|Covid-19 cancelled the two trips that were planned for this year. Below is an interview that appeared on the front page of the Sunday July 12 Seattle Times newspaper. It was on the digital edition on July 11. Then the Seattle Mariners honored Jim.
|Photos of Newspaper Article
|Mariners Honor Jim at no fans game August 4th
323 ballparks down, only 2 to go: Lynnwood couple's quest on hold due to COVID
July 11, 2020 at 6:00 am Updated July 11, 2020 at 6:59 pm
Jim and Andrea Siscel have visited hundreds of baseball parks since 2002, making a trip every year until the pandemic halted their plans this year. The Lynnwood couple holds a pillow made out of a T-shirt sporting... (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
By Larry Stone--Seattle Times columnist
"Yakima County Stadium, home of Yakima Bears of the Northwest League, Aug. 25, 2002. They have the largest hamburger I have seen, a 1/2 lb. Family burger with a bun of at least 6 inches with the meat hanging out the side, for only $4.75. There is a group of fans on the 1st base side who hang up Ks when Yakima gets a strike out. Then they all chant to the opposing batter One, Two, Three, See Ya.
Back in 2002, Andrea Siscel was retiring from her job as a medical lab tech for Group Health. Her husband, Jim Siscel, was retiring from a long career as an elementary school teacher in the Shoreline District.
The Lynnwood couple, inveterate baseball fans, were looking for a new diversion in their lives.
You know what I want to do? See all the ballparks from Single-A through the majors,'' Jim told Andrea.
And thus, began an 18-year odyssey for the Siscels that has taken them crisscrossing around the country (and into Canada), viewing our nation one baseball stadium at a time, summer after summer, town after town.
It was an enjoying and relaxing way to get away from everything we were used to, said Andrea Siscel. Just to talk to people all over the country, and spend some time with each other away from any other things that interfere.
t has been an invigorating whirlwind of crazy mascots, often-unhealthy menu items, and thousands of innings of baseball, ranging from sublime to ridiculous.
It's just a great way to see America,'' said Jim Siscel.
Initially, it was just a three-year plan. The first year, they loaded their brand-new silver Dodge Caravan, started nearby at Everett Memorial Stadium (now Funko Field) on June 23, 2002, and then visited 36 parks in 56 days, all west of the Rockies.
In a photo out of their major league scrapbook, Jim and Andrea Siscel pose in the Montreal Expos' Olympic Stadium in 2003. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
The second year, 2003, was the marathon - 117 ballparks in 186 days over six months, putting nearly 29,000 miles on the trusty Caravan as they traversed the East Coast. And in Year Three - 2004 - the Siscels completed their original goal with 33 more stadiums through the Midwest and Texas over 70 days.
All told, the Siscels spent 312 days on the road over those three seasons, traveled 55,604 miles, spent about $27,000 (an economical $100 or so per day) and visited 186 ballparks.
Each year, the Siskels would hit a new region, a new league. The total of ballparks visited now stands at 323
and counting, all chronicled in impressive detail (complete with photos) on their website. That includes every major-league stadium but one (and they keep building new ones to lure them), every level of the minor leagues, and then a sprinkling of spring training parks in both Arizona and Florida, the Arizona Fall League, three collegiate leagues, and a variety of independent leagues (some that don't even exist anymore).
Andrea, who has survived two bouts of cancer, doesn't go on every trip now, choosing to stay home at times to dote on their two grandchildren (and also wisely opting out of any trip that involves overwhelming humidity in the South).
This was to have been Jim's last year of the pilgrimage that has taken him to every state with a professional team except Hawaii. At 78, the former Air Force colonel (active duty and reservist) has to admit he's slowing down a bit - but you wouldn't really know it.
He maintains a wish list of about 30 ballparks he hasn't visited yet, either because of remote locations (an isolated park in Granville, West Virginia, has proven particularly elusive), or a new park has been built since their last trip, or a team has changed location.
Jim had a trip scheduled this past April that would have taken him from Reno to Las Vegas to Amarillo. It would then culminate in Arlington, Texas, where Andrea was to join him so they could take in the brand-new Texas Rangers stadium - with an appearance by their beloved Mariners as a bonus. In August, he was going to embark on a solo excursion to Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia to knock a few missing stadiums off his list.
I still want to get to 325. That's kind of my goal,'' he says over the phone. And my wife is laughing in the background.
It's just killing me, because I've been in all these minor-league parks, and I've been in all these small towns, and I see how important baseball is to these small towns,'' he said.
The Siscels are longtime season weekend ticket holders for the Mariners, dating back to the Kingdome days. In fact, they still have their Kingdome seats from Section 205, which they bought when the park was razed.
Jim and Andrea Siscel sit in the seats they once occupied in the 200 level of the Kingdome when they watched Mariners play there. (Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times, 2004)
When the Siscels go to a new park, Jim likes to wander around for the first few innings, check out the concessions and sightlines, chat up folks and take pictures. Andrea, who grew up playing workup on the sandlots of Iowa, and then honed her knowledge of baseball serving as scorekeeper for their son's Little League team, prefers to concentrate on the actual ballgame.
I mean, I'm into baseball, but she's more into it than I am, Jim said. She watches the Mariners on TV when they're out of town. I work on my computer until I hear her screaming and yelling and shouting. Then I run downstairs to see what's going on. But I really enjoy going to ballparks. I love the interaction with people.
Like Blair County Ballpark, home of the Double-A Altoona Curve, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. That's where the Siscels found a delightful park, sunk into a hillside, that features an all-brick façade in front and an active wooden roller coaster behind the left-field fence.
A page from the Siscels' minor league scrapbook features the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of Jackson, Tennessee. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
That's a favorite of both, as is Asheville, North Carolina (The outfield is all trees. Just a pleasant little park.). At the major-league level, Jim picks PNC Park in Pittsburgh for the National League. And for the American League?
Obviously, the Mariners, he said. And I'm not biased on that. Great sightlines - you can see from the concourse, and that's something in a major league park I think is essential. You've got to be able to walk around and see the game no matter where you are. You can do that at the Mariners.
But really, Jim says, they're all his favorites, declaring that there's not a bad ballpark out there.
Wait a minute - I take that back, he says upon reflection. The Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League. They're not there anymore. I've never seen a ballpark as bad as that one.
But that's the exception that proves the rule. He and Andrea have a story, an anecdote, a memory, from each park, all treasured. And as part of the adventure, they would take out their Triple-A guidebooks and find interesting attractions in the vicinity - museums, national parks, battlefields and other historical sites.
I'm a history major originally, Jim said. This was cool for me because I got to see all these things I had heard about, and a lot of them that I hadn't.
The Allman Brothers once sang, The Road Goes on Forever. It might not for the Siscels, but they hope to keep traveling well beyond the time they end their ballpark mission - whenever that turns out to be. But even then, don't be surprised if they still take in a baseball game (or 12) in some remote outpost. By now, it's in their blood.
Larry Stone: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @StoneLarry. Larry Stone calls upon more than 30 years as a sportswriter to offer insight, wisdom, opinion, analysis - and hopefully some humor - regarding the wide world of sports. Topics include the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and, especially, the people responsible for either outcome, as well as the wide chasm between.
The story was picked up and ran in the Providence Journal, Providence, RI on Monday July 13, 2020. and The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA on Monday July 2020.