From the days of crushing it off the tee at Salvador Perez Park to the bitter defection to a team playing at General Franklin E. Miles Park, my baseball journey started on the Little League fields of Santa Fe.
Along with stops at little leagues in Albuquerque and Alamogordo, my storied baseball journey as a slow, portly, soft-hitting outfielder/infielder/catcher was long and hard, but it ended up where every little kid dreams: The Baseball Hall of Fame.
There, alongside my fellow legends of the game — the Say Hey Kid, Stan the Man, Joltin’ Joe, Satchel and the Babe — hangs a bronze plaque with my only-a-mother-can-love face and a brief description of the storied career of Geoff “The Hammer” Grammer, the famous sometimes catcher/sometimes outfielder/sometimes middle infielder of the Minnesota Twins.
But one need not go to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see my plaque. Or your own, for that matter.
Through May 27 in the parking lot of Dreamstyle Stadium on UNM’s south campus, coinciding with the Albuquerque Isotopes’ eight-game homestand, is the Baseball Hall of Fame Tour’s “We Are Baseball” exhibition.
My personalized plaque — or the photo of it taken at the exhibit and emailed directly to me Friday as one of dozens of interactive exhibits that include virtual reality home run derbies and stadium tours — is just one of hundreds of items on display on the traveling road show of baseball history.
Fifteen trucks rolled into Albuquerque this week — Tulsa, Okla., was the last stop and Des Moines, Iowa, is the next stop — to set up the detailed exhibit that costs between $6.50 for children and $20 for adults and is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (5 p.m. on May 27 and final ticket sold each day is one hour before the exhibit is closed).
From the moment fans stroll through the front gates of the exhibit, baseball — past, present and future — takes over. The mesmerizing voice of legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully can be heard reciting the “People Will Come” speech from the 1989 film Field of Dreams.
Among many employees on site to help tell you about the exhibits, the go-to historian of the bunch is Andy Couch, associate curator of traveling exhibitions for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Couch, who said he spends eight months a year traveling with the tour and four months working in Cooperstown, N.Y., sprinkled in trivia with baseball knowledge and anecdotes throughout a tour Friday for various local media members.
Among the stories Couch told Friday was of a Chicago Cubs hat on display that belonged to Andre Dawson during his 1987 National League MVP season. When Couch once showed the hat to Dawson, the Hall of Fame outfielder questioned whether that was, in fact, his hat.
“He said it wasn’t his hat,” Couch said. “I thought he was just giving me a hard time.”
But Dawson clearly doubted the hat’s authenticity because, as he looked underneath it, the hat was clean. Dawson said his Jheri curl that season stained the hat more than the one on display showed.
Concerned, Couch called his bosses and verified it was in fact Dawson’s hat, just after a healthy cleaning before being displayed.
It isn’t hard to get a ton of information on the artifacts on display, which are all clearly marked and protected behind glass.
Five semitruck-turned-spacious exhibition rooms surround a large stage with a large IMAX Theater at the back of the exhibit that shows a 10-minute movie called “Welcome to the Show” throughout the day.
Each truck has different themes:
OUR STORIES: Featuring items showing stories of players overcoming adversity through the years. Among the items in this exhibit is the hat that Jackie Robinson wore during the 1955 World Series, a Roberto Clemente jersey and the bat Ichiro Suzuki used for his record 262nd hit in 2004.
OUR TRADITIONS: An interactive display is at the center of this exhibit in which fans can use a touch screen display to learn facts about every major league team. This exhibit also includes a piece of the Green Monster from Fenway Park, Harry Caray’s glasses and the famed 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card, which has taken in more than $2 million at auction in the past.
OUR MEMORIES: Some of the game’s most iconic moments are on display, including an opportunity for fans to take pictures in front of a green screen that superimposes them into those historic moments.
Also in this display is the baseball Babe Ruth hit for his final home run on May 25, 1935, for the Boston Braves; Bobby Thomson’s bat used to hit “The shot heard round the world” on Oct. 3, 1951; Roger Maris’ bat used to his home run No. 61 in 1961; and the glove Willie Mays used for “The Catch” on Sept. 29, 1954.
OUR HALL OF FAMERS: In this display, fans can view every Hall of Fame plaque and also create their own plaque with picture, name, team and description.
OUR GAME TODAY AND TOMORROW: A virtual reality experience that puts fans in the middle of the Chicago Cubs victory parade, clubhouse celebration in Wrigley Field and more.