EDITOR’S NOTE: Summer is already starting to wind down, but the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is open year round. Fall is a great time to visit as crowds are smaller, the weather cooler and the autumn scenery spectacular.
As a kid, I would spend hours on my bedroom floor organizing my baseball cards. It was quite the process.
My favorite players went into one folder. A second folder was for good players that weren’t necessarily my favorite. A third folder was for Hall of Famers. Players that didn’t make the cut went through another organization process, being sorted into teams inside of a box. I looked through my folders daily and reread the stats on the back of the cards.
Besides collecting cards, some of my favorite memories as a kid took place on the diamond. I fondly remember hot Oklahoma summer days getting sunburned while playing Little League. Baseball brought me and my friends together as we yelled, “Hey batter, batter, batter,” and other chants while trying to get a win. We argued about our favorite players and favorite teams, and rode our bikes all over town, buying cards from a variety of stores.
I knew early on I would not get a Hall of Fame plaque with my name on it, but I always dreamed of visiting Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time to walk the aisles that showcased baseball’s elite.
I drove the four hours from New York City to Cooperstown with three of my kids. We wanted to do more than visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, so we spent three nights and four days exploring the town. After a hike in the nearby woods and a trip to the Farmer’s Museum, we entered the Hall of Fame to pick up our tickets.
On entering, my kids received a scavenger hunt sheet full of questions with answers found in the exhibits. My 16-year-old acted like he didn’t want to fill out a paper and volunteered to help his younger siblings, but if kids fill out the paper and turn them in at the end of their visit, they receive a packet of baseball cards. Since I wanted everyone to have their own pack, I filled out the questionnaire my oldest received. This sheet helped me by entertaining my kids so I could spend more time perusing the plethora of baseball memorabilia. As we toured the museum, it was obvious I wasn’t the only dad filling out a kid’s sheet. Everywhere you looked, there was a dad holding a paper and pencil while their kids wandered around. Occasionally, I would greet other dads with a smile of acknowledgment.
Before I go on, I want to mention the friendly staff at the Baseball Hall of Fame. From the person greeting us at the entrance to those in the gift shop, everyone was kind and generous with their time. One employee, who we bumped into throughout the day, showed us exhibits and provided his knowledge on people, artifacts and games. And he was patient with my little ones while they badgered him with questions and comments. The Baseball Hall of Fame has the kindest employees out of any museum I have ever visited.
As I walked around the Hall of Fame, it took me back to being that kid on the floor of my bedroom who loved baseball. I relived staring at my TV during George Brett’s pine tar incident while looking at the bat that caused the controversy. Pete Rose’s shoes and bat brought me back to glorifying his playing style and being heartbroken by his gambling and banning from Major League Baseball. Cal Ripken Jr.’s helmet sat behind the glass, and I once again admired his commitment to baseball and the fans. We also walked through exhibits discussing baseball’s racist past, the Negro Leagues, and the great Jackie Robinson. Other exhibits honored Latin players and the women who played. With each stop, I talked to my kids about the players and the memories they stirred.
Walking through the Baseball Hall of Fame wasn’t only about exploring baseball’s history, but it was also about exploring mine. With baseball being a big part of my childhood, fond memories opened up again. What made it even more special was that I got to run through my memories with my kids by my side.
My oldest is 16 and all-too-soon will be caught in a rundown between taking his own path and the home he grew up in. In a way, it’s already started. Standing next to him while looking at memorabilia touched by baseball’s greatest players; I foresaw an older son standing with his kids in front of the glass and sharing moments of going to Mets’ games and, hopefully, fondly recalling playing catch with his old man. He pointed to a question on his brother’s sheet and helped him spell out the answer. My chest was full of pride of the young man he has become. This had nothing to do with the love of the game, but because of a love for who my kids are. That’s what the Baseball Hall of Fame provided me. To remember how far I’ve come and who I’ve brought with me.
Baseball stirred memories that reminded me time is fleeting and to spend it as wisely as possible. As a dad, I’m the team manager and it’s the 7th inning stretch. There isn’t a lot of game left, but plenty of time to make an impact. I’m reminded to have fun, play hard, and get the line-up ready to make the save. Visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame was a parenting win with lifetime statistics racked up with wins and losses. I cherish moments like our tour because it was one for the win column.
If you’ve been contemplating making the trip to Cooperstown with your kids, I suggest you put it on the calendar. It will bring up old memories and provide new ones.
Baseball Hall of Fame Tips
Tickets are timed. It’s recommended to buy your tickets ahead of time. You don’t want to show up and try and purchase your tickets the same day. It’s possible you will not be allowed to enter.
Kids under 6 are free.
Adults and Seniors are $25.
Juniors are $15.
Veterans receive a $7 discount with proof of service.
The museum is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year.