Sunday, December 30, 2012


I grew up in upstate New York, and still have the majority of my family there. Since I had not returned home in over 4 years, and since so much had changed in our lives and our family since coming to Walla Walla, we finally decided to load up the Toyota Sienna and drive across the country for Christmas. Destination: Rochester, NY.

While here, my father suggested a great idea - a day trip to Cooperstown (about 2.5 hours away) to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame with my son - three generations of baseball fans at the cathedral of the game. It had been more than 20 years since I had last visited the Hall, and my son had never been. So we braved the heavy snow (upstate NY was hit with a storm after Christmas that dropped more than 2 feet of snow in various areas and at least 18 inches in most areas) and traveled back roads through the Southern Tier, checking into Cooperstown.

Notice the over-riding theme of Main Street Cooperstown.
What a magical place, even in the dead of winter. First off, Cooperstown is a cool city to visit even without the Hall of Fame. In addition to the Hall, there are numerous museums and history tied to James Fenimore Cooper - author of the Leatherstocking Tales which includes Last of the Mohicans (not the namesake, but the son of the namesake). Check out the Wikipedia entry here. The Main Street reminds me of Main Street in Walla Walla, except change all the wine-themed boutiques with baseball-themed restaurants and shops (check out the picture of the Cooperstown Bat Company in the historic district.

Isaac in the locker of a HOF.
Once in the Hall, I was able to share with Isaac and my dad all the joy that baseball places on the mountainous piles of history, notes, and records of the game. It was great to share with Isaac the story (along with pictures) of Jackie Robinson, and watch him process a world where people couldn't play or work with each other due to the color of their skin. It was especially gratifying to see him come to the conclusion on his own that was ridiculous. He sat in Hank Aaron's locker. We watched Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine, with Isaac doubled over laughing, but not as much as my father, who had a hard time breathing afterwards! When we saw displays of HOF'ers Ozzie Smith and Tony Gwynn, we were able to talk about how they started their careers in Walla Walla, just like Sweets players do. We looked at and took virtual tours of old stadiums like Ebbets in Brooklyn. We saw King Felix's jersey from his perfect game this summer. We bought souvenirs. We were fans.

The Wizard, who started his career in Walla Walla.
It was fun to be a fan with my father and my son. With a great-grandfather who played minor league baseball and a grandfather who sparked a love of the game for me by taking me to minor league games when I was a kid, I realized how much baseball connected (5) generations of my family. I was grateful to have grown up in a part of the country that was so rich in baseball history. One other small connection that made it even more special - friend and business partner Jeff Cirillo is on the ballot this year. To consider that only 1% of all players to have played professionally are in the hall, and that only a few percentage points more are able to get on the ballot, it gave me a greater appreciation for the career that Jeff had and for what that has allowed him to give back to the game, both in Walla Walla and beyond.

What Sweets player will be the first to make it to the Hall of Fame? What will that experience be like? It was fun to daydream about that as I wandered the Halls and experienced one of those "bucket list" experiences with my father and my son.

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