Blind fan's whirlwind baseball tour worth trip
Deal's journey to 30 parks in 30 days ended Memorial Day
Reggie Deal didn't circle the globe on his journey to every Major League ballpark. It just felt that way.The earth's total circumference is a little less than 25,000 miles. Add up all the travel Deal, a blind fan who visited all 30 parks in a 30-day span that wrapped up on Memorial Day, did via air or train or bus, and it comes to more than 20,000 miles. "That puts in perspective how much travel I've done," he said. When it comes to perspective, Deal's is certainly unique. As noted when we first introduced you to Deal last month, blindness hasn't prevented the 39-year-old Afton, Wyo., resident from appreciating every aspect of the baseball experience. And it certainly didn't get in the way of the plotting it took to arrange this trip or the fortitude, mental and physical, it took to complete it. Recapping his journey over the phone Monday night, Deal's voice was hoarse, the lingering effect of a nasty head cold he came down with in Denver. His luggage was lost somewhere in Ohio last week, and his body was begging for a more consistent sleep pattern. But Deal had reached the finish line of his Major League migration, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. "If there's anybody who wants to do this, I will gladly help anybody schedule one of these things," he said. "After what I've gone through, I definitely learned some things to do and not to do." On the "don't do" list? Scheduling connecting flights on consecutive days as he traveled from Seattle to Milwaukee to Cleveland, losing precious time in the sky as the time zones shifted. "That," he said, "was a tough week." But by enduring the tough travel, Deal enjoyed some special experiences. When the initial story ran, many people in the baseball community responded in a big way. Several teams gave Deal a tour of their facility or let him on the field for batting practice or upgraded his seat. Deal was interviewed by local broadcasters and writers, taken to the MLB Fan Cave in Manhattan, featured on an in-stadium scoreboard video in Seattle and even threw a pitch off the mound at San Francisco's AT&T Park, among other perks. What mattered most to him, though, were the games themselves. In each park, he tuned into the local radio broadcast in one ear while letting the other pick up the sounds around him. And with remarkable precision, he can recount all he witnessed -- and some things that he didn't. "What's amazing to me," Deal said, "is that not one single game of the 30 went into extra innings. I didn't have any walk-offs, either. But there were some good threats and good endings." Deal missed both Josh Hamilton's four-homer heroics at Camden Yards on May 8 and Justin Verlander's near no-hitter against the Pirates at Comerica Park on May 18 by a day, which seemed a cruel twist of fate. "It's one thing if it's in a ballpark you're not going to be in for two weeks," he said. "But less than 24 hours? That's just not right." Deal did, however, get his wish to witness a grand slam when the Reds' Devin Mesoraco hit one against the Braves last Thursday at Great American Ball Park. "I knew from the sounds in the stands that it went out before I knew from the radio," he said, "because that was one of those places where there was a significant [radio] delay. I knew from the sound when he hit it that he hit it hard, and the way those 35,000 folks were cheering told me it went out." Deal's love and appreciation for the game is infectious, and his attention to detail is obvious. As we spoke, he was calculating the total attendance at the 30 games (895,831, if you're scoring at home) and hoping to compile his notes, update his MLBlog and one day write a book about his travels. As you might expect, the experience wasn't entirely positive. Deal can tell you which ballparks were friendlier to his condition than others, about the people who were a little too aggressive in trying to lead him along at the airport or train station, and about the crazy cab driver in Cleveland who sped over a drawbridge as it opened for an approaching boat. In the end, he said the experience was well worth the time and money ($7,500 for air and bus travel, plus food and other expenses) it took to make it happen. But he was definitely looking forward to getting home to his wife, Lorna. "My next thing," he said, "is to take my wife to every ballpark. But as I told her, it won't all be in one year. Maybe a period of eight to 10 years."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.