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East Coast Tour 2023 - Blog and Photos

The Home Run Travel & Tours - East Coast Tour 2023 - aka the “first tour”.

I had spent many evenings and weekends planning every meticulous detail, from flight times and meal options, to airport transfers and hotel accommodations with good locations; from Amtrak rail tickets to spending wayyy too much time planning where the group should sit at all of the ball games (ViewFromMySeat.com is very addictive). And finally, researching all of the bars and restaurants for the group to enjoy. And all of a sudden, it was departure day!

Day 1 - June 7

Seven (mostly) complete strangers, gathered together at London Heathrow Airport, ahead of our flight to Washington DC, the first of five East Coast cities we were to visit. Just to complicate things, there were three Johns on the tour, with John M (or Copper John) meeting us at the first hotel in DC as he had booked separate flights. Spirits were incredibly high and bonds were starting to form, even after our 2-hour wait at the Dulles Airport border queue. I had pre-booked a minibus transfer to take us from the airport to our first hotel, Yotel Washington DC. I had asked the group to keep their eyes peeled for a professional, corporate-looking chauffeur driver, most likely to be suited and booted and holding my Home Run Travel logo to identify us. Instead, we were identified (eventually) by a man, less well-dressed shall we say, standing at the far back of the arrivals hall with a small piece of paper with only my name that he had scribbled down with a faded biro. It was quite an amusing start. The journey from the airport can be quite long if you get caught in traffic, it can be even longer if your driver takes a wrong turn and hits the biggest traffic jam in the city adding a further 30 minutes to the journey.

Eventually, we arrived at our hotel and met up with Copper John. Once checked in and refreshed, the group headed out for our first meal. I chose Mr. Toms Watch Bar, as it looked like a great place to start things off, but little did I know that the entire bar would be taken over by River Plate football fans from Argentina, so we quickly improvised and headed to a nearby Irish bar which Copper John had visited many times before, enough for the owner to sort us a table thankfully.

Day 2 - June 8

We had gone to bed aware of the news of Forest Fires in Eastern Canada, where the smoke had caused serious health concerns for nearby cities, New York and Philadelphia. Naturally, due to jet lag, I was up and out early, the sky was eerily orange, and there was a very strong smell of smoke in the year. All of the local news channels were dominated by negative (bordering scaremongering) news about the smoke and I was fearful it could jeopardise our first game - Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Stadium. Despite the poor air quality, the group did their own thing that morning; most headed straight to the popular tourist attractions like the Capitol Building, The White House, Lincoln Memorial, the WW2, Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, the MLK and FDR monuments and Jefferson Memorial, all were ticked off by myself and Jordan in one go. I somehow had walked over 24k that day (in flip flops!) despite the poor air quality.

We arrived at the stadium still with no news of any postponement, the air did seem better, fans had started queuing at the gates and for the first time, I felt positive that the game was going to go ahead. How wrong I was! The news we had dreaded had finally filtered out 90 minutes before first pitch and so everyone had to leave. We drowned our sorrows in a nearby bar (there are plenty to choose from around the Navy Yard area). With MLB tickets, it's unusual to get a refund, as most receive a new ticket for another date - something we obviously couldn’t do being from the UK. I managed to sneak out of the group drinks and meet one of the reps from the Nationals ticketing team who originally had sold me the tickets, who kindly agreed to issue a full refund, so it wasn’t all bad! 

After a brief circuit around the outside of the stadium grounds, we took some photos, with Copper John even managing to get himself interviewed by the local news channel. With no game to watch, the group separated again for the afternoon and did some more sightseeing.

We congregated again in the evening, this time heading to Yard House in Chinatown. It was your archetypal American bar and restaurant, with TVs everywhere you looked, and multiple sports on show; women’s softball, D1 athletics, strangely,  everything except baseball…The beer menu was also the longest I had ever seen! Everything is just bigger and better in the States! Another highlight of this bar/restaurant was its intuitive ordering and billing system that sat on the table. Let’s just say it saved us a whole load of time when it came to splitting the bill…!

Day 3 - June 9

The group had most of the day to tick off any remaining sights and attractions that they hadn’t quite had time to do on the first day. We all met at Union Station before our first rail trip of the tour. It’s only a short 40-minute ride to Baltimore and the Amtrak trains are nice and spacious, probably nicer than the UK’s business/first-class seats.

We checked into our hotel, Delta Hotels by Marriott Inner Harbour, a nice and modern building two blocks from the Inner Harbour and three from the iconic Camden Yards. There was still a small threat that the forest fires would postpone this game but the air did improve enough throughout the day and thankfully we were allowed to scan our tickets to get into the ground, a huge relief.

Orioles Park at Camden Yards (as it is officially known) is regularly listed as one of the top baseball stadiums in America, and is highly regarded as the godfather of the “Retro Ballparks” style, due to its tighter dimensions, and unique focal points. With Camden Yards, undoubtedly, it’s the warehouse building on Eutaw Street behind right field. It’s a beautiful view from behind home plate as well as our field-level seats located behind the away team dugout. As with most baseball (in fact all American sports) stadiums, there’s a number of statues on show, saluting the great and the good of the sport, with the most famous being the “Great Bambino” Babe Ruth (who was born in Baltimore), as well as Orioles legend “Iron Man” Cal Ripken Jr.

For every game on the tour, we would get to the stadiums really early, normally around 2 hours before first pitch when the gates open. Once in, the group had the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. Some would go for a slow stroll, some would head to one of the bars (Camden Yards has a really cool Topdeck bar in the outfield, which had its own jazz band), and some would go crazy in the merchandise stores. 

Game-wise, the Baltimore Orioles were hosting the Kansas City Royals and Austin Hays got things off to a flyer, homering on the very pitch of the matchand tour. The rest of the match was pretty tight, with the O’s requiring both superstars of their bullpen, Yennier Cano and the “The Mountain” Felix Bautista, to come in and close the game out, which they duly obliged, Orioles win 3-2. 

During the game, I went for a wander on my own to get some Crabbie Fries from Jimmie’s - a Baltimore institution (kindly recommended by a Border Patrol officer). I initially struggled to find it and as a result, ended up having a 15-minute conversation with one of the stadium's guest services team. I told him what we were doing and then he kindly gave us a whole heap of goodies, including “my first game” buttons, a bunch of postcards and lots of Topps trading cards. He also gave me 10 tickets for the group to go up to the club level, which has its own exclusive area for bars and food and the seats had the best views in the stadium, so thank you to that man!

After the game, we all headed for a couple more drinks in the nearby Pratt’s Street Ale bar. 

Day 4 - June 10

We were up and out early in order to catch our next train to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, and the original capital city, Philadelphia. After checking into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia-Midtown, we headed out for some early sightseeing. The nearby Reading Street Market is great for anyone looking for some amazing street food and souvenirs. The place is huge and has a real buzz. Some of the group tucked into the legendary Philly Cheesesteaks, others played it simple with some alligator jambalaya(!). We walked off our full bellies by heading to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, before heading to the iconic Rocky Steps (yes we ran up)! We then jumped into some Uber’s and headed to Xfinity Live! which is an amazing bar complex that sits in the middle of the baseball, basketball and football stadiums in South Philadelphia. Being a passionate Man United fan, John E was hoping to avoid the Champions League Final but it was impossible to in that place, with some of the biggest screens in the country!

It was then time to head into Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies who were hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. We had a great pitching matchup with Aaron Nola up against the wonder kid Bobby Miller.

The group enjoyed the game from a similar vantage point, behind the away team dugout. Unfortunately, the game was a little more one-sided with Dodgers smashing the Phillies 9-0. However, we did manage to tick off a number of things on our ‘Baseball Bingo’ card including our first manager ejection as well as a position-playing pitcher…and we enjoyed it all with some beer bats (pictured), so every cloud.

As with every game on this tour, we bumped into our friends from California, whom we had met first at Nationals Stadium after the postponed first game, and then again at Camden Yards (this would happen a lot)! They were doing the exact same trip as us and were always great to catch up with!

After a short metro ride back to the city, the group enjoyed some great food and drink at Locust Rendezvous. Cameron decided he was going to try the bars entire cocktail menu, which included a Pickletini, a Cherry Bomb and some Jello Shots…I’m not sure whether he did complete the set but he did give it a good go!

Day 5 - June 11

It was another relatively early start with the group jumping back onto the Amtrak and heading to New York City. It’s only a 90-minute ride before you see the iconic New York skyline. After a short walk from Penn Station to our hotel, The Belvedere, which was ideally located two blocks from Times Square, most of the group headed to the nearby MLB Store on the corner of 51st and 6th. Being the flagship store for all MLB merchandise…this place was unsurprisingly HUGE, with all teams covered as well as some minor league representation. It was fair to say that some pockets were emptied that day!

After some recuperation time, the group took the ‘D’ train North to the Bronx. Nishma and Mark recommended Stan’s Sports Bar, which is located just a stone’s throw from Yankee Stadium. This place is an absolute must for any Yankees or even neutral baseball fan looking to soak up some atmosphere. I would highly recommend the bars own branded lager and pale ale (just don’t hover at the bar for too long as the bar staff can get quite irate about you blocking their waiters).

We entered the stadium, took our obligatory photos from different viewpoints, before heading to Monument Park, a Yankee Stadium must! This place salutes the great and the even greater of Yankee legends, from the iconic Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle to the more recently inducted fan favourites, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. It was fair to say things got pretty emotional for some of the group, especially Cameron, who has been obsessed with baseball in general and its history since his childhood days living in Canada. He managed to spend some time in front of the number 5 retired number, worn by the great Joe DiMaggio; it was pretty amazing to see how much this sport means to some UK fans! 

The Yankees were hosting the Red Sox and this fixture is high atop of most baseball fans (heck, all sports fans) sporting bucket lists! Nicknamed ‘The Rivalry’, the game was broadcast on national television so it was definitely the game to be at. 

Food highlights at Yankee Stadium, include the Judge Burger and the Grub Hub Combo (fried chicken and fries sitting atop a soda with a straw going straight through - genius!). There is pretty much every type of food you could think of here; the stadium even has an in-house butcher, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a sports stadium.

The game ebbed and flowed, and actually went into extra innings (mark it in the bingo card). The Red Sox took the victory, winning 3-2 in the 10th. It was pretty amazing to stand so close behind home plate to see the final phases of play, especially with all-star close Kenley Jansen on the mound. That's another thing that is so great about most baseball stadiums, the ability to take in the game from various viewpoints.

Day 6 - June 12


Our first and only day without baseball on this very busy schedule. The group would spend the day doing their own thing and enjoy a day in the Big Apple, with plenty of sightseeing opportunities. Some headed to Chinatown, Little Italy and Williamsburg, others carried on their shopping spree (no doubt buying goodies for the family back home) and some even went to a Jazz Bar – very fancy! It was really nice to catch up with everyone later in the day and hear of their stories and experiences, with some great recommendations as well!

Day 7 - June 13

We had some more time to catch up on any sightseeing we might not have had time to do the days before. I took some of the boys to The Edge at Hudson Yards. The highest outdoor viewing platform in the USA and boy was it high! There were definitely some nerves when it came to looking down through the transparent glass floor, 104 stories high…!

The group congregated again before taking the Metro out to Queens and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, who were hosting their crosstown rivals the New York Yankees. This fixture is more commonly known as the ‘Subway Series’ - another bucket list-worthy matchup!

After the obligatory flag photo outside the stadium, the group headed in and did their own thing. One of the best areas at Citi Field is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which features a  9-foot sculpture of Robinson's retired number, as well as pictures and quotes commemorating his remarkable life. Another nice feature we liked was the TV screens dotted around, showcasing the Mets lineup for that night. Other places of interest to note within the Rotunda are the Mets megastore and the Hall of Fame area. Once fully in, some of us went for a slow stroll around the stadium, Modelo’s in hand, once again taking in the different vantage points.

Ahead of the game, we were especially excited to see future Hall of Famer, Max Scherzer, whom was on the mound for the Mets – it’s always extra special to the greats live in person, and with starting pitchers, you usually only have a one-in-five chance to see your favourites in action. It was actually the Yankees who started the game fastest with slugger Giancarlo Stanton mashing one to deep left field. The Mets managed to reply quickly with Brandon Nimmo hitting his own solo HR to dead centre. The Mets continued to score, taking a 5-1 lead by the end of the 3rd. Veteran D.J. LeMahieu started the comeback for the Yankees with a two-run shot to left, before rookie Anthony Volpe tied the game with a two-run single. A couple more runs were exchanged in the following innings before the Yankees took what would be the winning run at the top of the 6th, with solid relief performances from Clay Holmes and Mark King.

Unsurprisingly, this game had what was probably the best atmosphere, throughout the entire trip. Both teams have been struggling for form of late so it didn’t take much for each fanbase to get on their own team, but with so many lead exchanges, there was plenty of celebrating, banter and playful taunting, which Nishma couldn’t resist getting involved in!

Day 8 - June 14

After some bagels for breakfast, the group gathered at New York Moynihan Station before our final and longest train ride of the trip, as we headed northeast to Boston, Massachusetts. Even though the journey was just over 4 hours, it certainly didn’t seem that long. I guess the ever-changing scenery, from the skyline of Manhattan to the Atlantic Coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island was enough of a distraction.

After a short walk from Boston South Station to our hotel, Yotel Boston, the group headed straight back out to grab a local train to the iconic Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in MLB and home of the Boston Red Sox. After a couple of swift ones in the famous Cask N’ Flagon bar, we headed in only to be interrupted by the rain. A light drizzle turned into a downpour which then turned out to be an almighty thunderstorm. I did fear the game might be postponed again, but the weather gods finally came to our rescue and the skies cleared up. What I love about baseball is, that no matter how late a game starts, they will always get a full game in, no time would be taken out of the game like it might in cricket.

The Red Sox were hosting the Colorado Rockies who have struggled this year, sitting bottom of the NL West. It was actually the Rockies who started the stronger of the two teams, leading 2-1 up until the “stretch”. That popular sing song managed to ignite the Red Sox who piled on 5 runs in the 7th thanks to some RBI’s from Alex Verdugo and veteran Justin Turner. At a rather late 11.45pm, and after some 'Sweet Carolining' - another Boston tradition, the Sox closed the game out, winning 6-3. It was so late in fact, the last trains had left, so it was up to the group to find some Uber’s to get home, not before one last catch-up with our friends from California, it was quite mad that we managed to bump into them at 6 of the 7 games (plus the MLB flagship store in NYC) - lovely folks!

Day 9 - June 15

The group had one final meal together at the legendary Barking Crab, which was probably the best meal of the entire tour. It was a fitting finish to what had been an amazing 8 nights and it was great to reminisce on some of our favourite moments from the tour. Sadly, with all good things, our fantastic time in the States had to come to an end. We said our goodbyes to Copper John and Cameron who were staying an extra night, as the rest of us flew home on the red-eye back to London Heathrow.

Since arriving home, the group have all stayed in touch, with the Whatsapp group regularly popping off with baseball and non-baseball related content, and some of us even managed to meet up at the London Series a week or so later.

On a personal note, I couldn’t have been happier with how the tour went, despite the unexpected postponement of the first game due to the forest fires. The group visited the most iconic ballparks in the world, seeing some of the biggest teams and biggest stars. I wasn’t sure how the tour would go outside of the games, thinking most people would prefer to spend their evenings or days doing their own thing. But I was pleasantly surprised that we stuck together every day and every night, making it a much more social experience throughout. I couldn’t have asked for a better first group. Thank you all for trusting in me, and I’ll see you for next year's tour!

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