A couple of years ago, I discovered the Baseball Passport program.
At first, I didn’t jump right into it. I couldn’t find a list of stadiums where the stamp was and I didn’t want to get something I wouldn’t be able to use right away. After discovering the list, I grabbed one, thinking it would be fun to have something to jot down a few things at games.
I reviewed the passport at that time and said it was a nice thing to carry along to a game with me.
Now, it’s become a permanent part of my baseball travels.
Since I last reviewed the passport, I’ve had the chance to get into other aspects — the MLB one, the Atlantic League one and so much more. I’ve been to the Stampede event. I’ve met the creator. I’ve utilized the passport to be something very special to me.
But before I get into some other thoughts, last summer I had the chance to sit down with the creator and learn more about the program and why it’s so important to him.
Tim Parks isn’t hard to find if you are looking for him. He’s tall enough to be able to pick him out of the crowd and his easy-going nature makes him highly approachable. You can sense baseball parks are his relaxing domain.
It’s of no shock, then, that he looks to this program as something a little more than a small book to collect stamps.
“The passport brings the intimacy back,” Parks said during the Stampede event as he overlooked Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. “It makes you feel like you are part of the game.”
In the beginning of each passport, there’s the story behind it. Originally, he had a quest to visit all 50 states with his daughters before they graduated high school. He then made a new quest — to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks. During these travels, he would pick up some sort of memento to show he was there.
The idea for the passport popped into his head as he traveled to Alaska, using his United States passport to travel through Canada.
The program itself started in August 2010 with research and development of the prototype. With connections to the Reds front office, he pitched the idea to the COO of the team, and showed how it would work.
From there, Parks took the show to the Winter Meetings and showed it off to MLB. Major League Baseball loved the idea and offered the license to do it. The first year was small — a passport just for Reds games.
The MLB Passport was born in July 2012.
In 2013, the Minor League Baseball Passport was born.
In 2015, Parks added the independent Atlantic League.
There’s even a spring training passport. Stamps can be obtained at all minor and major league parks (pending teams don’t lose the stamps). Those stamps aren’t a cost to the team, either, as Parks absorbs all costs of creating the stamp as well as sending them to the team.
Depending on which passport you have — they have a bit of a different look.
The main MLB Passport is leather-bound and larger. Each stadium has several pages for the stamp and information from the game. There are also stadium stickers. In the back are extra pages for other stamps, such as All-Star games, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and more.
This is good for your travels if you are trying to hit each stadium. It’s very nice to have and is collectible.
Then there are the Gameday books for MLB, MiLB, the Atlantic League, and Spring Training. These books are more compact and have a space for your stamp, game-day info, and a page for notes and thoughts.
What’s nice about the notes page is everybody does it different. Some fill the page with thoughts and notes. Others (such as myself) do less.
Personally, what I put there depends on the game and the teams. I’ve gotten autographs on the pages. I’ve filled them with thoughts. I’ve left them blank and filled them in later. It’s all highly personal and can be done many different ways.
With the personal side of everything, obviously there will be a lot of memories, based on what the person owning the passport decided to do with it.
Parks said the idea was for these memories to be passed on.
“My thinking isn’t 5-10 years, it’s 35-40 years,” he said. “Handing it down so you can think back and you are there.
“If I go back to my grandfather, I’d give anything to have a game in his writing,” he continued. What he did. What we did. That’s what I want to see. Generation after generation of leaving memories. Once you read (what was written), you remember, It takes you back to the time you were there. It’s also old-school in that you have to physically do it. It’s not on a phone.”
The passport community is diverse, too.
From families to singles to couples to friends — there is a wide range of people taking part in this hobby.
The Stampede event in Cincinnati last July (blog post link) drew a lot of people and there was a large range of ages represented.
“This is for baseball fans,” Parks said. “These are very knowledgeable fans. Everybody has embraced it.”
Besides the passports in the park, there’s also a highly active Facebook group where people show off their stamps, talk some baseball, and show their travels.
“They are the heart of baseball,” Parks said. “It’s about families creating memories and sharing experiences. It’s your validation. Others people appreciate it and see it. It’s not for everybody. But these people understand the game. It’s enjoying the ballpark — the tastes, the smells, the friendships.”
The fans in the group show their love and dedication to the game and program by having mini-meetups at parks all over the country and throughout the summer. It’s highly interactive in the group and very welcoming.
As of last summer, the passport wasn’t sold in every major league park (about 20) and not every Minor League park.
Parks said his goal is to see it sold in every park so fans have easier access to the passport and can start creating memories when they first see it.
As more and more books are out there, more people get interested. Just by word of mouth and seeing people stamp books, others ask questions.
“People ask ‘what’s that?” Parks said. “It’s surreal having this many people enjoy the book and the game. It makes me feel great to see them enjoy this.”
If you are a baseball fan and enjoy going to games and documenting things, this is definitely for you.
The passport keeps improving and more and more gets added. Additional stamps (for the big MLB book) have been added for places such as the Negro League Hall of Fame, and Louisville Slugger Museum. The books are aplenty and Parks said last year he was hoping to keep expanding. With other opportunities out there, it will be fun to see where else he might go with expanding the program (and selfishly, because I am debating an Arizona Fall League trip in November, I’d love to see one for that league).
Even more, it’s affordable. With room for 25-30 games in the Gameday passports, it’s a steal at just under $20 (or, if you happen to see them on sale at the end of a Minor League season, you can buy a bunch at a discounted rate!). The larger MLB book is about $70, but it’s worth it because of it’s beauty. Then the Gameday ones are smaller and easily carried to get every game you attend.
Further, there are stamps at all MiLB and MLB stadiums, so you can get stamped on all your baseball travels (as long as the teams don’t lose or misplace the stamp… which has and likely will happen again).
Links are below to give you an idea with the program. I definitely encourage it.
- Website: https://mlbballparkpassport.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-MLB-BallPark-Pass-Port-Program-627204354028981/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BallParkPass