This summer has been full of baseball opportunities for me! Ever since I’ve been a little girl, my summers were full of my brother’s baseball games. And I enjoyed every second of it.
My favorite professional baseball team is the Atlanta Braves, and Chipper Jones, their switch-hitting third baseman, is my favorite ball player. As all players do, Jones retired a few years ago, and this year he was honored with an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
I’d been to Cooperstown once with my parents about 8 years ago. It was such a neat experience, visiting the Hall that honors great baseball players from years past.
This year, the Hall of Fame came to life with about 57 Hall of Famers all gathering in the little village of Cooperstown.
I understand that many of you are not big baseball fans. So if not, let me just say this. In June, Tim Tebow, whom I’ve been a fan of since his college days, came to play baseball in Central Pennsylvania. I saw this opportunity, and I took it. I was not letting a chance to watch Tebow play baseball slip by! I attended two games, an evening game with my husband and an afternoon game on my own.
And now I got to see my childhood baseball hero get inducted into the Hall of Fame. These opportunities do not present themselves every day. When something special arises, take advantage of it! Take action! Go, do, see! Don’t let once in a lifetime opportunities pass you by!
And now for the baseball portion. I cannot even explain to you how amazing it was to see these legendary men of baseball riding in trucks about 10 yards in front of me! I mean, Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr, and Ken Griffey Jr. were all literally right in front of us! It was surreal!
My husband and I arrived Saturday afternoon and toured the Hall of Fame itself. The entire stretch of Main Street in front of the museum was closed to traffic, so we were free to roam wherever we chose.
The plaque room was one of my favorite parts. Getting to see all these amazing baseball players enshrined forever was incredible!
After the museum closed, we walked out into the street to try to find a good viewing place for the Parade of Legends. Seriously, this parade was amazing! So many of the great baseball players I’ve heard of or watched were right there in front of my eyes! Some filmed the crowd while others danced in the back of the pickup trucks, but each man let their own personality shine through.
Because I waited just a little too long to book accommodations, we ended up staying about an hour away. Which, in the grand scheme, I suppose is not too bad! The area is beautiful, with lots of farm land and many old houses.
Sunday was the big day! We walked around Main Street, checking out Doubleday Field, looking in cute little shops, and rubbernecking at the random baseball players sitting along the sidewalks signing autographs. We eventually ate lunch at the Hardball Cafe, which is a little open air restaurant with lots of delicious food options! Afterwards we made our way up the hill to the induction site.
All of the former Hall of Famers that attended were on stage for the ceremony. Unless you pay for VIP seating, it is difficult to see what is happening on the actual stage. We just set our chairs up as close as we could Saturday afternoon and that was that. Everything is broadcast on a large screen and the sound system is phenomenal, so we didn’t have any trouble hearing or seeing anything that was happening. The people on the actual stage just looked tiny!
Each inductee gave a speech (Chipper’s was the best…but I guess I’m partial), with video clips, introductions, and other anecdotes in between. We actually left before Jim Thome spoke, which was a little disappointing because we both wanted to listen to his speech. But we were both really hot, really sunburnt, and really thirsty. And we wanted to beat the mass exodus of people.
All in all, it was a great experience! Cooperstown is a beautiful place to visit and is rich with baseball history. As we were on our little trip, I knew I was going to write about it.
So here are some tips I’ve compiled if you ever decide to visit Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend.
1. Wear comfortable walking shoes!
On the maps I looked at, the area in which things happen looks enormous! Thankfully, it isn’t. We parked in a free lot about a mile from Main Street and just about a mile from the induction site. It was a distance, but it really wasn’t an excessive amount of walking. There are shuttles that you can opt to ride for a small fee, but we just chose to use the opportunity as our daily exercise.
2. Parking is free (but it doesn’t have to be).
There are 3 free parking lots available outside of Cooperstown. My husband and I chose to park in the Blue Lot because that was the direction we arrived in and it appeared to be the closest to the induction venue. On Saturday, we arrived around 2:00, and on Sunday we arrived around 10:00, and both times there was ample parking at the lot we were at. Residents of Cooperstown also open their yards and driveways to travelers for a fee of anywhere from $20 to $40. Parking is generally closer than the free lots, but that’s a personal preference.
And if you aren’t sure about parking, there are police officers everywhere throughout the town. Just ask!
3. Either be very patient or very bold.
There are more people there than you can imagine. It gets very crowded, and everyone is trying to see the same things as you. For someone who is 5 feet tall, that can be tricky. Be aware of the people around you. Don’t just back up, look where you are going. And if you bump into someone by accident, (because it will happen), just say excuse me. Either don’t be afraid to blaze your own paths, or be prepared to wait a very long time to see things.
4. Set up your chairs for the ceremony on Saturday. (And remember where you put them!)
When we got to the induction site, it was about 2:00 on Saturday and the flat section of the seating area was nearly full! There was a hill rising up in the farthest part from the stage, and by the time everyone was there on Sunday, the hill was packed too. I was very glad we got there when we did to set up chairs! The facility closes at 4:00on Saturday, so be sure to arrive before then!
If there is a chance of rain overnight, get creative! Put out some old chairs, and switch them for new ones on Sunday. Cover your chairs with garbage bags. Think of something that will prevent you from having a wet hiney during the ceremony!
5. Set up chairs for the parade on Saturday morning.
This I did not read about. As we were walking down Main Street on Saturday, the street was lined with lawn chairs about four rows deep. We picked a spot about an hour before the parade began, so we had a pretty good view. But had we had chairs, it would’ve been even closer!
6. Bring sunscreen, snacks, and water to the induction ceremony.
As I was reading the rules for the ceremony, I came across the “clear bags only” statement. So, being the rule follower that I am, I used my clear cinch bag from the Philadelphia Marathon to take what we needed. My bag was the only clear one I saw all day. People brought coolers, purses, and tote bags with them. I looked on in envy as the couple beside us was eating nice cool pasta salad and drinking crisp water. So, use your judgement. Follow the rules or follow the crowd. There is water and food available for purchase at the event, but unless you are at the end of a row, it is rather inconvenient. I saw quite a few people wandering around, trying to find their seats again after they purchased their refreshments. It is also distracting to everyone around you.
Another rule is no umbrellas during the ceremony. This is as a courtesy to everyone sitting behind you. We get it, it’s hot! But the sun is beating just as hard on everyone else. Please be polite and don’t put up your umbrella during the ceremony! Make sure you have sunscreen!
7. Book your overnight reservations early!
I did not. I would advise not waiting until the last minute. Cooperstown is tiny, and so are many towns around it. Accommodations are hard to come by, so plan ahead!
Don’t rule out bed and breakfasts. There seems to be a good number of them around, but they fill up even quicker than hotels!
8. Enjoy all of Cooperstown.
Main Street is where all of the hubbub is, but there is more to Cooperstown. Find some back streets and alleys and explore the little shops. Visit Doubleday Field (where they have actual bathrooms if you are not a port-a-pot fan). There are restaurants off the beaten path. There were even fallow deer pens on one end of town. My husband was highly distracted by them! Take some time to look at the houses. There is some beautiful, old architecture there. There are also lots of kids sitting out selling lemonade and baked goods along the streets! Just look for the sidewalk chalk drawings and arrows pointing the way!
Here are a few other random pictures from our trip.
Each inductee had a special display just for them. “A League of Their Own” is one of my favorite movies!
It is still hard for me to fathom that I was within 10 yards of Hank Aaron. To be able to say that I was able to witness my favorite baseball player of all time being inducted into the Hall of Fame…well, there just aren’t words. It was an incredible experience and a nice weekend, and I am so thankful my husband and I had the opportunity to attend this special event!
Have you ever been to Cooperstown, NY? What was your favorite thing to see or do?