You may have friends or family members who are on a quest to visit every Major League Baseball stadium. We’ve even written about a few here. But what about a quest to attend a game in all 30 ballparks in one season? One newly retired couple stepped up to the plate for this ambitious quest.
Meet John and Debbie Renzi, San Diego natives now living in a suburb of Spokane, WA. Married for 40 wonderful years, they retired on the same day in 2019 from their careers in manufacturing management (John) and nursing (Debbie), wisely knowing that embarking on the next chapter at exactly the same time was key to marital harmony.
But the idea for the ballpark quest goes back much further to John’s sports-oriented childhood. He knew he wanted to visit all 30 stadiums from an early age. As he saw baseball fans complete the quest over the years, he decided he wanted to do it his own way to make it even more challenging and newsworthy. He thought he could do it in just one season, with careful planning, but realistically, he would only have a shot at that once he retired.
Thankfully, Debbie was also up for the challenge, especially if they could combine other experiences beyond the game into their travels. When they retired in 2019, the planning began for their epic ballpark-centric travel itinerary for 2020. And we all know what happened next…stymied by the covid pandemic, the ballpark quest would have to wait.
The pandemic continued to pose challenges in 2021, and just as conditions started to look more promising rolling into 2022, the MLB owners enacted a lockout that delayed the start of the season. Finally, in 2023, with no major obstacles remaining in the way, John and Debbie plotted their travels across multiple trips considering weather conditions, travel efficiencies and coordination with family and friends they wanted to see along the way.
The result was a six-trip extravaganza starting with the first pitch in their hometown San Diego when the Padres played the Colorado Rockies, continuing through California and across the South before the weather became unbearably hot, and coming full circle to close out the quest with the Rockies playing at home vs. the Chicago Cubs.
As with all best laid plans, something had to go awry. The Canadian wildfires in June cast eerie orange hues and smoggy air over their game at Yankee stadium. Theirs was the last game before cancellations began due to the smoke. Alas, their next game — the Washington Nationals at home — was postponed, so a seventh trip was needed to keep on track.
Good fortune prevailed for the Renzi’s in other ways in the 2023 season. MLB made a few rule changes in 2023 that included a pitch timer to pick up the pace of the games — a blessing when you’re packing in 30 games from coast-to-coast! John’s diligent advance outreach to each team alerting them of his quest received over 50% response and resulted in special experiences at numerous stadiums along the way. A personal connection through his earlier Little League Baseball coaching days led to red carpet treatment from the Arizona Diamondbacks including the ultimate souvenir - the actual first base from the game.
Other souvenirs included baseball hats that John ritualistically bought as soon as he arrived at each stadium so he could don the hat in photos that he posted without fail on his Instagram account that he used for the first time on his quest (@jrenzi33). Photos captured the Reznzis’ many travel experiences outside the stadiums as well, including Niagara Falls, the St. Louis Arch, the Liberty Bell, the Freedom Trail, and — rounding out the quintessential American experience — finally seeing the musical Hamilton!
Thirty games and hats and many photos and memories later, the Renzi’s had a six-month experience they will never forget. You may ask, how do you top that? Well, the Renzi’s have the 63 US National Parks in their sights…but they may savor this next ambitious quest over a few years.
Ballpark quest speed round with John & Debbie Renzi:
Best stadium overall: San Diego Padres/Petco Park – nothing beats their hometown favorite, but John gave props to the Baltimore Orioles for their game changing stadium that have made other new stadiums since less cookie-cutter
Best skyline view from the stadium: Pittsburgh Pirates/PNC Park (second place: San Francisco Giants/Oracle Park)
Best scoreboard: NY Mets/Citi Field
Best outfield: San Francisco Giants/Oracle Park with their baseball glove & Coca-Cola bottle sculpture
Best mascots: tie between Philadelphia’s Phillie Phanatic & Pittsburgh’s Pirate Parrot
Best tour / display of history: NY Yankee Stadium
Best ballpark snack: Primanti Bros. sandwich at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Cretors caramel and cheese popcorn at Chicago's Wrigley Field
Are you on a quest to visit every MLB ballpark? Check out our ballpark quest apparel and share your stories from the road in the comments below or on social with the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. And if a sports-inspired travel quest sounds fun, but you prefer tailgates or derby hats, check out our travel quest ideas for sports fanatics.