Growing up in New York City, Angelo Volpe played a lot of baseball, and between the Yankees and Dodgers, he certainly had top teams to follow. But, as the son of Italian immigrants, the Yankees were the only team for Angelo.
“Folks always ask me, ‘How can it be you grew up in Brooklyn in the time of the Dodgers, and you became a Yankees fan?’” Angelo says. “Well, I became a Yankees fan for ethnic reasons.
“Back in the 40s and 50s, Italians were still being discriminated against, and yet the Yankees had a whole bunch of Italian American players including Frank Crosetti, Tony Lazzari, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio,” Angelo explains. “The Dodgers had only one and a half Italian players, so there was no question. You were a Yankees fan if you were an Italian American in New York.”
Years later, Angelo married his wife, Jennette, and, to Angelo’s delight, she is as much of a baseball fanatic as he is. With time, Jennette, a Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles fan, even became a Yankees fan too. Today, the two live predominantly in Cookeville, Tennessee, though they have an apartment in Brooklyn.
After Angelo retired from his job as president of the Tennessee Technological University in 2000, he and Jennette began to visit ballparks and soon decided they wanted to commit to visiting all 30 major league stadiums. In 2002, Angelo saw an ad for Sports Travel and Tours in a sports magazine and the two booked a trip right away, visiting Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
“We were hooked,” Angelo says of the couple’s first trip with Sports Travel and Tours. “The memories I have from that trip and all the ones that came after it are seared in my mind.”
Angelo and Jennette regularly went on one or two trips a year, eventually being inducted into the Stadium Hall of Fame in 2009 after visiting all 30 major league ballparks.
“One of the great things that has happened by taking all these trips is we’ve made friends who we’ll be friends with for life,” Angelo says. “We’ve met people like Gary Laprade and Stephanie London. We see each other over and over again. Having the opportunity to become such good friends with all these fellow baseball fans has just been great for us.”
When you’re a people person like Angelo, gaining friendships and connections through Sports Travel and Tours is one of the most rewarding parts of each trip.
“As a university president, you really have to like people,” Angelo says. “What I love most about baseball is the people. I have a T-shirt that says ‘Baseball is life. All the rest is details.’ ”
In fact, it was one of his Sports Travel and Tours companions, Gary Laprade, who proposed branching out to see the minor league ballparks after the group of friends had seen all 30 Major League stadiums.
“Gary said ‘Let’s do some of the Major Minor trips,’ and that’s been great,” Angelo says. “Minor league games are so fan-friendly, and every seat is a great seat.”
Angelo and Jennette have decided the Major Minor Southern Swing trip, their fourth Major Minor trip, is next on their traveling agenda.
The trip, which runs from Monday, May 22 to Sunday, May 28, includes four games at four different ballparks with stops in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. In addition to watching games, travelers receive tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and tour the World of Coca Cola museum, a CNN studio, the College Football Hall of Fame, Rickwood Field and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
“We’re definitely looking forward to this year’s trip, and seeing the new Atlanta Braves’ ballpark,” Angelo says. “Plus, we’ve always loved the tours Sports Travel and Tours offers as part of the travel packages.”
Learn more about the Major Minor Southern Swing trip.