Bernie Weiss of West Hartford, Connecticut, calls himself a baseball person. From childhood sandlot games to a softball team he reluctantly left in his mid-40s (for a cross country career move), Bernie has been following the sport all his life. Already a seasoned tour director when he discovered Sports Travel and Tours (while conducting a trip in Cooperstown, no less), he instantly made the connection between his avocation and his work, then joined the Sports Travel and Tours team.
Bernie says his Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend tour guests have differing reasons for booking their trips. His objective is to enable his travelers to realize their individual objectives—to help them each find what they are seeking in exchange for their time and money.
For example, Bernie says, some folks want to advance intergenerational connections through a shared appreciation for baseball. He often sees parents—usually fathers—and sometimes grandparents—bring their children and grandchildren on his trips.
“I remember one 9-year-old traveling with his dad, whose first name (and I suppose coincidentally, his family name, too) was that of a former major league star,” Bernie says. “Their visit to Cooperstown reinforced to father and child their own relationship as well their relationship to baseball.”
Bernie adds that other people are motivated by nostalgia. “There are a lot of middle-age men who go to Cooperstown because they want to shake hands with ballplayers they associate with their youth.”
Admitting that he falls into this category, Bernie tells a poignant story about brightening the eyes of a lonely Boy of Summer (referring to Roger Kahn’s characterization of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s) on Cooperstown’s Main Street, then months later, receiving a heartwarming phone call from the player’s son, following his father’s passing.
Yet another reason for the Cooperstown pilgrimage, according to Bernie, is the desire to associate with celebrities. “There are people who feel invested in what their favorite baseball teams or players do,” Bernie asserts. “They want to get autographs and hang out with their heroes. It’s a form of fandom.”
And sometimes such fans see what they hope to see, even when the sight is a mirage. Once, hours after tossing a baseball with a fellow he encountered following an Induction Weekend event, Bernie was accosted by his catch partner who asked earnestly, “Who did you used to be?”
Finally, buttressing the other explanations for Cooperstown’s appeal, notes Bernie, there’s baseball itself, as a deeply entrenched element of American culture. “When people walk through the Hall of Fame exhibits and come nose to nose with the ancient (and recent) artifacts of baseball history, they’re reminded of how long and tightly baseball has been woven into the fabric of Americana.”
Bernie has been shepherding guests to Cooperstown since 2006. This year, he will be hosting the Boston Induction Special and Boston Induction Extravaganza outings. That’s one of four Sports Travel and Tours itineraries stopping at Cooperstown during Induction Weekend: East Coast Classic and Induction Plus
The agenda of Hall of Fame-related festivities features an awards presentation at Doubleday Field and the “Parade of Legends” on Saturday, July 25, followed by the formal induction ceremony on Sunday, July 26.
During the Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, Cooperstown, a village with a permanent population of less than 2,000, sees a drastic influx of visitors. Depending on who is entering the Hall, as many as 80,000 travelers have arrived for the weekend’s festivities.
Bernie says he loves the atmosphere they bring. “Everybody’s in a good mood,” Bernie points out. “They all want to be there. It’s like Disneyland for baseball people,” he adds.