McVickers’ Trip Honors Longtime Baseball Fan

Mitch McVicker and his grandmother Louise McVicker stand at Oracle Park in San Francisco, one of 30 ballparks they visited together this spring. PHOTO COURTSY OF MITCH McVICKER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Mitch McVicker was a pitcher and third baseman for the Anthony Wayne Generals when his No. 1 fan – grandfather Jim McVicker – passed away in 2002.

Yet his grandfather’s spirit has been very much alive this baseball season, as the 2004 Anthony Wayne graduate teamed up with his grandmother, Louise McVicker, for a 15,000-mile cross-country road trip to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.

“This was a legacy trip in honor of my grandfather,” Mitch said.

Jim met Louise when he told a friend he wanted to go on at least one date before he graduated from Monclova School in 1947.

“I was his one date,” laughed Louise, who bonded with Jim over their shared love of baseball. The two married in 1950, the year after she graduated, and started a family that has grown to include five children, 12 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

“I have a different bond with every one of my kids and grandkids,” Louise said.

With Mitch, it’s a shared love of traveling and meeting new people. During her 80th year, they began an annual tradition of taking a weeklong trip together. Over the last 12 years, they traversed every pocket of the country.

In 2019, motivated by Mitch’s desire to meet a child he sponsors through his friend’s nonprofit, Faith Seeds International, the two visited Guatemala and Central America.

It was while in Guatemala that Mitch first got the notion to take Louise on a trip to every ballpark. As if a sign to confirm that idea, Louise showed Mitch the 1992 Cleveland Indians Fantasy Baseball Camp card that features Jim’s photo and a statement expressing his desire to one day see every MLB stadium.

While the pandemic interrupted those plans, the duo finally decided to make that dream a reality this year. Beginning on May 7 with the Cleveland Guardians, the two spent 36 days on the road, wrapping up on June 11, when Louise threw out the first pitch in Detroit, where the Tigers faced the Arizona Dia-mondbacks.

“My bottom knows every mile,” chuckled Louise of the trip, which in some cases had them on the road 15 hours a day. “What was most amazing is that we we never had a game get rained out. The sun just kept following us throughout the tour on game days.”

Because of the schedules, they weren’t able to watch live games at five parks but did still pay a visit to the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Anaheim Angels, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners to view their stadiums.

Along with getting their MLB Passport books stamped at each official team store, the McVickers also used the books to document the stats from each game and pen their fondest memories at each destination. 

The two sampled countless hot dogs, sat both in the upper tiers and behind home plate, tracked every run, hit and error on score cards and took lots of photos for Mitch to share daily on social media.

Louise was impressed seeing bronze statues of players she recalls reading about in the sports pages of her younger days – like Pete Rose and Cal Ripken – while Mitch marveled at the history in Boston’s Fenway Park, where Babe Ruth and Ted Williams once played.

In some parks, Louise was treated like a celebrity, especially in Cleveland, which was Jim’s favorite team. In others, she was among the oldest of the fans seated in the stands.

“It’s women my age who still love baseball,” she said. “Younger women seem to have lost a strong interest in this national pastime.”

Growing up, Louise recalls that every ballpark handed out score cards for fans to keep track of the game. That was before the time of electronic scoreboards that provide every detail.

Jim, who played federation baseball – a semiprofessional league – as a catcher from 1951-1961, used score cards to teach adults and youth the intricacies of the game. Louise used a score card to teach the game to Mitch’s friend from India, Harsh Raj.

“Harsh knew all about his national sport of cricket, but he’d never been to a professional American baseball game,” Mitch said. “My grandma is a great teacher of the game. By the time the last out was recorded, Harsh really had a comprehensive understanding of the sport and gained an appreciation for it.”

As a consultant for youth leadership programs, Mitch not only had the opportunity to work remotely during the past five weeks, but also to connect personally with many colleagues, friends and family. Mitch posted the ballpark tour schedule for his friends and business acquaintances and invited anyone who wanted to join them at a game to reach out.

“Mitch has grown a strong network over the years with his caring attitude,” Louise said. “He has the kindest friends you would ever want to meet. We had experiences of not just baseball but meeting family and friends along the way. There were hardly any games where we attended by ourselves.”

“That’s our kindred value – we’re both very people driven,” Mitch added. “People matter to us.”

Mitch is also amazed by his grandmother’s energy and enthusiasm for life. It’s an attitude that Louise said she adopted after participating in a Bible study at Hope United Methodist Church several years ago. Choose Joy, by Kay Warren, shows how to find joy in all circumstances, she said.

“I decided I wanted to live that way. Since then, I’ve had all kinds of energy,” she said.

“She really lives that sentiment daily,” Mitch said, noting that it was difficult to find a time to schedule a trip with Louise because she’s busy traveling to see family, friends and even the countries of the 13 exchange students that she and Jim hosted from 1972 to 1993.

Now that the whirlwind tour is over, Louise and Mitch are already looking forward to the next trip. Where that might be, they don’t yet know, but one thing’s for sure – it will be filled with adventure and laughter together.

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