Hitting the road

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COLLEGE PLACE — They’re lifelong baseball fans.

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Parents and neighbors wave and take photos as Alex Aamodt, Paul Trapani, Mathew Hanson, Jonathan Lindsey, Chad Stewart and Alex Wagnera roll out of Songbird Lane in College Place on Tuesday for an 11-city tour of Major League baseball stadiums this summer.

And now they are in the midst of a baseball adventure of a lifetime.

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With family and neighbors looking on from around the driveway, Jonathan Lindsey, Chad Stewart, Alex Wagner, Alex Aamodt, Pual Trapani and Mathew Hanson (from left) select and pack food into coolers from the back of a car on Tuesday in College Place before loading up their van and taking off on a 12-city baseball trip this summer.

“Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an adventure,” said Alex Aamodt, who along with five of his Walla Walla Valley Academy senior classmates set out this week on a 7,000-mile trek that will take them to 12 Major League baseball stadiums in 11 different cities.

Joining Aamodt on what one of them described as “our last hurrah from high school before we go our separate ways” are Paul Trapani, Mathew Hanson, Jonathan Lindsey, Chad Stewart and Alex Wagner.

Three of six — Lindsey, Stewart and Aamodt — have been friends since they were in kindergarten. The group grew to five when Trapani and Hanson came on the scene. Wagner was the last to join after moving from Missoula, Mont., to the Walla Walla area as an eighth grader.

“I’d use the word wolfpack,” Wagner joked in describing the close-knit group.

In different combinations, they have attended Mariners baseball games at Safeco Field in Seattle and Trail Blazers basketball games in Portland’s Rose Garden. Some of them have even gone sky diving together.

But nothing that compares to the grand plan they are now undertaking. It’s a project that has been percolating for at least the last four years.

“It was Alex Wagner’s idea, and it’s been in the making for several years,” Aamodt declared.

“We’ve been thinking about this since we were freshmen,” Trapani confirmed. “And we’ve been saving up for it for four years.”

“And we got quite a kick from graduation,” Hanson chimed in regarding their personal bank accounts.

They estimate that the total cost of the trip will be about $6,700. That’s according to Aamodt, who has been appointed the official numbers cruncher. And he’s got it all right there on his cell phone.

“It’s going to figure out to a little over 11 hundred dollars for each of us,” Aamodt said. “That will include gas, game tickets, parking, food when we buy it as a group, camping fees and hotels when we need them. And money for public transit in some of the bigger cities.

“The biggest single cost is game tickets — about a third of the budget,” Aamodt added.

And tickets, most of which they purchased via StubHub, are not all equal, they testified.

“We’ve got some good seats, and some really bad seats,” Lindsey said.

“The Orioles game was almost sold out by the time we got our tickets,” Stewart said.

Naturally. The Yankees are in town.

And what if it rains? Rain checks are useless when you’re back on the road again the very next day. The six simply shook their heads.

“We’re just hoping for the best,” one of them said. “Plan for the worst and hope for the best, that’s our motto,” said another.

The budget doesn’t include the $3,000 Wagner forked over for a 1994 Ford Econoline that will be their mode of transportation for the trip. The van is licensed in his name and will be his personal transportation in the future.

“It’s a conversion van,” Wagner says. “I’ve been looking for several months, several years, actually, and I bought it two weeks ago sight unseen off of craigslist. And, yes, it’s got a few miles on it.”

The tires are good, though, Wagner said, and other than servicing the van, the only work needed was to change a vacuum hose.

“We did clean it up, though,” one of them said.

“Yeah, we got that big red stain out of the back,” said another.

“You mean the blood stain,” said yet another with a sinister grin.

They’re hoping to get 15 miles to a gallon from the burgundy and silver Econoline. But to be on the safe side, they’ve budgeted for 13.

All six of the 2013 WWVA graduates professes to be a Mariners fan first and foremost. But a return trip to Safeco Field is not on the itinerary. Nor are any of the other big league cities west of the Mississippi.

Instead, they were headed in the other direction when they departed College Place early Tuesday morning. First stop, beautiful Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

There they’ll watch the Twins face the Chicago White Sox on Thursday afternoon, then head on over to Chicago where they’ll take in the Cubs-Astros game at fabled Wrigley Field Friday afternoon on the Southside. Saturday night takes them to Comerica Park in Detroit (Tigers vs. Red Sox), followed by a Sunday afternoon game at Rogers Centre in Toronto (Blue Jays vs. Orioles).

The plan is to drop down to Niagara Falls Sunday night where they will camp out, then wind their way to Cooperstown, N.Y., where they will spend Monday visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Then it’s back to game action on Tuesday when they visit another of the game’s most cherished ballyards, Boston’s Fenway Park, where they’ll watch the Red Sox host the Rockies. And one week from tonight they’ll be at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for a game between the Yanks and the Rangers.

June 27 will be another day off for the group as they take the time to take in the sights of New York City.

They’ll get to see the Yankees again a couple of nights later in Baltimore when the Bronx Bombers invade Camden Yards to take on the Orioles. But not before a June 28 game between the Mets and Nationals at Citi Field in metropolitan New York.

After the Yankees-Orioles game, the six will take another day off on June 30 to tour Washington D.C.

And then the homebound push is on as they attend their final four games in a span of five days in four different cities, beginning July 1 when the Nationals entertain the Brewers at Nationals Field in D.C. It will be the Phillies vs. Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh July 2 and the Giants vs. Reds at Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati July 3.

Final stop St. Louis, where they will spend the 4th of July checking out the Gateway to the West. The next night they’ll be at Busch Stadium for one final game — the Marlins vs. Cardinals.

From there it will be a two-to-three-day trip back home to College Place.

It’s a lot of baseball packed into 20 days. And a lot of driving, too.

The longest non-stop jaunt is from here to Minneapolis ­— approximately 1,200 miles. Most of the other city-to-city jumps are six hours driving time, or less, until they depart St. Louis headed for home. But by then they’ll no longer be on a tight time schedule and can take their time if they so choose.

For safety purposes, they’ve broken up into three two-person driving teams, and they’ll switch teams every three hours.

“One person drives, the other persons stays awake with him,” said one of them in explaining the responsibilities of each driving team.

Once home, the adventure ended, the rest of the summer will probably seem a little tame for the six recent WWVA grads. But in no time at all they’ll be enrolled in college.

And since all six are headed for Walla Walla University, their 20-day baseball barnstorming adventure might not be their “last hurrah” after all.

Note: Anyone wanting to check out the WWVA grads’ adventure can do so on Wagner’s personal YouTube blog. He plans to post a video each day. The address is YouTube.com/wwbaseballtrip.

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