Fifty-eight-year-old Gary Laprade of Easthampton, MA is not your average baseball fan. The retired postal clerk has traveled to 96 ballparks throughout the United States—sometimes as a spectator and sometimes as a tour guide. He’s visited 45 major league fields and 51 minor league parks.
The triumph of visiting at least 30 major league parks with Sports Travel and Tours of Hatfield, MA, earned Gary an induction into its own Baseball Stadium Hall of Fame in 2005.
It took Gary eight years to visit the 30 stadiums; he says some Sports Travel and Tours Stadium Hall of Famers accomplished it in one 31-day trip the firm offered one year, and others take as long as 12 years.
Once they each accomplish that grand feat, though, Gary and fellow Hall of Famers needed a new challenge, so they moved on to visiting minor league fields with Sports Travel and Tours as well. This spring, Gary will act as a tour guide for Sports Travel and Tours’ upcoming trip Major/Minor: Heartland, which will begin June 8 and end on June 14.
The Heartland trip will feature seven games at seven different ballparks throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan. In addition, participants get to participate in a little something extra outside of the baseball theme; they’ll have the chance to tour three marvelous historical museums, including the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
This will be Gary’s 20th year working as a tour host with Sports Travel and Tours. Although he started out leading basketball trips in 1995, he was eager to lead more sports-related trips; he jokingly mentions his love for all things sports has led others to call him an “indiscriminate sports idiot.” He even keeps track of each and every sporting event he attends.
Gary says that other Hall of Famers like him enjoy Sports Travel and Tours major/minor trips because they can continue to travel together.
“All the people who are Stadium Hall of Famers decided they wanted to see more stadiums,” Gary says. “We’ve all become friends, and we’ve known each other for years and years, so we try to take these trips together so we can enjoy baseball together.”
Gary enjoys getting to see a different group of people that he might not see anywhere else. He mentions that on a previous trip, he met a gentleman from England who he’ll be reunited with on the Heartland trip.
“For the most part, people really just bond on these trips,” Gary says. “We’re all bonded together by baseball, even though we each have our own favorite teams. I’ve noticed over the years that everybody keeps an eye out for each other. We’ve become friends, and we even do things outside of Sports Travel and Tours trips.”
However, Gary is also hopeful to see new faces on the trip.
“It’s like a little family we’ve formed, but we try not to make it an exclusive trip,” he says. “We want other people to join us.”
Eager to join Gary? Learn more about the Major/Minor: Heartland trip.