Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s NASCAR event news editor completes “the cycle” of visits to MLB ballparks

NL Wild Card on ESPN

ESPN will televise Major League Baseball’s National League Wild Card Game tonight (8 ET) when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the San Francisco Giants. An extended Baseball Tonight will begin at 5:30 p.m. on site in Pittsburgh and continue to the first pitch. ESPN Radio will air this and every game of the 2014 MLB postseason.

A couple of years ago, Mark Ashenfelter, a lifetime baseball fan, realized he had attended games at two-thirds of the 30 active ballparks in Major League Baseball.

Ashenfelter, an event news editor in ESPN’s Cross Platform Newsgathering Unit (CPNU) who primarily works on ESPN’s NASCAR coverage, hadn’t really thought about it until someone asked him how many parks he had visited. So he set a goal of seeing a game at the remaining 11 unvisited stadiums.

The Philadelphia native’s first MLB game was as a child seeing the Phillies at the old Veterans Stadium. Then in his job as a sportswriter for the West Chester (Pa.) Daily Local News, he covered games at several parks. When he later started traveling the country covering NASCAR for a racing publication in 1999, his list of visited ballparks grew.

“I’d try to get to games wherever we were,” he said. “If there was a stadium close, I’d just find a way to get to a game.”

When NASCAR returned to ESPN in 2007, Ashenfelter was hired and continued hitting games whenever he could. Then came the realization that he was getting close to having visited every park.

“It dawned on me that I was never going to get to them while on work trips,” he said. “I was going to just have to start finding time to get to these places.”

The quest is complete – for now. – ESPN event news editor Mark Ashenfelter regarding his tour of current MLB ballparks

He went to four of the parks in 2013, then this year saw games in Houston, Minnesota, Toronto, St. Louis (he’d been to old Busch Stadium but not the new one), Denver and Seattle. The Minnesota trip in April included an extra day’s stay due to a snowout.

That left only PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He had previously been to Pirates games at the old Three Rivers Stadium.

“I was back home for my birthday in early July, flew to Daytona for our Nationwide race, then flew back to Philadelphia, picked up my brother and we drove to Pittsburgh,” he said.

His goal attained, Ashenfelter is already thinking about the new stadium planned for the Atlanta Braves. When he gets there, it’ll mark the third home stadium he’s seen the Braves in, the first team he will have seen in three home ballparks. Now the Braves are one of 10 teams he’s seen in two homes.

“The quest is complete,” he said. “For now.”

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