Life at the ballpark makes Chuck Booth feel just a little bit better
Chuck Booth was six years old when he fell out of a tree and hit his head. It was his first concussion.
In September of 2010, he was making a left turn when a driver struck his car going about 40 miles per hour. The driver didn’t stop but Booth’s head did — it stopped right in his front dash.
"What occurred there was my worst concussion I had in 15 years," he said. "I had been pretty clean for about 15 years on the concussion front. But I got a really bad one and it took me a long time to recover. And I’m still recovering from that right now."
It was his ninth concussion, and that’s a rough estimate. After years of suffering them through football and baseball, he’s now 38 and still feels the after-effects of his numerous brain bruises. He had to find a way to move past the headaches, the dizzy spells, the malaise and the general feelings of despondency that sometimes come accompany concussions.
"Anytime I had time off from work — even if it was just a few days — I was sitting," he said. "I didn’t like that because it made me feel even worse. Sitting around not doing anything active. There’s times when I’m tired and that’s fine, but that happens, but I went through lots of bouts of depression. That happens to a lot of guys who have concussions."
The one thing that has always inspired Booth: Baseball. He once set a Guinness World Record for becoming the fastest person in the world to attend all 30 baseball parks. In 24 days, he hit all 30 parks. In 2012, he broke his record completing the same feat in only 23 days. Booth has now done the 30-ballpark trip three times: In 2008, 2009 and 2012. He even wrote a book about the ventures and chronicled them on his website, MLBReports.com.
It brought him back to life, in a sense. So when the Vancouver-area independent courier was told to take six months off to shake off his recurring symptoms, he decided that his couch wasn’t going to work this time. Instead, he planned a baseball trip that presented far greater challenges than the ones before: He would attend one game every day each day of the 2015 MLB calendar.
By the end of the season, Booth will have attended more than 200 games in 183 days in every MLB city. And there’s a greater cause for this trip: This trip is all about raising awareness for concussions by partnering with the Sports Legacy Institute and a network of "ballpark chasers" that are supporting him by donating to the institution.
— Ballpark Chasers (@ballparkchasers) June 24, 2015
"They’re doing lots of work with former players and every athlete that might have had problems," he said. "I’ve talked to (Sports Legacy Institute executive director) Chris Nowinski on email and I told him that because I’m using this to get better, I want to show everyone that it can be done. If you’re not feeling so great, just start doing stuff that you like and maybe it will work."
Doing what you like sounds so simple, but it’s far more complex when it requires figuring out travel plans for multiple destinations. But those complexities are actually beneficial.
"It takes a lot of time to plan these things and I’ve been planning this since last June. It’s keeping my brain connected," Booth said. "The more I’m using my brain, I’m getting my brain healthy."
First, there’s the budget. His settlement from the accident is funding most of this trip but he’s on a strict budget of $22,500. An average out-of-town baseball experience can cost hundreds of dollars, but he averages about $100. Through the use of rental car rewards programs and Mega Bus, who has stepped up as a sponsor, he’s able to save money on transportation. He stays in hostels and on friends’ couches or even his own – he uses Seattle as his home park – and buys partial season-ticket packages to be able to re-sell tickets.
It’s a giant logistical puzzle. And puzzles of all sorts are used as therapy for concussion rehabilitation.
"You always have to think on your feet," he said. "So by using my brain a lot more I’ve been actually helping it out."
It's really cool to hang out in the Angels dugout right now. Mike Scioscia media scrum.. pic.twitter.com/jvqbH8EdyE
— MLB Reports (@MLBreports) June 24, 2015
Booth has to consider his symptoms when planning games. He watches most games from the concourses because of light sensitivity and when in the stands, he prefers to sit all the way at the top so no one is behind him.
Concussion symptoms will always be a part of Booth’s everyday life. But every day that he’s at a ballpark, he’ll feel just a little bit better.
"It’s working," he said. "For sure."