We recently had a Battle of the Ballparks bracket here on ESPN.com.
There is another ballpark battle of sorts going with five well-intentioned 20-something young men who are trekking cross-country by bicycle with a quest to visit all 30 major league stadiums.
Adam Kremers, Rex Roberts, Steve Lynn and Chase Higgins, former Colorado State classmates, have already completed nearly half of their 11,000-mile trip. We caught up with them recently at Tropicana Field, the 11th park on the trip.
The four, all in their mid-20s, quit their jobs and are chronicling their trip at BikingforBaseball.org with the intent of raising awareness for youth mentoring programs, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club of America. The site contains pictures, blog posts and details on each upcoming stop.
Higgins even uses the site as a teaching tool for baseball fans, explaining to them how some of the new advanced stats in the sport function.
When we asked if there was any religious component to their trip or what they were doing, Roberts shook his head, laughed and said something that defines the trip, to an extent: "Well, some people consider baseball a religion."
The idea was born a couple of years ago when the group attended the final series in the Metrodome. Wouldn’t it be cool, they thought, if they could somehow see every major league park?
The four decided this would be something worth doing, and realized that this was the best time to do it with no wives, kids, or mortgages to leave behind. (Kremers and Higgins noted their girlfriends have been "very supportive.")
In every city, they go to a game, root for the home team (the quartet is made up of Royals and Rockies fans), and do a clinic for a local youth organization. They make sure each kid makes at least one highlight-reel play, telling them to try to make catches like the ones they see on ESPN.
The group’s best ride was a trip through California’s redwood forests. One of their best baseball experiences was getting to chat with Marlins reliever Heath Bell, an avid cyclist.
Their struggles have been multiple.
The trip started in Seattle on April 13 and by the time they completed their third ballpark (AT&T Park), their RV had broken down (they now pitch tents in campgrounds in each city), and two of their bicycles had been stolen (they got replacements).
When they headed south, they rode through the floods that tore through Louisiana and Alabama, with 20 inches of rain in two days. They were able to keep pedaling past cars that had gotten stuck, as the water went through their spokes.
The trip has also been a test of their ability to endure this level of physical activity. They haven't seen any significant weight loss -- the exercise has resulted in the transfer of muscle from upper to lower body. Their calve muscles now look like grapefruits and their knees are a bit sore.
"It doesn’t matter how much you train, you can’t prepare for this," Roberts said.
Regardless, the trip goes on, with the group conducting a clinic in Atlanta today and attending the Braves game on Saturday. They'll be in New York on Sept. 11 to experience a 9/11 remembrance in person and the conclusion comes a few days later at Fenway Park, where they are hopeful they can coax a hello from Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine (who used to bicycle to games in Japan).
By then they’re hopeful that they’ll have raised awareness for youth mentoring programs significantly. And they’ll unite groups of people who share common bonds.
"There is a connection between baseball fans and cycling enthusiasts," Kremers said. "We wanted to bring those together. And we wanted to make positive experiences for kids," Roberts said.
For more information on Biking for Baseball, visit their site -- BikingforBaseball.org.