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Kentucky by Heart: Teacher, columnist Jamie Vaught and son share bonding experience through MLB trip

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

Jamie Vaught is a college accounting teacher, but much of his life is defined by his love for sports, starting as a child when he developed a friendship with Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not surprising, then, that his son Warren, who recently graduated, took up an interest in sports also, playing baseball for his Middlesboro High School baseball team.

Jamie with his son Warren at Fenway Park in Boston (Photo from Jamie Vaught)

It also shouldn’t surprise that father and son recently took a ten-day Major League baseball tour to games at seven stadiums, along with Cooperstown, New York, home of the MLB Hall of Fame. It was a baseball connoisseur’s delight. It was, said Jamie, “Baseball Heaven”… a long and memorable journey, (and) a great experience for us.”

The two, along with a friend of Warren, traveled to these cities: Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and St. Louis. Jamie called two of the ballparks, Fenway, in Boston, and Wrigley Field, in Chicago, “iconic.” They stayed two nights in New York and one night in each of the other cities.

Doing the background work beforehand was important. “It took a lot of preparation as well as making hotel reservations,” explained Jamie. “I had to look at the teams’ home schedules and go from there. I had to revise our traveling dates a couple of times to fit in our schedule. Thankfully, nearly all of the teams in the Northeast and Mideast had home dates. Lots of driving in the mornings but most of the cities were only about three hours apart. We mostly stayed at nice hotels which were within walking distance of the ballparks.”

There were extra special places on the tour, Jamie explained. “Personally, my favorite places were New York City where we stayed two nights, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and two iconic ballparks at Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. My son bought a new Derek Jeter jersey in Manhattan, and he wore it at Fenway Park the next day when the New York Yankees visited the Red Sox. Before that game, I warned him that the Boston fans may dump beer on him. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and the Red Sox fans were nice about it.”

There were surprising moments on the tour, too. “The atmosphere at Fenway Park on a Saturday night was really crazy,” he said. “More crazy than I had expected it. We could feel it. The fans were into it. It was partly because of the heated rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. The game was a near sellout. We paid about $123 for each ticket on StubHub about two months before the game. Our seats weren’t that good but we were fairly close to the Green Monster. Seeing that gigantic left field wall was really special. I will never forget that. Watching the Cubs at Wrigley Field was fun, too. The atmosphere was festive despite the Cubs having a disappointing season so far.

Jamie vaught with a photo of Pittsburgh Pirates great Roberto Clemente at the Baseball Hall of Fame (Photo from Jamie Vaught)

“After entering the inside entrance of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first picture we saw was Roberto Clemente, my childhood friend. I was really impressed. That made me feel good. I also wore a gold Clemente T-shirt that day. I purchased baseball cards as well as the Clemente stuff in several baseball stores in Cooperstown.

“In New York City, we stayed in Chinatown, in Queens. It was fairly close to Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, but we rode the subway to the ballpark and to Manhattan for shopping. The kids and I also enjoyed the Times Square area.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers-St. Louis Cardinals game was very memorable as we saw many superstars from both clubs. I had never seen that many future Hall of Famers in a same game before in my lifetime. My son really enjoyed St. Louis. He is still a Pirates fan but also bought a Yadier Molina jersey. So he now has Jeter and Molina jerseys.”

I identified strongly with Jamie’s assertion that sports interest can be a great way to communicate between generations. It certainly helped with my dad and me over the years.

Jamie said this about his bonding experience this summer: “My son and I have something in common. We both love baseball. Sometimes I will ask him a question about a player in the major leagues, and he will do the same with me. So, the trip was very enjoyable with us.”

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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