For most true Major League Baseball fans, attending a game in every team’s stadium is a bucket list item. Some more ambitious fans have, of late, gained fame for racing from stadium to stadium. Chuck Booth completed the 30-stadium round trip in 23 days back in 2012. That’s quite the feat of endurance, craziness, and baseball love, but 22-year-old Matt Stoltz of Wisconsin may have Booth beat.
Most who get to all 30 stadiums travel using some combination of car, plane, or train. Stoltz, who is partnering with the charity Biking For Baseball, is doing it all on the strength of his own two legs. Since Opening Day, back on April 6, Stoltz has been working on a 180-day, 11,155-mile bike ride that will take him to all 30 Major League stadiums in an effort to raise money that will go towards putting on baseball clinics and mentoring inner city youth in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
“One day, I opened Google Maps and opened the baseball schedule,” Stoltz said when discussing the genesis of his journey, “and began figuring out the mileage each day and what was feasible. Then, you have to account for teams being out on ten-day road trips.”
The heat of July and the schedule made for some challenging days, but after pushing through the southern part of his journey — over 3,000 miles in 29 days that saw him rush from St. Louis to Miami, and back up to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — Stoltz’s road should begin easing up.
“That was a stretch of 3,050 miles in 29 days. I was just racing to the ballparks, and that’s with 50 pounds of gear on my bike. It was tough, and the heat of Florida didn’t really let up, but I pushed through days where I would get on the road at six in the morning and wouldn’t get off the bike until it was dark. It made for some long days, but from here on in the schedule gets easier and I have more off days.”
Stoltz is not the first person to complete a tour of the stadiums by bike. Fellow Biking for Baseball team members completed their own journey in 2012, but with support vehicles tagging along. Stoltz has none of that, but that does not mean he feels alone on his journey. The reception he has received from fellow fans along the road and at the ballpark has been great.
“Whether it’s outside the ballpark or on the road, people are always taken aback when I tell them I’m biking to all 30 ballparks,” he said. “I have a little pocket map I show them to put it into perspective. They get really on board after seeing how far it is. It’s really cool talking to people about it for the first time and seeing how they want to get involved, whether it’s making a donation or working as a mentor. That’s pretty heart-warming.”
Going it alone would seem like a huge challenge to most, but Stoltz has been able to turn that into a positive. He’s formed new acquaintances with people all across the country and turned strangers into friends all across the country. The types of memories formed in those moments make up for all of the nights spent in a tent.
At the core of the trip is the effort to raise funds and increase awareness of the Big Brothers Big Sisters cause. It is a cause that Stoltz is passionate about. He has been involved with the organization since his high school days, so the importance of a mentor in the life of a young person was first-hand knowledge.
“We directly support Big Brothers Big Sisters financially and we also put on youth baseball clinics in conjunction with them in cities across the country. At lot of the kids have never even touched a ball or a bat. We bring out the kids and the mentors and put on a tailgate — the whole nine yards. By the end of the day, these kids who have never touched a baseball in their life are playing a game of baseball, and it’s just a cool combination.”
To add to the excitement, many of the clinics end with the campers taking in a professional baseball game. For many, it is the first time they will have set foot in a Major League stadium.
“The scene of witnessing them walking into a ballpark for the first time and taking in the atmosphere is a pretty cool experience to see,” Stoltz said.
As the journey this season winds to a close this September in Milwaukee, Stoltz and Biking for Baseball continue to keep an eye on the future. The trip this summer has continued to help bring exposure to the cause, and they hope to capitalize upon that going forward.
“We’ve put on a few clinics this year, and we hope to put on a few more as the year progresses. After my trip, we hope to progress with putting on more clinics, creating awareness, and helping to create a platform to help people get involved and become mentors.”
While Matt Stoltz is undertaking a massive journey, he realizes — and wants everyone to realize — it does not take a massive effort to have an impact on the life of a child. It does not take a superhero effort, just involvement.
“In my time as a mentor, I’ve witnessed just how little it really takes to have a positive influence on another person’s life,” he said. “You don’t have to be a miracle worker, and it doesn’t take much. These kids will look up to you, and you can help guide them through life’s tough situations.”
To follow Matt’s journey live, check out his GPS tracking here. You can also host Matt overnight as he continues to make his push North through the Mid-Atlantic and then back to Milwaukee. Finally, donations to Biking for Baseball can be made here. To date, Matt has helped to raise over $20,000 this season.