Joey Mellows is a single man from Portsmouth, England who, for years, saved his money to live this American Dream: Touring the United States to see 162 baseball games this year in as many parks as possible.
Baseball will never again enjoy the prominence it previously held, so a man from England is finding, and reminding, us why we should never stop loving the game that molded America.
“Baseball is there every day. It’s there for you every day. It’s a place to go. It’s a place to get away from whatever is going on in your life,” Mellows said during a conversation at an Applebee’s in Cleburne a few hours before the Cleburne Railroader’s home opener.
Although I offered him a more unique restaurant for this interview, Mellows wanted Applebee’s. He ate chicken tenders and fries, with a fork. And he drank lite beer.
“There is nothing else like baseball,” he said. “As much as I like the Major League stadiums, the places I really love are the smaller, minor league parks. You get that sense of community. That time with friends or family and behind you is a baseball game.”
Of course we need a foreigner to remind us why baseball, even though it’s long, slow and plodding, will always have a place.
Online he is known as The Baseball Brit, and while he made an abbreviated version of this trip in 2018, he has gone all-in, walk-about crazy in 2019. His online presence has steadily spread, and he’s become a novelty hit as he comes to a town near you.
Mellows graduated from Cambridge and became a social studies teacher, of sorts, in his native England. A chance opportunity led him to South Korea where he taught for five years. That’s where he took up baseball.
“All of it I loved. The crowd. The energy. The bat flips. Small ball. Some of the stuff that appears to be frowned upon here,” he said. “I loved that I could go to a game literally every night. I didn’t, of course, but I loved that it was always there.”
His favorite player? Texas Rangers outfielder Shin Soo Choo.
“His games were televised. Every one. They were always on in the morning,” Mellows said. “I learned the rules of baseball through the Texas Rangers games.”
Prior to living in South Korea, Mellows had minimal exposure to baseball. He played cricket as a kid. His dad, Mick Mellows, played professional football in the UK. A little more than 10 years ago, Joey Mellows actually traveled to the U.S., including DFW, to coach some youth soccer.
After five or six years of living in Asia he had the idea to come to America to see it all. He aggressively saved his money for years, and this became a passion. He took in about 70 or so games last year when he decided that he was going to do all of them in 2019.
He created a computer program that could compress multiple schedules so he mapped out a route to see as many baseball stadiums in the U.S., at all levels from MLB to independent to minor leagues. He’s taking in MLS games, too.
“The whole goal is to see as much as possible,” he said. “I don’t have a Mrs. I don’t have kids. I don’t have mortgage. So I can do it.
“It’s funny, though; I see people who have a family with kids and whatever and I envy them. And they see me living out of my car, getting fat, going to all of these games and they envy me.”
LIVING OUT OF A CAR
Mellows’ travels are not exactly first class. He drives a rental car and has as little luggage as possible.
“The biggest stress of the whole trip is not getting to the games or getting a ticket, but finding a place to stay,” he said.
He does not make prior arrangements to his arrival to any town. He may know a person, and he has found teams are often more than hospitable to put him up for a night.
“I have slept in the car twice so far,” he said. “A hotel is the last option.”
One, because of the money. Two, because sometimes he’s not exactly staying in 5-star accommodations.
He and a friend stayed in a hotel last year in Vallejo, Calif. after a minor league game only to discover the lobby was basically a headquarters for prostitutes and their “pimp.” Mellows and his friend barricaded their hotel room door with luggage.
Because of his personality, and the endlessly charming British accent that Americans always fall for, he has discovered he’s become a bit of a novelty hit. People all over have welcomed him.
A well-to-do Harvard law grad put him up in his house in Boston, and through that friendship Mellows was able to crash at a place in Atlanta and Washington D.C., too.
He recently received an Twitter message from a woman named Gina, who invited him to watch the Astros play in Houston.
“I just thought she was a kind lady from Houston,” he said.
Mellows had no idea that Gina is the wife of Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Through that, Mellows was given a small tour by Luhnow of the Astros’ clubhouse, went on to the field and had a five-minute chat with outfielder Alex Bregman.
BASEBALL IS A MARATHON
Having completed an abbreviated version of this trip last year, Mellows know this road will not go on forever, and the party will end. That he cannot see all of it.
“I’m actually quite desperate to get to Midland,” he said. “I want to see a high school football game there.”
Another time. Currently, he has four more months of driving, of baseball, of wondering where he will stay tonight.
When we talked, he had just completed a six-hour drive from Corpus Christi where he had watched the Hooks play. He looked exhausted. It’s not even June.
After the trip he plans to return to England. He will likely be a bit heavier, but full of enviable experiences and stories that most of us only dream of compiling in a life, let alone in one year.
“Every day, for me, I wake up and it’s the most exciting thing in the world,” he said. “It’s all gotten so silly I have to write about this. I don’t know if anyone will read it but I think I should do it.”
Wish I had thought of it.