GREENVILLE — Greenville High School athletic director Brian Zdanowski is a sports fanatic, more specifically a baseball fanatic.
Currently, there are 30 Major League Baseball organizations, meaning 30 different professional ballparks.
Well, Zdanowski has been to them all. Starting with a game many years ago at Tigers Stadium in Detroit and continuing to last year’s trip to Miami to see the Marlins in their new Marlins Park, Zandowski has made it a point to visit every stadium. In addition, Zdanowski has been to 23 other MLB stadiums that have closed since the construction boom started by the Baltimore Orioles and Camden Yards.
Zdanowski has also been to the Olympics, the Super Bowl, The Masters and many other events. If there is a major sporting event taking place there is a good chance Zdanowski has been to it.
I recently sat down to talk with Zdanowski about his trips around Major League Baseball.
Do you remember the first game you went to?
I remember seeing Mark Fidrych. His magical year (1976), I was with my grandfather. It might have been his second start so he wasn’t as big as he ended up becoming that year. We probably ended up seeing him another two or three times that year. Those were the first games I really remember being at. I remember being at the stadium prior with my dad, but I don’t remember specific details from those games.
Was this planned or did it happen?
It just started happening. Just because of my schedule being in education (summers off), every time we traveled on vacation we always tried to stop and see the local pro stadium. It ended up being baseball most of the time. Baseball, being my love, one thing led to another and I just kept going to stadiums and it became part of our travels. Later on, we planned being on vacation near a stadium so we could catch a game.
What were some of the first stadiums you visited outside of Detroit?
We were at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium many times. It was a football field and they somehow fit a baseball field on there. It was gigantic. I remember one of the first times there, we saw Sammy Sosa when he with the White Sox (Chicago) and he was a rookie. The old Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota, County Stadium in Milwaukee were the other ones. We made it a lot to the stadiums close to Michigan so we could make a little trip. The old Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field in Chicago were others.
When did the journey begin?
Some in the early 1980s, but mostly in the mid to late 80s. I graduated high school in 1982 and when I was at Saginaw Valley State, we went on a basketball trip and we played in Vermont, but we stayed in Montreal a couple of nights. One of the outings was a game in Montreal. Then I just kept going, making trips out west and to Texas. After a while, the old stadiums closed and I had to go back to the new ones.
Baltimore’s Camden Yards started the boom of new stadiums. Opened in 1992, Camden Yards changed the way stadiums looked. Can you believe the difference between the stadiums of the 80s and what we see today?
I didn’t realize it then, but so many of the stadiums were the cookie cutter stadiums, multi-purpose stadiums. They all looked the same. Now, the first one to change it all was Camden Yards (Balitmore). I was there the first year they opened. That stadium set the standard for all the others with the retro feel to the ballparks.
Baseball and food go hand-in-hand. What are some of the best items you’ve tasted?
Every ballpark has their signature food. San Francisco has its garlic fries. Those are incredible and you can smell them from a mile away. The Redhots at Citi Field (New York), the Dodger Dogs (Los Angeles) and the Cuban sandwiches at the old Yankee Stadium (New York). I don’t even know if they have the same sandwiches at the new Yankee Stadium. I couldn’t find them when I was there.
Of all the stadiums you’ve visited, which one is your favorite?
San Francisco, by far. I love the location on the water, the players have to come from the clubhouse and walk through the crowd to get the dugout (no tunnel underneath stadium), it’s downtown and you can walk to everything else around. It’s sort of like Seattle, which is a little further from the marina.
Where does Comerica Park ranked with other stadiums, in your mind?
When Comerica first opened it was so bright with all the cement. I probably rated it a little lower at first. Now, that it has been aged a little, I think it’s in the top 10. I’ve been there so much, I have a feel of where everything is at, where to park, where to sit and where to eat. There isn’t a thing wrong with it, Comerica just doesn’t have the same feel as others, but the amenities are great.
I want to catch a game in Pittsburgh. What is Pittsburgh like?
Pittsburgh is probably No. 2 on my list. It’s right on the water, you have to hit further to get in the water, but it can still be hit in the water. I like that it’s not gigantic. I’m more partial to the 38- to 41,000 seat stadiums. Pittsburgh just has a great feel to it. Also, Camden Yards, you can’t miss that. Camden is one of the best.
What is one stadium you would tell people to see if they had the chance?
Dodger Stadium is one you have to go to. When I first saw it, it reminded of a top of a volcano. It is a real neat stadium.
In addition to all the baseball stadiums, you have been to, basically every major sporting event there is. Is there an event you have not been to, but would like to
I would like to go to Australia and see an Australian Open match. Mainly, because their summer is our winter. We have been to Wimbledon and the U.S. open. I would like to go to an NBA All-star game, but it just hasn’t happened yet.