Stephen Pagano definitely delights in his life as a local yet does not deem an occasional escape a betrayal of his boundaries. A lover of baseball and a detractor of inhibition, he chronicled his captivation for the sport by penning “30 by 30,” a thoroughly informative and enriching account of his visitation of every Major League Baseball stadium.
“So many people are trapped in a South Philly bubble and are afraid ever to consider popping it,” the resident of the 2600 block of South Rosewood Street said. “There are many things that I will never waver on, and one is that you have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to do things because there is so much to see.”
The Marconi inhabitant and three contemporaries pulled off the feat of length, commencing in 2006 at the old Yankee Stadium in New York and concluding seven years later at Minnesota’s Target Field. Publishing the work May 21, the 31-year-old, whose book’s title acknowledges their having trekked to the venues ahead of their 30th birthdays, has found himself especially reflective, particularly because the odyssey gave him an enhanced estimation of his continual growth.
“More than three years after we finished, I still see it as a huge part of the formation of who I am,” Pagano said. “We stuck with it because we love baseball, wanted a challenge, and enjoy travel. Those are characteristics that I’ll take to the grave with me.”
He will also retain a tremendous sense of gratitude, as their adventures coincided with the most successful run in the history of the hometown nine, a stretch that he details throughout the text with season recaps. Often planning trips to see the Phillies in action, they took pride in representing not only the City of Brotherly Love but also their native turf.
“South Philly folks are really knowledgeable about baseball, and so much of our exposure to the game comes through time at Veterans Stadium,” he said of the club’s home from 1971 to 2003 and at which he and brother Mark often sat in the 700 level’s right-field corner. “I really credit that place for initiating this love, so we showed a bit of South Philly joy and camaraderie wherever we went.”
Unlike other individuals with wanderlust, Pagano and his peers did not immediately ponder placing their rears in seats across the country, but as they reached the halfway point, the gang’s “general manager,” so to speak, knew that their ever-increasing enthusiasm and expert management of funds would prove the keys to an unforgettable collection of memories.
“It’s definitely the most involved project I’ve ever put my mind to,” Pagano said. “I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment, and if someone reads this book and feels inspired to duplicate what we did, I’ll feel even happier. I’d even love to do it all over again because there are definitely some more memories to make and oversights to correct, like seeing the Hockey Hall of Fame [in Toronto].”
An incredibly inviting read for fellow fans of our national pastime, especially for those with vast interest in its history, Pagano’s labor of love will also resonate with aficionados of photos and friendships, as its 17 chapters contain images and exchanges that will surely inspire “Good for you guys” reactions.
“It’s not lost on us how fortunate we are to have done this,” the author said of the journey that inspired his inaugural writing endeavor. “We’re all still relatively young, so as the years pass, I think our recollections are going to have more significance.”
Pagano relayed that everything he and the trio did revolved around the stadium experience, yet that emphasis did not deter them from attempting to maximize their enjoyment of each city, including brushes with Dallas’ Dealey Plaza, the location of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination; Alcatraz; the Golden Gate Bridge; and the Hollywood sign. That California-heavy group also teams with a gold convertible-aided jaunt to make Pagano et al especially happy that Major League Baseball and the Golden State are quite compatible. With regards to stadium-based action, which included knocking out two sites in one trip when feasible, the quartet caught some great games, including Boston Red Sox then-rookie hurler Clay Buchholz’s Sept. 1 no-hitter versus the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park, which three of the four friends list among their favorite spaces on page 198. Thanks to the seven years of appreciation for the professionals’ pursuit of perfection, the young men know that though they will age in the chronological sense, they will remain forever young on account of their affinity for the diamond.
“I just had to write this to share how much bonding can come through playing and watching this game,” Pagano, who as of Monday had hawked 75 copies of the paperback, said. “It’s also made me much more fascinated with travel because there’s way more life to experience, even if only for a day, than many people want to admit. It’s cool to establish a life that has a central location, but if you can have some adventures, I recommend that you do.”
Looking back at the excursions, the scribe, who recently celebrated two years of wedded bliss with wife Alana and who works in the operating room at Methodist Hospital, 2301 S. Broad St., cannot recall how much money they spent or how many miles they traveled, but the lack of that information cannot counter the surplus anticipation that they feel about continuing to visit any new stadium, with the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park, set to debut next year, on their mind.
“There’s also talk of making other trips,” Pagano said, noting the cementing of September’s trip to the Massachusetts-situated Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for Sixers great Allen’s Iverson’s induction. “Maybe we’ll do basketball stadiums. Who knows what the future holds?” SPR
Contact Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
Stephen Pagano has adored baseball since his childhood, with his debut book serving as an homage to the game.
Left Photo provided by Stephen Pagano; Right Photo by Tina Garceau