EASTLAKE, Ohio – Matt LaWell is turning an American pastime into the adventure of a lifetime.
This summer, he and wife, Carolyn, have made it their mission to hit every minor league ballpark in the country.
“I originally wanted to go on a restless, 19-year-old’s road trip,” Matt said. “It evolved with the journalism background into a love of telling stories. It’s the perfect backdrop here and in hundreds of other parks around the country to tell great, relatively unknown and untold stories about the minors, about the people who make them great, about the people who’ve toiled through them for decades."
Since April 5, the Lakewood couple quit their journalism jobs and packed their car to venture 26,000 miles to see 120 teams this season. This wasn't a last-minute bit, however. The two saved about $10,000 over the past few years to help fund the trip.
“It actually was a really difficult decision for me to have to leave my job,” Carolyn said. “We also had to put all of our stuff in storage. It was kind of stressful before the trip started, but it’s been great ever since.”
The two have documented their experiences through a daily web blog, “A Minor League Season.” They report stories of players and people at the games. Now, they’ve become a bit of celebrities at the ballpark.
“We’ve had a lot of really good interaction with people, especially through Facebook and Twitter,” Carolyn said. “People who've e-mailed us or people just show up at the park looking for us.”
The trip has already garnered a lot of memories for the couple of four years. On their wedding anniversary, the two opted for a day at the baseball bat factory. They've also visited several historical landmarks, like The Alamo, various museums and parks.
When they aren’t in the car, the two make pit stops to stay with friends along the way. And when those plans don’t pull through, Carolyn said they rely on their gym membership to guarantee some exercise – and more importantly, she adds – a decent shower.
Yet, complete strangers have reached out to the couple in ways that have completely surprised them.
“There was an attorney in Oklahoma City,” Carolyn said. “He put us up in a hotel room. He just said, ‘I’m buying a hotel room every night you’re in Oklahoma.' We got to go to lunch with him, and his friend and we got to go to lunch with him and his sons.”
Carolyn said many of those friendships have extended beyond the games, something they both cherish.
The two will end their minor-league travels on Labor Day for a game in Toledo.
After, they plan to return to the Cleveland area to write a book about their journey – and the incredible people and stories they’ve encountered this summer.
“It’s one small part of America, one small sliver,” Matt said. “But, I think it’s reflective of a lot more in this country, and it kind of gives you a sense of optimism about people today.”
To follow Matt and Carolyn’s “A Minor League Season,” visit www.aminorleagueseason.com