On the road to a stronger friendship

A 25-day cross country sports odyssey eclipses the 7,000-mile mark

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Michael Walsh of Vancouver said the idea of seeing PNC Park in Pittsburgh (pictured above) turned into a 25-day, 7,000-mile "Sport Road Trip" to 11 Major League Baseball ballparks, five minor league stadiums and the U.S. Open.

When Sport Road Trip Co-Founders Casey Johnson of Washougal and Michael Walsh of Vancouver returned home July 2, the odometer on their 2011 Lincoln MKX read 7,003.1 miles.

The vehicle, provided specifically for the trip by Foothills Lincoln Mazda in Spokane, took the two Boise State University graduate students to 23 different states, 11 Major League Baseball ballparks, five minor league games and the U.S. Open Golf Championship in 25 days.

“Once you get past the Midwest, it feels like you’re getting closer to home,” Johnson said. “There’s just something special about the Northwest, especially when you drive back through Montana, Idaho and the Columbia River Gorge. I’ve lived here my whole life. This is home for me.”

Johnson and Walsh toured PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Wrigley and U.S. Cellular fields in Chicago, Nationals Park in Washington D.C., Target Field in Minneapolis, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Comerica Park in Detroit, Progressive Field in Cleveland, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and Coors Field in Colorado. They also threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Missoula, Mont.

“Getting to throw out the first pitch at a game was one of the highlights of the whole trip,” Johnson said. “It was something that wasn’t planned until the last minute, but it turned out to be a great game, we had great seats and we got to throw out the first pitch. It was a great way to finish it off.”

“As that last stadium was in our rear-view mirror, we couldn’t believe the trip was coming to an end, and we started thinking seriously about planning the next one,” Walsh said. “If we ever get the opportunity to do something like this again, I would do it in a heartbeat. If not, we have so many memories and stories to last a lifetime.”

The adventure was the culmination of almost a year of planning and generating sponsors to fund the estimated $3,500 in expenses. It became a self-made internship complete with a website, social networking outlets, and appearances in traditional media and corporate outlets.

“There were times when we would get so wrapped up in figuring out how a Major League Baseball stadium operates that we would lose track of the game,” Johnson said. “We were just as interested in learning about that stuff as we were about watching the games.”

Walsh said Sport Road Trip would not have been possible without Portland-based leading sponsors Pacific Service Center and Doc Martens.

“The itinerary was easy. The hard part was finding a way to convince people that this was a great marketing investment,” he said. “We were not just looking for handouts. We wanted these companies to get behind our idea and put their name on it. To get as many people as we did behind us is something I’ll remember most.”

Johnson and Walsh would love to see the research behind Sport Road Trip mold into a summer internship for college students.

“We have a good blueprint set up, but we would love to see other people bring their ideas to the table so that it can keep growing,” Walsh said. “There’s a lot to be said about successfully pitching an idea. The next step is figuring out how we can package what we have done and put it on our resume or a portfolio? We want to advance our careers through this idea. It’s not just two guys having fun.”

Once the engine behind an idea starting clicking on all cylinders, there is a lot of fun to be had.

“I highly recommend this trip to anybody who has ever dreamed about doing it,” Johnson said. “I think we have proved to ourselves and to others that it is possible, if you just put your mind to it.”

It took Johnson and Walsh a lot of planning, research and resources to create this sports road trip of dreams, but the memories they created and the stories they will always share were worth each footstep and every mile.

“Casey and I will remember this experience for the rest of our lives,” Walsh said. “Wherever we go or whatever we do in the future, we will always have something about this trip to talk about.”