The pressure was on for Don Vickery. While eating dinner with his wife, Laura, at Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, the diehard baseball fan was accosted by none other than the announcer for the Baltimore Orioles to participate in the restaurant’s trivia challenge.
“In 1970, there were seven Baltimore Orioles players who made it to the All-Star team,” the announcer asked. “Name five of those players.”
As Laura sat in the audience with her camera at the ready, she couldn’t help but feel anxious. Her husband’s favorite team was the Chicago White Sox. How much, she wondered, could he know about the Orioles?
Turns out the question was easy for Don, who Laura describes as a walking plethora of knowledge about America’s great pastime. With ease, he rattled off five from the list of Mike Cuellar, Dave Johnson, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, a feat which earned him an autographed photo of one of the Orioles.
Such a warm welcome for two travelers from Mason, Michigan, as well as interesting and historic architecture, made our trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards one of Laura’s favorite memories. In the past seven years, she and Don have visited an incredible 29 of the 30 major league stadiums with the help of Sports Travel and Tours.
Their first trip was in 2009, when Sports Travel and Tours teamed up with an organization in Michigan to take baseball fans to Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
“My original thought was, we’ll go on this trip, and, hopefully, we’ll find more men like Don who are walking encyclopedias of knowledge on baseball,” Laura says. “I thought, how could we go wrong?”
The trip turned out to be even more than Laura had expected.
“I thought all of the travelers would be men, but no, no, no,” she says. “There are always plenty of women and plenty of people through all walks of life. There are guys who are my husbands’ equal, but also people like me who are fans but don’t remember every statistic there is.
“I was so pleased to find a peer group,” Laura adds of her first trips with Sports Travel and Tours. “From the onset, we were not disappointed.”
Don also appreciates that Sports Travel and Tours ensures that travelers room in a safe part of town, no matter where they go. “Sports Travel and Tours always has pleasant people on its trips,” he adds. “There’s never been one tour that we’ve heard any negativity.”
Don and Laura initially visited five stadiums in 2009, and continued to travel consistently from 2011 to 2015, checking four or five stadiums off the list each year. Now, only one remains: Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.
To tackle the final stadium, Laura and Don are taking an independent trip to Seattle for a game between the Mariners and the White Sox on July 20, accompanied by Don’s cousin Jerry Brown and his wife, Joan.
“Because Don’s favorite team is the White Sox, we planned to see that game in particular,” Laura says. As part of their summer plans, the couple will room in a Seattle beach house before voyaging on to Vancouver.
Once the two have visited the final, 30th major league stadium, they will be inducted into Sports Travel and Tours Stadium Hall of Fame in May 2017; they plan to celebrate surrounded by their children and grandchildren.
Laura says that Sports Travel and Tours has helped her to support her husband’s passion for baseball, as she sometimes wishes she did early in their marriage.
“Thirty-eight years ago, when we went on our honeymoon, we drove through Detroit, into Toronto and ended up near Boston,” she says. “Every town we went through, we managed to see major league parks, but I was young and would just say, ‘That’s nice.’”
“Never once did I encourage Don to stop the car so we could explore the stadiums, and baseball is such a big interest of his that I always regretted that,” Laura says. “Sports Travel and Tours has helped me to reconcile that grief, and soon, we’ll have seen all 30 stadiums!”