As a kid, I would spend hours on my bedroom floor organizing my baseball cards. My mom bought me a pack when she went to the store and shortly after rifling through the deck, I partook in my organizing process. And it was quite the process. My favorite players went into one folder, a second folder was for good players that weren’t necessarily my favorite, and a third folder was for Hall of Famers. Players that didn’t make the cut went through another organization process by being sorted into teams inside of a box. I looked through my folders daily and reread the stats on the back of the cards.
Besides collecting cards, some of my favorite memories as a kid took place on the diamond. I fondly remember hot Oklahoma summer days getting sunburned on my little league team. Baseball brought me and my friends together as we yelled, “Hey batter, batter, batter,” and other chants while hoping to get a win. We argued about our favorite players and favorite teams and rode our bikes all over town, buying cards from a variety of stores. It was apparent early on that I would not get a Hall of Fame plaque with my name on it, but I always had dreams of visiting Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to walk the aisles that showcased baseball’s elite.
I drove to Cooperstown with 3 of my kids, which took about 4 hours from New York City. We wanted to do more than visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, so we spent 3 nights and 4 days exploring the town. (More on the town later.) After a hike in the nearby woods and a trip to the Farmer’s Museum, we entered the Hall of Fame to pick up our tickets. Because of COVID, tickets are timed and they allow a limited number of people to tour the museum.
When we picked up our tickets, my kids received a scavenger hunt sheet full of questions with answers found in the exhibits. My 16-year-old acted like he didn’t want to fill out a paper and volunteered to help his younger siblings, but if kids fill out the paper and turn them in at the end of their visit, they receive a packet of baseball cards. Since I wanted everyone to have their own pack, I filled out the questionnaire my oldest received. This sheet helped me by entertaining my kids so I could spend more time perusing the plethora of baseball memorabilia. As we toured the museum, it was obvious I wasn’t the only dad filling out a kid’s sheet. Everywhere you looked, there was a dad holding a paper and pencil while their kids wandered around. Occasionally, I would greet other dads with a smile of acknowledgment.
Before I go on, I want to mention the friendly staff at the Baseball Hall of Fame. From the person greeting us at the entrance to those in the gift shop, everyone was kind and generous with their time. One employee, who we bumped into throughout the day, showed us exhibits and provided his knowledge on people, artifacts, and games. And he was patient with my little ones while they badgered him with questions and comments. The Baseball Hall of Fame has the kindest employees out of any museum I have ever visited.
As I walked around the Hall of Fame, it took me back to being that kid on the floor of my bedroom who loved baseball. I relived staring at my TV during George Brett’s pine tar incident while looking at the bat that caused the controversy. Nolan Ryan’s jersey hung before me and I recalled being in awe of his 5,000 strikeouts and the cool baseball cards all the kids wanted to collect, which included his name and statistics. Pete Rose’s shoes and bat brought me back to glorifying his playing style and being heartbroken by his gambling and exit from baseball. Cal Ripken’s helmet sat behind the glass, and I was once again admiring his commitment to baseball and to the fans. We also walked through exhibits discussing Baseball’s racist past, the Negro Leagues, and the great Jackie Robinson. We walked through other exhibits honoring Latin players and the women who played. With each stop, I talked to my kids about the players and the memories they stirred.
Walking through the Baseball Hall of Fame wasn’t only about exploring baseball’s history, but it was also about exploring mine. With baseball being a big part of my childhood, fond memories opened up again. What made it even more special was that I got to run through my memories with my kids by my side. My oldest is 16 and all-too-soon will be caught in a rundown between branching off into a separate path and the home he grew up in. In a way, it’s already started. Standing next to him while looking at baseball memorabilia touched by baseball’s greatest players; I foresaw an older son standing with his kids in front of the glass and sharing moments of going to Mets’ games and hopefully fondly recalling playing catch with his old man. He pointed to a question on his brother’s sheet and helped him spell out the answer. My chest was full of pride of the young man he has become. This had nothing to do with the love of the game, but because of a love for who my kids are. That’s what the Baseball Hall of Fame provided me. To remember how far I’ve come and who I’ve brought with me.
Baseball stirred memories that reminded me time is fleeting and to spend it as wisely as possible. As a dad, I’m the team manager and it’s the 7th inning stretch. There isn’t a lot of game left, but plenty of time to make an impact. I’m reminded to have fun, play hard, and get the line-up ready to make the save. Visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame was a parenting win with lifetime statistics racked up with wins and losses. I cherish moments like our tour because it was one for the win column.
If you’ve been contemplating making the trip to Cooperstown with your kids, I suggest you put it on the calendar. It will bring up old memories and provide new ones.
COVID has taken the ability to travel freely and explore other locations. The town of Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame has implemented rules to keep the residents and tourists safe. If you are walking around downtown, you must wear a mask at all times. When inside the Hall of Fame, visitors must wear a mask and keep 6 feet apart. There are markers on the floor throughout the Hall of Fame to remind you of your duty to be distant and to keep your mask on. Before you go, purchase your tickets ahead of time. Showing up and buying tickets is not recommended. Plan and buy ahead.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by This Is Cooperstown to write about my visit. The words and photos shared in this post are my own.