Ed Grisamore

Gris: Take me out to the ballgames

David Lanier has stood in shadow of the Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park in Boston.

He was in the stands when Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run at Petco Park in San Diego to tie Hank Aaron’s record. He once caught a Doug Mientkiewicz home run ball barehanded during batting practice at Camden Yards in Baltimore. The seams left a mark on his skin.

He has gobbled down Dodger Dogs in Los Angeles and chewed on cheese­steaks at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. He has felt the wind blowing in from Lake Michigan at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

He left his heart in San Francisco. He lost, and then miraculously found, his ticket to a New York Yankees game at a bar in the Bronx.

For 15 years, David has been living an American dream. He and three former co-workers have attended baseball games in all 30 major league ballparks.

Now that their mission is accomplished, they are backtracking to the new stadiums that have been built since they began their quest in the summer of 2000. In June, they will head to Marlins Park in Miami for the first time.

When David tells stories about his baseball travels from seat to shining seat, folks look at him with wonder.

“They are surprised somebody would complete the journey to all 30 ballparks,” he said. “Quite frankly, we are surprised ourselves. When we started, we never dreamed we would finish.”

David, 59, is retired from a career in banking and is now special assistant to the president at Middle Georgia State College.

He moved to Macon in 2003 from BB&T in Raleigh, North Carolina. And, yes, he is a distant relative of Sidney Lanier, the city’s most famous poet.

But it was another Lanier that put poetry in motion for him on the baseball field.

Growing up, David was the biggest San Francisco Giants fan in Gastonia, North Carolina. His favorite player was a shortstop born on the Fourth of July in 1942, just up the road in Denton. His name was Hal Lanier, and David wanted to claim him as kinfolk, too.

In the bleak mid-winter, a few months before opening day in 2000, David and his friends were sitting in a conference room at the bank in Raleigh.

“One of the guys started talking about he had always wanted to go to all the baseball stadiums,” David said. “I told him it had always been one of my dreams, too. And I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The first year, they made a road trip to Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Comerica Park in Detroit and old Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He and his buddies -- Scott Evans, Jon Bass and Scott Greer -- have been on a nonstop trek ever since.

He is often asked about his favorite stadiums. Of the venerable parks, he said it is hard to top Fenway in Boston and Wrigley in Chicago, both more than a century old. Among the new kids on the block, he loves PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Comerica Park in Detroit and AT&T in San Francisco.

He also has become fond of several of the stadiums with retractable roofs. It may go against tradition among the baseball purists, but those air conditioner vents sure feel nice when it’s 110 degrees outside Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.

His least-preferred venues? Oakland, Tampa, the old Shea Stadium in New York and the old Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The most surreal trip was to Denver in July 2012. It was the week after a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 at a movie theater in Aurora. He and his friends were touched by the outpouring of emotions and attended the memorial.

David and his baseball buddies usually arrive at the park early to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. On their trip to historic Fenway, they noticed an open door leading to the outfield and summoned the courage to wander down the walkway several hours before the game. David plucked a few blades of grass as a souvenir. They spotted Manny Ramirez on his way to the batting cages, and he stopped and signed autographs.

“A security guard came up and asked for our ID, and we told him ... ‘We were just leaving,’” David said, laughing.

They are consumed with baseball trivia riding in the car. They have borrowed, invented and shared a few friendly wagering games in the stands to keep things interesting.

“We’ve had great seats and lousy seats,” David said. “It doesn’t matter. We are there.”

He doesn’t know how much longer this ongoing baseball adventure will have a grip on him. He’s having too much fun to stop now.

His wife, Lucy, is also a devoted baseball fan. She follows the Atlanta Braves, who will leave Turner Field and move to the new SunTrust Park in Cobb County in 2017.

“She has been wonderful to let me go on all these trips without her,” David said. “I may have to start all over and go with her to all 30 one more time.”

Contact Gris at 744-4275.

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