Ron and Patti Clements’ summer will include a number of hot dogs, renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” memories and many miles traveled.
Even as a reporter covering a different sport — the NFL — sports writer Ron Clements knew he wanted to travel around the country and visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.
A 1992 La Crosse Aquinas High School graduate, Ron Clements will do just that while trying to better the lives of foster children.
Ron Clements, along with his wife, Patti, are embarking on a RV journey which the two are calling “Home Run on Wheels.” Home Run on Wheels will take the couple through 36 states and the Canadian province of Ontario to bring awareness to the needs of children through a partnership with the Children’s Hope Alliance, which helps foster kids find safe environments.
Ron and Patti started on their cross-country tour Thursday; the two were in Miami taking in the Marlins’ Opening Day game.
As a bonus, the Marlins donated a block of tickets to Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe on behalf of Home Run on Wheels. That means foster kids in South Florida were able to see an Opening Day game.
They hope more teams will donate tickets for kids in their communities.
“Ideally, this is how something would go, this is the perfect scenario: We have Charity X in whatever city, a team donates a group a block of tickets to that charity, then we take a group of kids to a game and there is a tailgating event with the RV at the stadium,” Ron Clements said. “Then, we go into the stadium and the kids watch batting practice, meet a player or two, they get some autographs. They interact with a mascot.
“Then, after BP is over, Patti and I do an interview with a player interacting with the kids, then we enjoy a ball game. A lot of these kids are not in an ideal situation, so we hope we give them a good, positive, memorable experience that’ll be lasting.”
The experience for the couple will last until September in a brand-new ride.
The Clements bought the 36-foot, 9-inch, RV in order to live in while traveling. They will document their journey through a blog and a podcast on their web site. Ron Clements most recently worked for Perform Media at The Sporting News, which is based out of Charlotte, N.C.
“The sheer visibility of having that on the roads, on the interstates, hopefully creates a conversation,” Ron Clements said. “Hopefully people look it up, and if we can alter the life of even one child for the better and find that kid a safe home, that’s really our objective.”
“We knew we were going to be living in it full-time. So, we wanted something big enough to get away from each other every once in a while,” said Patti Clements, an IT project manager. “We did a little bit of research online and we kind of knew what we wanted. We went to a couple RV shows and a couple dealerships. The important thing to us was the layout.”
Their next visit will happen Sunday, when the RV will make a stop in St. Petersburg, Fla., to watch the Tampa Bay Rays face the Boston Red Sox. This week’s itinerary also includes stops in Atlanta and Washington D.C.
The idea sparked during a dinner in Charlotte, last fall. While meeting with Children’s Hope Alliance CEO Celeste Dominguez, the Clements told Dominguez about the trip.
Then, Dominguez suggested maybe taking a child to a game, and there, the Clements were rolling.
“I work from home, and I knew I could do my job anywhere,” Patti Clements said. “I asked Ron where he wanted to go, and he wanted to go everywhere. We had already talked about seeing all the (MLB) ballparks.”
The couple started their journey at spring training earlier this month in the Grapefruit League, visiting different Florida baseball towns. They even threw in a trip to Disney World for their one-year anniversary.
They’ll visit Milwaukee and Miller Park when the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Brewers on June 21, and will stay through the July 4 weekend. That leg of the journey also will include a visit to Peoria, Illinois, where Patti grew up.
Ron will visit the Coulee Region on July 5 before continuing their sojourn to Minneapolis for the Minnesota Twins’ home series against the Baltimore Orioles. When Ron arrives in the area, he’ll be happy to see his 92-year-old grandfather, Bernie, who lives in Bangor.
The last stop on the nationwide tour will be to Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Sept. 26 — against Milwaukee — where Ron spent much of his professional career.
The couple is not asking for monetary donations, but asks those interested in helping the cause to donate their time to the Boys and Girls Club in La Crosse.