GODFREY — While other children are trying to catch Pokémon, St. Louis Cardinals fan Aiden Keshner is collecting memories at Major League baseball parks across North America.
Accompanied by father, Michael, and mother, Stacy, the 12-year-old has made visits to destinations such as California and Toronto, Canada, in a quest to visit every ballpark.
“It’s a baseball fan’s goal to visit all the stadiums,” his father said. “Why not do it in five or six years before Aiden finishes high school?”
The family originally planned to see the stadiums from oldest to newest, starting in Fenway Park in Boston.
“We watched the game, toured the stadium, and it was fun, but we thought, who are we rooting for?” Michael joked. “We are diehard Cardinals fans; why are we here watching the Red Sox and the Angels?”
“Our next game was at Chicago at Wrigley watching the Cardinals play,” Aiden said. “It was so much more fun. It would take longer, but we wanted to do all the stadiums when the Cardinals were playing.”
Clad head to foot in Cardinal red, Aiden’s face lights up when speaking of interactions with his favorite St. Louis players. He takes his special red ball cap with him to each game.
“I try every single time to get a signature,” he said, showing off the hat where several autographs crowd around the white STL logo.
“He’s persistent,” Michael said. “We’re there when the gates open to run down closer to the field. St. Louis players are awesome because when they see Aiden, Stacy and me ‘Cardinaled’ out, they’re appreciative. They understand we’ve traveled to see them.”
The seventh-grader’s persistence is catching the notice of players. Aiden enthusiastically talks about how former Cardinal Jason Motte signed his shirt at the Toronto game.
“(Motte) said, ‘You’re really not from St. Louis.’ He thought that we were people that moved to Canada, but we’re still here,” Aiden explained, smiling.
The young fan describes another favorite interaction.
“Last year, I had a sign that read ‘Shelby Miller’s Number One Fan,’” he said. “He was pitching and saw the sign and he gave me a head nod. Our next game was in Baltimore and I had the same sign and his road jersey. Shelby’s pitching coach looked over and said, ‘There’s that kid again. You’ve got to do something.’ After he was done practicing he came over and signed my hat, my jersey and a ball.”
Aiden recently scored another trophy signature from his favorite player, infielder Kolten Wong.
“That was awesome because he is my favorite player,” Aiden said.
But for the child, the ballpark environment is just as exciting as the game. His favorite fields include San Francisco’s AT&T Park and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“AT&T is nice because it’s on the bay and you can see the ships,” he said. “PNC Park looked awesome and had a good atmosphere with nice fans. I saw a game there where the Cardinals got crushed, so that shows how much I like it.”
According to Aiden, after he meets his goal of visiting the stadiums, he wants to make the ballpark his permanent home with a baseball career.
“I want to do something with baseball. If I can’t play for the Cardinals, I want to be an announcer or manager or do other work with the Cardinals.”
Statistician might be another option for the youngster. Part of the challenge of visiting the stadiums is catching games at American League ballparks the Cardinals rarely play in. Aiden has come up with a system for figuring out which destinations to look forward to.
“I’m predicting Seattle and Arlington, Texas, next year,” said Aiden.
“He’s got a weird theory,” Michael added. “Sometimes it pans out.”
This year, Aiden has checked Cleveland and Minnesota off of his baseball bucket list. Next up is Chicago to watch the Cardinals play the White Sox. Stacy, owner of White Birch Interiors in Alton, has again prepared a sign for her son to fly at the game. It reads, “My Bucket List: Visit all MLB stadiums,” along with a giant checkmark next to US Cellular Stadium.
That’s 15 down, 15 to go.