Most die-hard baseball fans dream of one day traveling around the country to visit all of the ballparks in a certain region or league and said they did it. Something on my bucket list is to travel and watch a baseball game in all 30 Major League ballparks throughout my life.
In 2011, Craig Wieczorkiewicz, of Madison, Wisconsin, decided to take a negative thing and turn it into a positive thing. When the newspaper he wrote for unfortunately downsized, he lost his job. After speaking with his wife Laura, Wieczorkiewicz began his time as the Midwest League Traveler. “I had her blessing. That was the key to the whole thing.”
In spurts throughout the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Wieczorkiewicz made stops at all 16 ballparks from Wisconsin to Ohio. He started at the nearest ballpark in Beloit and ended in Eastlake, Ohio at Classic Park. Wieczorkiewicz went to 64 games total, including the entire Midwest League Championship Series and three other playoff games.
Along the way, Wieczorkiewicz created mwltraveler.com as a travelogue of the journey and to interact with the fans around the country. “I love being the Midwest League guy online. I love to interact with fans on Twitter” His Twitter handle is @ MWLTraveler.
Wieczorkiewicz is in the works of taking the blog and turning that into a book that could be published in 2015. ‘I’m currently writing a book about the ballparks and my experiences at them and in the communities where they are located.”
Love of Baseball
Wieczorkiewicz grew up in the Chicago suburbs as a kid. Growing up near a town with two MLB franchises, he chose the Chicago Cubs as his favorite team. Despite all of the struggles over the years, Wieczorkiewicz believes that the future is bright for the Cubbies. “They have a great group of top prospects that will make a difference over the next few years, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara.”
Baez showed his stuff as a top prospect as made his MLB debut on August 5th. He hit his first homerun in that game and had three homers in his first three games.
“My favorite player of all-time was Greg Maddux. That is why I am making the trip to Cooperstown, to watch his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.”
Wieczorkiewicz became acquainted with the Midwest League when he saw the Kane County Cougars in Geneva, Illinois in 1991. Towards the end of the 90’s, he moved to the north central part of Illinois. From there, he visited the MWL parks within one day of his house, including the Peoria Chiefs.
“I love baseball. I love to go watch a game and then write about it. It doesn’t matter to me if it is independent league ball, minor league baseball or even college teams.”
When Wieczorkiewicz took his tour, his favorite ballpark to visit was Parkview Field, the home of the Fort Wayne Tincaps. “The ballpark is very spacious, the people are really friendly and it has a lot of amenities.” Wieczorkiewicz also named Fifth Third Field (Dayton) and Fifth Third Ballpark (West Michigan) as some of the best ballparks in the league.
Wieczorkiewicz was asked for his favorite part of Classic Park, throughout his visits to Eastlake. “My favorite part is the Walk of Fame in right field.” The Captains made a section of the right field concourse dedicated to the former Captains (players and coaches) that have made it to the Major Leagues.
He noted three ballparks that are older but they have a feeling all to themselves. Pohlman Field (Beloit), Community Field (Burlington) and Ashford University Field (Clinton) are the smaller ballparks on the circuit. “There are no far-back seats at those parks.”
“I’m a baseball romantic…For me, this is a labor of love.”
Interact with Craig at mwltraveler.com or on Twitter @MWLTraveler. I enjoy talking with him about stuff about the Midwest League.