Former Hermantown resident and son complete tour of every MLB ballpark
Sick of watching baseball amid the sterile surroundings of the Metrodome, Dan “Dugan” Bjorlin and his son, Josh Bjorlin, did what so many other Minnesotans did before Target Field opened.
They hit the road.
And took to the air.
And rode the rails.
And after eight years of criss-crossing the country, father and son’s bucket list had shrunk by one.
A simple desire to watch outdoor baseball eventually morphed into an ambitious goal to visit each of the 30 Major League Baseball ballparks. Dan and Josh started in 2007 by hitting six parks in seven days. They finished earlier this summer with a West Coast swing, their final stop coming June 27 at Petco Park in San Diego.
In 2008, a yearning for some authentic barbecue food beckoned the Bjorlins to Kansas City, where they watched the Twins play the Royals. There, the idea spawned to touch ’em all.
“We had such a good time there that we decided we should just hit all the parks,” 53-year-old Dan, a former Hermantown resident now living in Becker, Minn., said by phone Monday.
And so they did, which was quite the coup for dad considering his son’s favorite sport features a puck instead of a baseball.
Dan’s chief selling point? Hot dogs.
“I knew he liked hot dogs, but I wasn’t sure how much he liked baseball,” Dan said. “So I suggested we go have a hot dog in every stadium, and after that he was all in.”
Josh, who fancies himself a bit of a hot dog connoisseur, tried dogs at every stop, including the classic Dodger Dog in Los Angeles and the world-famous Nathan’s hot dogs in New York.
He kept coming back to old reliable.
“Nothing can beat the old Dome Dogs!” Josh wrote in an email, recalling a staple of the Twins’ old home. The 24-year-old recently graduated from the University of North Dakota.
Dan estimates that the ballpark tour required about 20,000 miles of driving and about 9,200 flying.
“Josh usually did the late-night driving because he’s a college student, and I did the morning driving because I’m old,” Dan joked.
They slept in hotels and motels, campgrounds, at relatives’ houses and in Dan’s car. And they never purchased tickets ahead of time, instead opting to buy the day of, which frequently allowed them to save money while scoring prime seats.
Of the 32 parks they saw — the 30 current ones plus the old Yankee Stadium and the Metrodome — both Dan and Josh agree that Target Field tops the list. Josh ranks Petco Park No. 2, while Dan favors PNC Park in Pittsburgh, likely because of the Outback Steakhouse in left field.
Asked to name the worst park, Dan didn’t hesitate.
“No doubt about it, Tampa,” he said. “It made the Metrodome look like a palace.”
While Dan and Josh admitted the focus almost always was on baseball instead of sightseeing, they diversified occasionally. During their 2010 trip, which started at the then-new Target Field before continuing out east, they watched Dan’s nephew graduate from West Point. President Obama was the keynote speaker.
Other highlights included: witnessing a fist fight at the old Yankee Stadium — as much a part of the national pastime as beer and brats; seeing Boog Powell, one of Dan’s favorite players growing up, at Camden Yards in Baltimore; collecting autographs from, among others, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and Denard Span; singing “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ ” with San Diego Padres cheerleaders on the Jumbotron; being part of a “halfway to Christmas” celebration in Anaheim, where 35,669 fans set a world record for the largest gathering of people wearing Santa hats; and riding bikes on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Dan referred to him and his son as “good Swedes,” which helps explain a comment from an Atlanta woman while they were in town to watch the Twins play the Braves. “I’ve never met anyone from Minnesota, or anyone so white!” the woman exclaimed.
Back at Target Field in 2011, Dan and Josh dressed up like Paul Bunyan while paying homage to Jim Thome, who had starred in a Paul Bunyan-themed commercial earlier that season. It paid off, Josh says, in the form appearing on the Jumbotron four times, getting circled on the Fox Sports North broadcast by Twins color analyst Bert Blyleven and spending two and a half innings in the broadcast booth with Blyleven and play-by-play man Dick Bremer.
A picture from their final stop, San Diego’s Petco, shows father and son holding a sign that reads “30 parks: Dad & Josh touched ’em all!” — no doubt in deference to former Twins radio man John Gordon, whose famous home run call was “touch ’em all!”
Dan and Josh did just that.
“Without a doubt, I’m truly blessed to be able to do something like that,” Josh said Monday by phone. “It was always great at the end of the school year being able to go on a trip with dad, and talk to him and get some advice from my dad. It was just the boys.”
Now what? With no ballparks left to visit, what’s next on the travel agenda?
Dan’s wife, Jennifer Bjorlin, certainly will have a say this time around.
“I have to take her on vacation now,” Dan said, “and stay at nice hotels.”