full tour and it was amazing. I saw places I wouldn't have seen regularly had I just taken in this ballpark myself. Baseball fans are just so passionate about being there and about their teams that it's just so easy to engage in conversation with anybody there.

In Arizona, there was this couple sitting in front of us and they had this really thick, well-loved worn book and they were writing in it, and I tapped them on the shoulder and I was like, "What's going on here?" And for 30, 40 years, they had kept every home game in that book. They were keeping the score and it was just like this great story. And the only reason they ever missed a game is they had to go to a funeral and it's the only game they've ever missed.

LA: You travel a lot for work zipping across the country, sometimes you've been trying to tack on a baseball stadium while you've been doing it. I know that you are used to traveling alone a lot. It sounds like this has been a really nice way of connecting yourself with people when you are traveling solo.

TM: I'll go to a conference and if I know I'm in town and there's a game, I'll take an Uber or something, or I'll convince somebody from the conference and say, "Hey, I'm going to go over and check out Kansas City today. Do you want to go take in the Royals game?" And they'll say yes, and we'll go, or they'll say no, and then I'll quickly jump online. There's a Facebook group that I'm in and I'll ask some questions. "Where does Rideshare pick up?" As a solo woman, you want to make sure that you're not walking really far by yourself, and the games get out at 10 o'clock, 10:30 at night, and you're like, "Hey, where am I going in this strange neighborhood that I have no idea where I am?"

LA: Because stadiums are often in random parts of... They're rarely just in the center of a place. They're often positioned in slightly odd. They're not going to be where most of the hotels are, for example.

TM: Right. Because they need acreage to put the stadium in the parking lots and any van fare that goes around it. As a solo traveler, you just are a little bit more aware of who's around you, what's happening. Sometimes you have to leave a little bit early just for logistic purposes of safety.

LA: If there's someone listening who shares a similar obsession but feels like maybe it's a bit much or they seem intimidated by the idea of becoming a so-called chaser, what's your advice for them?

TM: My first advice is to find whatever social media platform you're on and just do some research. There's so many people that are already doing what you're wanting to do or a version of it that you can find people who have the same passion and are willing to share the insider information that you're wanting to know. I'm on a Facebook group that just happens to be called Ballpark Chasers, and there's a lot of fun debates, and insider information, and you can just easily say, "I'm going to X today to see the game. What should I be looking for? What should I do?" And then you can get to the stadium and make up your mind and talk to some ushers.

We've been to the Hall of Fame. I've gone to the Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum. There's other things that you can do that's not just necessarily going to a stadium, but I'm definitely happy that I checked off all 30.

LA: When you are sitting in the stadium, whether you are with friends or you are there by your own, which is really its own experience to go watch a sports game by yourself, but how does it make you feel? How do you feel in the stadium when you're there?

TM: You're there with the adrenaline, and you're loving it, and you're hyped up, and you're excited to see a game, but it's also a feeling of home where it's just like a calmness where you can just... For me, I like to sit back, take in the game, have a beverage, maybe it's peanuts or the hot dog that I'm seeking, but I know that I can sit down and relax and just take in the evening and I don't have to worry about having to have all the external noises of just life in general because I know that I'm in my happy place.

LA: Tiff, this has been so fun. You've covered some crazy ground.

TM: Thank you. I feel like I didn't get to half of it.

LA: Well, your knowledge is just, it's infinite. It's amazing. I feel like we've never got to talk about it in this way before. It's really great.

TM: It's such a passion of mine, so thank you for realizing.

LA: Really wonderful.

TM: Thanks. It's easy to talk about something you love.

LA: Where did the mic come from?

TM: Devin. I was like, "Hey, can I use your mic for Lale’s thing today?"

LA: Well, it was perfect. It was really great. It's excellent.

And next week, only 15% of journalists are women, and that's in 2024. We meet three who travel the world to conflict zones and make pictures that are both shocking and intimate. See you then. I'm Lale Arikoglu, and you can find me on Instagram @lalehannah.

Our engineers are Jake Lummus, Nick Pitman, and James Yost. The show's mixed by Amar Lal. Jude Kampfner from Corporation for Independent Media is our producer. Chris Bannon is Conde Nast's, head of Global Audio. See you next week.

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler