The Fall Classic with Houston Astro’s Geoff Blum
Whether you’re a baseball rookie or seasoned veteran, we’re covering all the bases in this bonus episode about traveling to the World Series and why it’s an unforgettable experience. Former MLB player and Houston Astros’ Analyst, Geoff Blum, describes all of the sights, sounds and smells of the Fall Classic and why it’s truly America’s favorite pastime. Have a great topic suggestion or travel story for us? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @Expedia! You can find Geoff Blum on Twitter and Instagram.
Photos from Geoff Blum’s Instagram.
Adam Francis: You don’t have to be a baseball fan to recognize that tune and with the 2019 World Series in full swing, we’re about to take you out to the ballgame.
Welcome to a very special bonus edition of Out Travel The System. I’m your host Adam Francis and if you missed our intro show a little bit about myself — I’ve been a sports fan for years and was also an accredited member of the sports media back in Toronto covering the Toronto Raptors. On this podcast, I’ll be talking about the intersection of sports and travel, two topics that go hand-in-hand and that I’m incredibly passionate about.
In today’s episode, we’re talking about the Fall Classic and we’re about to go on a storytelling journey to find out what it’s like to travel for the World Series and what attending a game of this caliber is like from someone who knows it well. Geoff Blum is the Houston Astros’ color commentator, co-host and creator of the Bleacher Blums podcast for baseball fans, and he’s also a 14-year Major League Baseball veteran with a significant connection to the World Series. In the 2005 World Series, Geoff was playing with the Chicago White Sox when he hit a home run in the 14th inning of Game 3. The White Sox went on to win the World Series that year against none other than the Astros. That’s right, against the team he once played for and now cheers and works with. And get this, in 2008 a monument to celebrate the 2005 World Series was unveiled at Chicago’s home field. The monument features bronze statues of five players and Blum, he’s one of them. Geoff Blum, welcome to Out Travel The System.
Geoff Blum: Thanks for having me on. It’s always kind of fun when you’re on a podcast where they do so much research and get in-depth. I appreciate you getting into the World Series topic, but also to bring up the statue so thank you.
Adam Francis: Oh we’re going to talk about that statue a little later too because this is amazing. Let’s start at the top though. Why does the World Series make for a great travel opportunity be it for family, friends, couples you name it?
Geoff Blum: I think it’s interesting in the sense that the NHL, NBA, MLB, they all play best of seven series. I think it really creates an opportunity for fans to get in there and spend some time in the resident city where the World Series is being handled. You could spend two or three days and find out some of those nooks and crannies and hotspots in stadiums to have a good time and find the best view.
Adam Francis: Let’s talk about the experience first as a fan. When was the last time you traveled to the World Series as a fan?
Geoff Blum: 2017 when the Astros were in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I made a point of it because I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and now being a resident of Houston, and a broadcaster working for the Houston Astros, there were obvious ties between both teams for me and I wanted to get back. Being a regional sports broadcaster, when the team goes to the playoffs they go to the national broadcast so I’m basically taken out of the mix and I get to be a fan. The Astros do a good job of giving us a couple of tickets to all the home games, but I was also able to procure some tickets in Dodger Stadium and that was a very unique experience, to say the least, because I found myself in a situation where I was in hostile territory. You know I use that phrase — it’s not necessarily like that but I was rooting for the Houston Astros in Dodger Stadium. But I found myself in a pretty unique spot in that 2017 World Series.
Adam Francis: How close to the action were you?
Geoff Blum: It’s funny you ask because the tickets I was given were actually in the second row literally right behind the right field foul pole and it was a very exciting game. The Astros were behind and my wife and I, you know as gutsy as she is, was with me we were the only two Astro fans in the right field section that we were in and it was an intense game. Everybody was locked in on every single pitch and Alex Bregman came up to the plate and proceeded to hit a line drive down the right-field line and it’s literally coming right at us. You couldn’t tell if it was gonna be fair or foul. Yasiel Puig, the right fielder at the time, is coming towards us. He dives, the ball hits fair and bounces two seats to my left and as it’s rattling around I’m cheering, my wife is breaking out the phone for the Instagram Story that she’s about to create and I’m sitting there, I can’t believe that just happened. I’m looking around I’m cheering and I looked at my wife and understanding how it is on the broadcast side and I know that they probably have about 30 cameras in the ballpark and I’m going, “babe, we’re going to be on TV right now,” and sure enough as soon as the play is over they replay it from nine different angles. We pop in there and the local Houstonians who are watching the Astros game proceed to tweet a picture of me and my wife. My wife has the phone up, I’m in full clap cheer mode and Yasiel Puig is spiking his glove into the ground. It was awesome to be in the stands and be a fan to witness a part of 2017 history, but also to be in the background and get picked out a little bit so it was a lot of fun.
Adam Francis: I think that’s one of the things that’s so fascinating about traveling to one of these events, especially for baseball. You can interact with the game to a much larger extent than in other sports because like you just described, the ball can come right at you and it becomes such a visceral experience. I attended the 2015 LDS with the infamous bat flip in Toronto with Bautista and I wasn’t as close to the action, but that experience was so loud after he hit that home run and I thought the stadium was going to collapse. It was just shaking so it’s just such an amazing experience to be able to be part of that.
What’s your favorite part of that particular circumstance?
Geoff Blum: To sit there and actually have a vested interest in what’s happening on the field and then see the tide kind of turning our way because you can literally feel it and like when that ball went out and Jose Bautista throws the bat in the air you can feel the momentum of the game coming from the field into the stands and all of a sudden that visceral experience where the hair is raised on your arms your hands go up in the air and your voice gets a little bit louder so what’s great about baseball for me is that you can sense it coming towards you or you can sense it going the other way. My wife and I were feeling at that moment the surrounding sensation, around us was all of a sudden that implosion that you’re talking about like oh my gosh our team has gone down by a couple of runs or that was a big play against us. So as I’m standing up, the rest of the stands we’re sitting down understanding that and being in that that’s where I think the real enjoyment of sport is because much like watching a great movie where you get sucked in and you become a part of that movie in sports and baseball you really get sucked into the moment. What’s happening right there and you can feel it and that was a lot of fun for me to be on that outside looking in that atmosphere so to speak.
Adam Francis: I’m literally getting chills as you’re describing this, it’s super powerful. We talked about the fan experience, let’s contrast that now and talk about your experience attending the World Series as a player.
Geoff Blum: It’s great as a player, you play 162 games it’s kind of a grind and there’s an ebb and flow as far as fans showing up. There’s an ebb and flow as a player too depending on how your mentality is or how your body is feeling, but then you get into that second season as we call it, technically the postseason where all of a sudden all the pains and aches go away the excitement of knowing that you’re playing for a championship and you’re one of eight teams that are left in the championship and then eventually you get to the World Series where literally you are the last two teams standing. The difference between the Super Bowl and the World Series for me was maybe the style of fan that shows up. I feel like baseball brings in more of the communal, everyday, 162 games season ticket holder into the game. So you get that same feel, but on an exaggerated level when you’re playing in the World Series. I felt it in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox playing in a major city like that and seeing the turnout not just in the stadium, but around town. The vibes are great around town and the fans are amazing and even to the point here at Minute Maid Park where they keep the roof closed. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those guys to be on the field when they score runs and it feels like you said, that either the stadium is going to implode or the roof is literally going to blow off the top. That’s where I think the fans do have an effect and I do believe in home-field advantage.
Adam Francis: Is there something in particular that stands out from your experience with the White Sox from your World Series moments?
Geoff Blum: The first two things that stick out to me are Game 1 and Game 2. I believe if we went back and looked up the weather, it might have been 32 degrees with a light drizzle and knowing those are not ideal conditions for players or fans, they still showed up and we had sellout crowds, which was incredible to me. Every time we scored, they got out of their seats and they cheered, and they didn’t leave until the ninth inning. Those are some pretty intense games with the Houston Astros in that series, but that one home run I had in Game 3 of the World Series in the 14th inning was obviously a marquee moment in my career personally and in my career as a baseball player. To understand that you can have 43,000 people screaming their brains out and then all of a sudden stop at the swing of the bat, that was pretty incredible and to this day I don’t remember touching the bases, to be honest with you.
Adam Francis: What do you remember from that homerun experience if not touching the bases?
Geoff Blum: I remember the contact, I hit the ball extremely hard, but I wasn’t sure I hit it high enough to get it out of the ballpark. I put my head down and was thinking, just get to second base because I believe Aaron Rowand was hitting behind me. I said if I get into scoring position then a base hit this run, but in doing so I put my head down, took two good hard strides out of the box I looked up to make sure where the ball was and as I looked up I see it hit the seats and come back onto the field and out of my peripheral, I see Tim Raines who’s the first base coach who’s maybe 5’9, I may be exaggerating a little bit, and in my mind it looked like he was about eight feet off the ground it looked like you could have dunked on a 12-foot rim with both hands in the air and he lands the realization of what I’ve just accomplished.
It’s hard to process in that amount of time. So I didn’t know what to do and I kind of gave it a fist pump, but at the same time, I had played with the guys in the opposing dugout just a year and a half prior, so how much I could really celebrate you know, but that was an incredible moment. That was my World Series moment I gave a fist pump and high five to Tim Raines and then I proceeded to go around the bases with my head down. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t feel anything until I hit the home plate and as soon as I hit home plate you hear the crowd come back into it but all I could literally hear was our dugout going absolutely bonkers. And I remember high fiving Aaron Rowand. I think we about ripped each other’s arms off and I wanted to make sure I blew a kiss to my wife in the stands who had given birth to triplets in that year so 2005 was an incredible moment and it all just seemed to cosmically come together on the barrel of my bat and create that moment. So I will be eternally thankful for that moment with the Chicago White Sox.
Adam Francis: I’ve got chills again here, this is awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the travel aspects too of a World Series. You often hear about player’s superstitions, things they pack, any good travel stories?
Geoff Blum: The funniest part for me in the playoffs is you go for a 162 game season, like I said it’s kind of a grind you get in a routine and then you show up in the playoffs and you get to the World Series and all of a sudden you’ve got a locker full of all-new swag. You’ve got sweatshirts, t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, new batting gloves, you get new cleats, new bats, new this and that. Then the funniest part is it’s like all the guys are in there, they’ll go through and they’ll check it out, maybe wear a sweatshirt, but when it comes to actual gameplay, you’ll wear the same undershorts or sliding shorts that you’ve worn for 162 games. You’re going to wear the same socks you’re going to wear the same batting gloves you’re not doing anything really above and beyond what you normally do and I think that was probably the funniest thing. Like you’re saying about the superstitions, you revert back to the thought of, “well I got two hits with this bat over here so I’m not going to use the new stuff, I’ll just hold onto that for a little bit.” The travel is probably the best part, it really doesn’t change all that much, you just start adding more people. Most teams travel with a domestic charter and then you put 40 guys into a 150-seat plane and fly wherever you’re going. When we got to the World Series, our families started to travel with us.
Adam Francis: Amazing opportunity to bring up family. Talk to us a little bit about that experience of bringing family, I know you’ve got kids.
Geoff Blum: Baseball is interesting because it can become generational as far as bringing your kids to the ballpark. A lot of the stories that my daughters have only heard about, like the 2005 World Series because my oldest was maybe 15 months when we won the World Series. The triplets were born that year so they hear a lot of stories, they watch some videos. You know it’s more of a legend or a story that they hear. They haven’t really put me in that position so to speak to try and understand you know how much it meant to me and my profession and what I did.
In 2017, my wife and I made a point of going to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and going to the World Series. What was great about that Game 7 in the championship series is that the Astros won to go to the World Series. So my daughter was 12 or 13 years old and all of a sudden everything was put back in context and they went “Wait, this is a big deal the city is going nuts and these guys are celebrating going to the World Series,” and they’d ask who plays in the World Series — the last two teams standing. It really put things in a position for them to understand so they started to ask me more questions after those games about going to the World Series having the opportunity to play. Then they go “Well you hit a home run, you had an impact on what is going on in the World Series. You helped the team get a World Series championship.” It really helps out having those friends and family members with you to be able to share in that moment too because those stories again that they’re going to travel with for the rest of their life.
Adam Francis: I’m going to switch gears a little bit because I have to bring this up. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Babe Ruth Johnny Unitas, the Rocky statue. I mean I think we need to talk about this a little bit. There are very few people, let alone athletes that have their own statues. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and how you felt about that experience and being honored in that way?
Geoff Blum: It’s very humbling because when you say statue you say immortalized and you wouldn’t assume that a guy who took one swing in a World Series would be “immortalized,” but it happened to be one of the bigger moments in that World Series. Because the way that statue was erected it was amazing. Like you said, there were four or five other guys on that thing and it’s kind of shadowed in some of the big moments.
So what was cool about it is that even if you get close up to the monument, you’re going to see glimpses of everybody on that ball club. So that’s what I really appreciated about it, but at the same time, it’s kind of cool to go “hey check out on the other side, that’s me.” It’s still hard to put into words to understand that it’s there because we go through Chicago at least once a year and I can see the statue from the lobby where the media elevator takes me up to the booth. So you better believe that I take a nice slow journey as I get to the elevator kind of glancing out there and if I’m with anybody, for example, my buddy I work with, Todd Callison I know he’s sick and tired already after three years of hearing me say hey check it out.
The way I found out about it was kind of unique because I signed with the San Diego Padres in 2006 so all of the celebrations and ceremonies I really wasn’t able to be in on the ring ceremony. They had to send the ring to me in San Diego. We had no idea they were making a statue and my wife received an email with the link of the story that was talking about building that monument and she’s like you’ve got to be kidding me. She didn’t tell me about it though so when the San Diego Padres we’re going through Chicago, my wife asked if our parents and maybe a couple of other people could meet us in Chicago. I’m thinking they probably want to go shopping on the Magnificent Mile, but one morning my wife puts us in a limo and I’m thinking, what the heck are we doing, I don’t have time for this, I need to get ready for a game and the limo picks us up and we start going to the south side and immediately I’m going, man we are going in the wrong direction. We get off at the exit for the White Sox ballpark and we pull up front and I see the monument. I’m going wow that’s awesome, they pay tribute to the 2005 World Series this is great, and my wife starts tearing up she gets my daughter out. My mom is there and all of a sudden she goes, “Do you recognize this guy?” I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me. I just was speechless for about a good half an hour and you know I get kind of shook up talking about it now because they did such a good job. To be able to be a part of history is one thing but to be able to be on something that’s going to be around for a while to commemorate that is truly an honor and still hard to try and comprehend.
Adam Francis: That is an amazing story. The fact that you didn’t know what was going on is amazing. For the upcoming World Series and for any future World Series in fact what are some of your top travel tips?
Geoff Blum: My tips would be if you have the resources to go get a great ticket, go do it because it’s going to be worth the experience to get in the ballpark and to have that kind of treatment. If you don’t have the resources to do that, check in to some standing room only or maybe some of those bleacher seats at the top of the stadium that might be a little more affordable to get you and some buddies in and create a good atmosphere where you can bring a group of people in to experience that time with because a lot of these stadiums, I know Minute Maid Park for one sells those standing room tickets because they have a lot of standing room areas. They have seating as far as picnic benches and things like that if you do get food to sit down and eat. You can grab a beer, wander around these places and really find some great sightlines. If you’re unable to find those tickets and get into the stadium there are plenty of venues outside the stadium. I know that Houston does a great job with some of these craft breweries with outdoor seating, big screen TV, specials on some of the food — the food is extremely good, the beer is extremely good. And again it puts you in that communal atmosphere where you’re around people like-minded or not like minded who are talking about the game of baseball and talking about traveling and trying to find out the best way to maximize your experience on the road. Those are some of the things that I’ve found in going to some of these World Series games that are truly beneficial and still create great moments.
Adam Francis: What is it about the World Series that stands out to you and makes it such an amazing travel experience?
Geoff Blum: I think it’s because it’s the ultimate experience. Every year you have the opportunity to celebrate the best teams who have earned the right to get into a position to claim World Series champion. I think being able to celebrate greatness is amazing and for the fans, it’s even more incredible because you do feel like you’re part of it because when you go home and you tell stories about being there, and people ask “Did you hear about this? Did you hear that?” and then you get to say, man, I was there and then all of a sudden you latch on and it becomes more than a water cooler talk. All of a sudden you’re invested in the experience that they had. These are things that they hold on to forever.
I still have fans sending me game three tickets or sending me tickets from the World Series to sign. So these are things that literally they hold on to and I get fan mail that says “Now my dad can rest in peace.” This means so much to these fans who invest. For a player, you invest 162 games, for a fan you’re investing a generation and I think that’s where it really dials it in for me as a fan and sitting out in the seats and witnessing the guy holding his son or the older gentleman with his son who’s in his mid 30s with his sons having been there and wanting to get back if you’ve been there. I want everybody to be there and I mean there’s guys in the game that I can’t stand but I would be like, dude you’ve gotta go to the World Series to be able to experience. I know that I was spoiled in that sense but being there and understanding the gravity of the situation and what it means not just on the field but reverberating outside the stadium that’s a cool part for me. I wish everybody had the opportunity to get on the field or get in the stands to experience because there’s nothing like it.
Adam Francis: You’ve heard it here first folks, get to a World Series, please. Thank you so much for joining us today Geoff, this has just been great. You can find out more about Geoff Blum and his podcasts at BleacherBlums.com and on Twitter. Thanks for listening to this World Series edition of Out Travel the System brought to you by Expedia. I’m your sports and travel host Adam Francis. Join us @Expedia on Facebook Instagram and Twitter to join the conversation about travel. We’d love to hear your World Series travel tales and advice. Don’t forget to subscribe and check out more podcast information on the Viewfinder blog and you can listen to previous episodes including an insider’s look at Disney’s new land, Star Wars: Galaxies Edge.