Nelson man discovers his Field of Dreams
Peter Grigg knows a lot more about American baseball now than he did a year ago.
Accompanied by his American-born partner Kitty, the Nelson College physical education teacher has just returned home from a 30,000-kilometre odyssey that took him to all 30 major league baseball stadiums in the United States.
He visited the legendary Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field, where the curse of the billygoat is still very much entrenched in the local folklore.
He saw a side of Americans totally at odds with the stereotypical "loudmouth Yank" familiar to many New Zealanders and is now back in Nelson having penned a book, Finding My Field of Dreams - A Kiwi in the Majors, chronicling his journey and the many stories and characters he met along the way.
Tonight, Grigg will tell the story of his American journey with a PowerPoint presentation at the Nelson Rugby clubrooms, starting at 7pm to which everyone is welcome.
It has been a major undertaking for Grigg, although ultimately it has been a labour of love for the well-known Nelson sports identity who finally got to indulge his obsession with America's national sport that began for him in the 1970s.
"It was hard to imagine really what it was going to be like," said Grigg of his American adventure, achieved entirely by road.
"I knew it was going to be a lot of driving, a lot of travelling and it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was going to be," he said.
"Most of the roads were just dead straight for hundreds of miles so it was pretty easy driving to be honest, most of the time.
"But when we got into the big cities it was a little bit different."
Boston was among his favourite stopovers, home of his beloved Red Sox, a team he began supporting many years ago.
"It seems to me that every New Zealander I've met who is interested in baseball is a Yankees fan. So I've just supported the [Boston] Red Sox who are their arch rivals.
"The Yankees and Red Sox are arguably the greatest rivalry in sport.
"I read that quite a bit but in my book, I say that's obviously for people who haven't heard about the All Blacks-Springboks rivalry."
Boston is also home these days to former Nelson College student Kayne Bubb.
"It was nice to stay there with [him] and it was nice not to have to stay in a hotel-motel. Plus it was a very green city, very reminiscent to me of growing up in Christchurch and also Fenway Park is the oldest park in baseball and the history that it exudes.
"Talking to grass roots people was fun.
"I bumped into people who, some had played minor league ball, or just people who knew a lot about baseball.
"I believe I'm relatively knowledgeable in the game now."
Getting admission to all 30 stadiums was a relatively stress-free exercise, ranging from free tickets in many instances to $3.90 at one venue and paying $65 for a $10 ticket on opening day in San Diego.
He was constantly asked which of the 30 stadiums was his favourite.
"It's difficult to compare Fenway and Wrigley with say Kauffman [Park], which is in Kansas City, because you've got a 100-year-old stadium alongside a 5-year-old stadium.
"I like the history, so I enjoyed Fenway and Wrigley, the two oldest stadiums . . . and just the traditions involving those two grounds."
His favourite player is Texas Rangers' outfielder and batter Josh Hamilton.
And Grigg prefers batters to pitchers, primarily because he is still coming to terms with all the intricacies and tactical nuances surrounding the pitchers' craft.
He is unlikely to attempt anything on as grand a scale again, although is open to other possible adventures - like maybe watching a game at every rugby stadium in New Zealand.
"I don't know, I might do," he laughed.
But why baseball?
"I think it's just the Americanism of it, the hype, which I quite like."
The Nelson Mail