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Part 2: Life On The Road, 30 Days of #GiveASpit and baseball (The journey)

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio






“It ain’t never been done ‘cause we ain’t ever done it.

You’ve got to stop thinking so negative, son!”

Bo “Bandit” Darville

(as performed by Burt Reynolds)

Smokey & The Bandit



ONCE THE TRIP WAS FINALIZED and it was decided that I’d be flying more than originally planned, the only real concerns we had about the voyage were the not-so-remote chances of some catastrophic weather or travel issues that could derail the goal: getting to 30 MLB games in 30 days without interruption or too much drama.

We also couldn’t afford to get sick or injured. Carrying bags around the continent would suck with a bad back or a bum foot. As we learned in 2014, your health is everything!

Would all the planes arrive on time? Would weather cooperate? Clearly, a few poorly timed storms and the trip would be a mess. You can only truly plan so much and then fate determines the outcome.

And if you’ve listened to my radio show at any point over the past quarter of a century, you know that I despise rain delays. Nothing good happens when it rains in baseball.

I’ve dedicated some time on the radio over the past few months discussing the trip and some of the comedy, drama and sights I saw on my unique journey. Most of my guests along the route joined me afterward to talk about it on the radio.

I’ve also joked that no one prepared me for 30 straight days of airplanes, airports, hotels, stadiums, restaurants and their various brands of cheap toilet paper.

There were many statistics and “over and under” side bets I was making with my wife on the 30-30 trip regarding beer consumed, hot dogs inhaled, hangovers, bad hotel pillows, crappy showers, lost/forgotten items, etc. And as much as we prepared to travel light and packed as little as we’d need, we never thought we’d really succeed in our goal of never having to check a bag for 30 days. But, miraculously, I literally lived out of one suitcase, one backpack and carted a giant cotton swab “prop” in a long tube through every TSA checkpoint in the United States. (By the way, TSA Pre is a wonderful thing!)

Toward the end of the 30-day journey, most mornings I was torn by an extreme coffee situation. I’m a coffee nerd but it became a daily decision about whether to caffeinate before a flight at 5 a.m. (and not sleep) or afterward, in the next airport or city after a plane nap.

And there were several days at the end where I was extremely loopy and working on three or four hours of sleep and moving from hotel bed to shower to car to highway to parking garage to shuttle to TSA to gate to plane to seats to sleep…

Some days – like in Dallas, San Diego and Denver – I was running on fumes and took a few hours to sleep. In others, like Los Angeles and Milwaukee, we were full of energy and put almost 20,000 steps on my wife’s Fit Bit.

You can see my 30 ballpark rankings here at WNST.net but to be honest there are no truly awful experiences in Major League Baseball in regard to stadiums. And the beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. As I wrote in my preview blog for the rankings, many of these stadiums – or is it stadia? – provide a pretty similar experience. Whether it’s hot dog races, presidents or sausages, it’s all kinda the same thing. They all do “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the 7th inning. They all bluster “God Bless America” every night. They all have “walk up” music for individual players.

Most have the most annoying item in modern sports – the P.A. or music or scoreboard imploring the crowd to “make some noise” with various cues and sounds. Nothing more cheeseball than that.

Every team has a team of people trying to make the “game day experience” something memorable. Every team wants to do something special when you come to the ballpark to lure you back and attract you as a lifer baseball fan.

Or at least they should.

But that part is a mixed bag – market to market, team to team, brand to brand.

Some teams always win. Some teams almost never win.

Some have vibrant fan bases. Many are a distant second citizen to the NFL.

Some teams treated me well. Some treated me like garbage.

Certain ballparks have a “wow” factor and some don’t. Some have good teams right now and some are in the midst of having awful seasons this summer so the experience wasn’t as rich. Seeing Toronto or the New York Mets in September would be far different than having seeing them in June. And seeing Houston and Kansas City this June was far different than anything they’ve seen in those ballparks in many Junes.

I had some “wow” moments and memories of my own on this tour and that’s what the rest of this essay is about: the stuff that’s worth telling you about.

Let’s start with the MVP of the 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour: artist Mike Ricigliano. The skinny dude with the funny hats has been drawing cartoons of me (and virtually everyone else in the sports world) in Baltimore for 30 years. I met him at The News American in 1984 on the weekend my son was born. He’s one of the enduring friends in my life and we’ve had a lot of laughs over the years. His son was originally responsible for dubbing me “Nasty Nestor.”

Here’e the story of the giant cotton swab – the enduring item from the 30-30 #GiveASpit tour.

On April 8th, I attended a Washington Capitals game with an NHL fan from Edmonton, Alberta named Rob Suggitt – a kindred spirit in hockey fandom.

While Caps Senior Manager of Community Relations Peter Robinson was giving Suggitt an incredible tour of the Verizon Center on the 27th night of his 30 rinks in 30 days mission for Make A Wish, I was telling them about my similarly arranged baseball tour.  Robinson said: “You should get a giant cotton swab and take it everywhere you go! That would help you get people on the registry.”

You know what?

He was right.

By request, Ricig made the fabulous cotton swab that started in the hands of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush along with Randy Johnson the night before the tour started.


It was an instant hit at the United Center in Chicago that night.

Every stadium we swabbed in – except Minnesota – we had Ricig’s giant cotton swab leading the way to get folks to our booth to learn about the bone marrow registry and get on the list for There Goes My Hero and Delete Blood Cancer.

Some of the looks we got from fans were priceless. Dude in pink shirt waving giant cotton swab in stadium bowl! But it was a lightning rod to get folks to our table for education, swabbing and success.

It also caused some attention we didn’t want. We were pulled up by Comerica Park security in Detroit and forced to take it to the car. They thought it was a weapon. I told them it was a weapon to save lives.

The gate agent at the St. Louis airport forced us to check it on a one-hour flight to Milwaukee but “The Swab” made it successfully onto 21 other flights in 30 days on the road. I guess if you get on airplanes every morning with a third carry on that’s a giant Q Tip, eventually you’ll encounter the wicked witch of Southwest.

People have repeatedly asked me what the highlights of the tour were over the 32 days on the road. It’s impossible to recount everything we saw and every person who was kind to us but I hope this essay captures the essence of

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Part 1: Life On The Road, 30 Days of #GiveASpit and baseball

Posted on 07 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Part 1: Prelude and Back Story

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”

James A. Michener


SO, I NEVER DESIGNED THE 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit Tour to be written about. It just kind of happened that way because, at heart, I’m a writer. And suddenly, I feel like I have a lot I want to say and as much as I talk on the radio at WNST.net & AM 1570 around the clock about all sorts of things, this story of my baseball bucket list trip was meant to be told in writing.

Ever since my wife Jennifer was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2014, I really haven’t written much publicly for lots of reasons. I wrote a massive blog about my ongoing pursuit of happiness back on August 24th, but over the past year I’ve been observing, measuring and planning this summer baseball adventure. There’ve been no blogs, no books but plenty of “statuses” in social media on my Facebook and Twitter. Mainly, it’s been a lack of time but certainly not a lack of inspiration. Some of my deepest thoughts through her miraculous journey have been written down but much of it has been best kept to myself for the time being.

I made a lot of changes at WNST in August 2014 and I’ve been doing lots of radio over the past year.

I think I’m doing the best work of my career but that’s for you to judge if you listen to WNST.net or AM 1570 at any point around the clock. I talk to the smartest people on the planet about sports. We have conversations. There’s no hysteria. There’s no ridiculous accusations or a focus on rumormongering, outrageous statements or drumming up phone calls. We don’t do outrage for outrage’s sake. Never have.

And over the past year, I’ve been mapping the rest of my personal journey, my personal brand and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Let me start with this: I’m very lucky and very grateful for all of the awesomeness, opportunity and love I’ve received over the years from listeners, the community, athletes and coaches, and friends and sponsors who have kept WNST going since 1998.

On the eve of my 25th year – 2016 will be our silver anniversary on the radio – this life spent in the bizarre circus of Baltimore sports media has come full circle. I’ve salvaged and improved my business and personal brand after years of neglect from within. I’m treasuring my life and that of my wife and family. I’m really enjoying doing radio every day and I have no plans to leave the airwaves, hire more hosts or sell or leave WNST.

Although I haven’t written a lot over the past year – and that’s about to change – it’s been a great time and this blog will catch you up on that.

And sometimes, it’s really much more convenient to write about life in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Or, perhaps, at least 140 characters at a time. But my story has evolved and I have a lot on my mind and the 30-30 #GiveASpit baseball tour this summer has made me want to share more about my journey.

Many people asked me about my epic baseball tour and encouraged me to write about it.

I’m glad you’re here and hope you enjoy my storytelling and observations.

And even if no one reads this, it’s a bit cathartic to share my thoughts especially when I go around Baltimore and hear so much gossip, rumorama and thoughts attributed to me that really have nothing to do with me.

Such is life as a public figure. Sad, but true…

It was also quite the reality check for me when I saw such a diminished audience for “Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story” back in 2012. It was disheartening to hear people everywhere tell me that they really don’t read books

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Venerable Fenway Park is lovely but it barely made our Top 10...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 10 Boston Red Sox

Posted on 05 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Boston – Who doesn’t like Fenway Park? And if there’s one stadium you “have to see,” I suppose this would be it. I’m not jaded in regard to Boston baseball. I’ve seen more games on Yawkey Way than I can even remember and I’m married into a Red Sox family. Everyone loves an annual trip to Kenmore Square on the T and a few beers and Fenway franks. It’s old. It’s uncomfortable but still more civil than it’s twin cousin on the north side of Chicago at Wrigley.

Go see it. It’ll be awesome. But don’t expect it to be comfortable or inexpensive.

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Indoor baseball doesn't have to suck. Houston has known this for 50 years...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 11 Houston Astros

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Houston – While Minute Maid Park has a bit of an airplane hangar vibe like Arizona and Milwaukee, this is by far the best of the trio of similar buildings. Great concessions, a cool left field wall and center field hill and the place doesn’t feel so cavernous. The team is playing good baseball and there was distinct energy in the air on the night I saw Dallas Kuechel sink the Yankees. Maybe there are some big games to come and some memories yet to be made but this is an underrated building and a nice (mostly indoor) place to watch a baseball game.

I never saw a game at the Astrodome. The punchline from most Astros fans would be: “Good, that place sucked!” But I must admit that I pine away for one night of glory in the cradle of Luv Ya Blue where sunburst uniforms and Jose Cruz running around. The current setup definitely feels like the same franchise. I liked the stadium. It’s the nicest of the domed places by far.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 12 Chicago White Sox

Posted on 29 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Chicago White Sox – They’ve tried a few times to make this place more comfortable since it was outdated from the moment it opened. It always gets compared to Wrigley Field because it’s 11.4 miles away. When I was syndicated at the turn of the century and had many occasions to attend them both, and I always preferred Comiskey (or U.S. Cellular Field or whatever they’re calling it these days) and this tour did nothing to change that. The food is better. They have elotes. The fans are more legitimate and not a bunch of drunk frat idiots. It’s better equipped to handle people at every turn. There are many more quality seats close to the field. When I’m in Chicago, this is where I prefer to go to watch baseball.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 13 Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Wrigley Field – Sure, there’s the old world charm about the home of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, it was built a hundred years ago. But every time I think about going to a game at Wrigley Field it’s one giant pain in the ass. The parking. The people. The place is built about five times smaller than it should be. One bonus: it has troughs, which makes it legit. But, unless you buy a seat in the bleachers (and those seats are always premium priced) you can’t even visit to take a picture. The place really smacks of corporate greed and has for most of my lifetime. The team always sucks (except when Jake Arrieta is involved). The food and choices suck. The scoreboards are still so antiquated as to be confusing. Seriously, I put it even a little higher on this list than I thought it deserves to be because my wife likes it but I think the place mostly sucks. It’s a great throwback experience. They’ve done a nice job of keeping it clean but it’s such a tourist trap of a place for my tastes. Sure, you gotta go and I get that. But I’m glad my team doesn’t play there and that I don’t have to get scalped for a C-minus experience every time I visit. I’m not planning on going back anytime soon and I don’t feel like I’m missing much. It’s a far better place on TV.

But, you still gotta go and see it.

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A year after major changes at WNST, I’m very happy and here’s why…

Posted on 24 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio


“The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.”

– O.A. “Bum” Phillips.


A year ago this week, I famously made some massive changes in my life and here at WNST.net & AM 1570. At the time, as you might remember, my wife Jennifer was bald, frail and fighting for her life after battling a rare form of leukemia, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation and in the early recovery phase in the aftermath of a June 26, 2014 bone marrow transplant.

At the time, the moves to reduce my staff and increase my radio responsibilities were considered by many to be “controversial” or “desperate” or somehow inexplicable even though I wrote ­– from my heart – more than 8,000 words in two blogs about the changes. I wrote a lot about happiness and my journey in life and a unique calling to do sports media in Baltimore as my life’s work from the time I was 15 years old.

With the aid of my former employees ­– who fanned a social media assault on me and WNST and my sponsors even as my wife quietly spent the following six days in the hospital in a dark room fighting for her life after the firings – my reputation was being smeared and relationships were being poisoned by the very people I spent years of my life trying to nurture and feed. A year later – and after unearthing many truths that weren’t as clear last August, as well as seeing the world with far more clarity and unfiltered information – I can assure you that I made the right decision.

As a matter of fact, I would say it was the best decision I’ve ever made – downsizing, rightsizing, reorganizing and getting back to doing what I do best and what makes me happy and why I berthed WNST to begin with in August 1998: opining, reporting and talking about Baltimore sports.

I abandoned doing something that wasn’t profitable, didn’t make me happy and didn’t appear to hold out any hope of growing.

I did something that I’ve been doing since January 1984 when I got my first sports newspaper internship: I adjusted and changed and learned and grew.

It’s been 12 months since I’ve blogged about my business, my station or my work/life situation because I’ve been too focused on re-building a fantastic company and my personal brand via a daily regiment and lifestyle that works for me and my family. I also did a little 30-city MLB tour and swabbed thousands of people for the bone marrow registry along the way this summer and threw a May 14th gala with Chuck Pagano for There Goes My Hero that many are still talking about around Baltimore. We’re also working with the premier golf tournament in town with Ruth’s Chris at their Sizzling Classic on Sept. 21st to benefit a charity that was personally involved in helping my wife survive leukemia in 2014.

I’m also doing the finest and most comprehensive radio interviews and conversations of my career with distribution greater than my mind could’ve imagined when I started in the newspaper and radio world. It’s by far my best work and I hope you’re enjoying it at WNST.

Inspiration, passion, energy, commitment and a sincere follow through have never been an issue for me. This is the sole reason WNST came into existence in 1998. This is how I birthed a sports radio station from a small AM brokered radio show on a big band radio station in afternoon drive time in the early 1990s. There’s always been a

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 29 Miami

Posted on 11 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Hard to believe the louses who own the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins could not only connive their way into ever getting this hard-to-get-to and even harder to return “shiny gem” built in an area that even people who live nearby don’t want to visit. I had a great time drinking beer at the Clevelander in left field – and yes that young lady behind me in the picture is wearing her birthday suit and a little body paint in left field – but it can hardly even be considered a ballpark at all. It’s really just the Skydome, built two decades later, with a nightclub in the outfield and a crappy team on the field that no one cares about and based on this weird Willy Wonka ballpark, no one will ever care about this awful franchise. It’s a giant indoor carnival. The place smells like sugar, like a confection factory or some place on a boardwalk. Miami Beach is ten minutes away. Who is the world would want to sit in this joke of a monstrosity and watch baseball in South Florida. Seriously, this should be the second-to-last-place you should ever want to see a ballgame in your life. But if you do go, make sure you jump into the pool.


On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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What's the worst MLB stadium? Nestor says No. 30 was easy: just go to Orange County and see what the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have under a broken halo...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 30 Anaheim

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, someone has to be “last.” Simply put: this place is a dump. I visited “The Big A” in 1991 when it was still a two-sport relic and they’ve had me believing from afar for nearly two decades that they actually fixed the place up. I dunno. Maybe I just harbored higher expectations. I watched it again last weekend when the Orioles visited on television and nothing cosmetically on the broadcast prepares you for how ordinary the whole experience is once you arrive in Orange County. The concessions are so far inferior to every other ballpark as to be laughable. The alcoves in the stadium are dark, dreary and awful. It’s not really structurally much different than I remember it from 24 years ago – and even then it was an awkwardly shaped, multi-use facility at a freeway exit near what used to be orange groves that are now strip malls or outposts of Disneyland. Now, to point out some positives: even the worst place (and last place) in MLB to see a baseball game had some bright spots. I did see a visor for $6.88 and I have great remorse that I didn’t purchase it to match my Dodgers “LA” visors. I also bought a draft beer in the 3rd inning at a discount stand for $4.50. And it was a real beer ­– like 16 ounces and tasty! But, overall, the place is an eyesore, really, if you judge it against the other 29 parks. I’ve been to many minor league parks with more to recommend them, including Aberdeen. The Angels should be embarrassed, especially considering how great the fanbase has been and how cute those monkeys are all over the place. I walked around all 30 MLB ballparks in 30 days. This place is the worst. And, for me, it’s not really close. Well, except for perhaps No. 29…


On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/



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Nestor traveled to 30 MLB ballparks in 30 days this summer and is putting them in order. We'll be counting them down from worst to first through Sept. 8 when he'll release a three-part essay on his MLB #GiveASpit leukemia and bone marrow awareness journey.

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Ranking 30 MLB stadiums from worst to first isn’t easy

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Today, with my 30th ranked stadium in Major League Baseball, I’ll be unveiling – and highlighting – a different ballpark and experience from my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour. We’ll be ranking them from worst to first every day over the month.

Much like criteria for various sports Halls of Fame, postseason awards and/or any other smarmy institutional rankings or polls or opinions, this one rests solely on me. I figured if I could rank my Top 50 Bruce Springsteen songs, or U2 numbers or Rush classics, then I could work out the most requested piece of advice or expertise from spending a month of my life on the road chasing baseball.

Along my journey this summer, everyone seemed to ask the same question:

“Which stadium did you like the best?”

And, honestly, when you’re in a different ballpark every night for 30 days, it’s pretty natural to start comparing and contrasting every facet of every place you visit.

My ranking are based on an all-encompassing vibe and mojo. These are my personal rankings. They’re not “traditional” in any way. I put a lot of thought into them and invested the time and money to visit them all and experience baseball in totality in 2015.

I didn’t take as gospel what some broadcaster or “journalist,” who enters through the press gate and rolls up to the feeding room, said about these venues. Instead, I walked through every park – some of them twice – just to see every nook and cranny.

It’s also obvious that every stadium is better with more people in it and fans filling it. Some parks are struggling to get folks to come to the games and many with good reasons across MLB.

Baseball ain’t really so cheap and “family friendly” anymore. Sure, you can score a $5 get-in these days in Denver or Phoenix but there’s a reason these owners are making hundreds of millions of dollars while putting a sometimes “cheap as possible” brand of baseball on the field.

Your TV money (and every neighbor you have) is what’s driving the business of baseball. The stadiums are simply a stage that allows the money to flow.

Some teams – like the Yankees, Tigers and Orioles – have built stadia over the past two decades that are chic, sexy and printing money but they haven’t really captured the spirit and charm of their previous homes. It’s almost been a backward ride for the mojo of the franchise in some ways. For other dumps and cookie cutters like The Vet and Busch Stadium and Three Rivers (which was one of the worst places to watch a game from any sight line), well it was hard to not improve with a new facility.

And the venerable places – and the top two on my list – are old-school stadiums that have renovations that have made them shine even more.

Look, many of these ballparks are lovely. Every community – save for Oakland, Tampa and maybe Toronto, can look their fans in the eyes and say “we have a world class facility that warrants you dropping a bunch of money to see a game in our stadium.”

One criteria I’d use is this: if I were a fan of this team, how compelled would I be to buy a 13-game plan, venture to the stadium and want to spend money at baseball games. I’ve been going to baseball games since 1972. Before Peter Angelos took my press pass in 2006, I did 40 to 60 games a year. Now, it’s more of a “special occasion” for me to go to a baseball game. Especially given the amount of money it costs to spend a summer night at a game if you pay retail and eat inside the park.

The bottom line is this: where is my money good?

In the end, which of these places would make me want to fly back – right now – and do it all over again and watch a ballgame.

There’s a lot of ethereal, intangible qualities in a stadium experience.

In some places – like Seattle, San Francisco, Minnesota – I was held at the top of sections and could only take my seat at the of an at bat. It was forced courtesy. I thought it was superbadass and long overdue at baseball games. I like the hockey rules. You are allowed to move around when the ball isn’t in play. Seems so sensible as to be standard operating procedure. But we’ve all had some idiot walk in front of us just as a 3-1 pitch is being delivered with two on in the mid innings.

In others, you could just feel the charm of the staff. Seattle, Minnesota and Philadelphia most notably – every vendor, ticket taker, staffer – was completely helpful and cool.

“They’re all meant to be different” as stadium architect and expect Janet Marie Smith said to me. “It’s why we love pilgrimages. Every one of the Major League Baseball ballparks is unique.”

In many cases, when I wasn’t swabbing or hanging with a celebrity pal or tweeting up pictures from the ballparks, I was interacting with folks on the concourse. Some nights I was treated like a media member. Some nights the team gave us nice tickets. Some nights we arrived super early to swab people. Some nights – like Washington, Miami, The Bronx in New York, Colorado and both sides of Chicago, which, clearly is not my kinda town – I scalped tickets on the street or Stubhub because the team treated me like a disease or a nuisance. The Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley was a really pricey ticket and I bought standing room seats for $51 each and we squatted for five innings behind a pole at first base and had a fine time because we weren’t getting pelted by rain like everyone who paid $200 did all afternoon.

This isn’t about taking categories and ranking these 30 nights of my life. I didn’t consider the weird rules for each park or even a ton of the history or periphery outside of the main thesis: “If I were sending you someplace to watch a baseball game next summer, where would I send you first…then second…then third.”

So, here’s my list, starting with No. 30 and counting backward. We’ll release one stadium a day for the next month and there’ll be some notes I’ve assembled about why they’re ranked thusly.

I will be writing at length about all aspects of my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour the week of Sept. 8 when we release our No. 1 stadium in Major League Baseball.

My Kerouac tour is complete. I have plenty of stories to tell.

I hope you enjoy the journey…




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