Most Jewish kids spend the summer before a bar or bat mitzvah studying Torah and planning a party, but 12-year-old Adam Koss of Syracuse, N.Y., had a different idea.
In honor of his bar mitzvah and in lieu of a party, Adam persuaded his parents to take him on a baseball bucket-list road trip for charity.
From June 22 to Aug. 24, Adam attended games at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and raised more than $20,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Besides simply giving to his cause, Adam’s supporters had the option to pledge donations for every home run he saw on the trip. In the end, Adam witnessed 73 home runs in 30 games.
“A family tradition is to give back as part of your bar mitzvah, and so it was just something that really worked and fit together,” Adam told MLB.com in July.
Adam, who will be called to the Torah this year, chose the trip over a bar mitzvah party.
On Aug. 18, Adam visited his 28th stadium, SunTrust Park in Cobb County, to watch the Braves play the Cincinnati Reds. There Adam experienced what he called the highlight of his entire trip.
Adam was given on-field passes for batting practice, and after he stood on the field for more than hours, Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett came over to talk with him about his trip, posed for a photo and brought over more Reds players.
One of them was Reds All-Star first baseman Joey Votto, who shook hands with Adam and made his own home run pledge. Votto agreed to donate $2,500 for every home run he or teammate Eugenio Suarez hit during the series with the Braves. He also pledged $5,000 for any home run by light-hitting center fielder Billy Hamilton.
Third baseman Suarez hit a home run off Braves pitcher R.A. Dickey in the sixth inning. There were three more home runs in the game, including a shot by Brave Matt Adams, but none from Votto or Hamilton.
After the game, Suarez gave Adam his home run bat.
The trip was entirely financed by Adam and his parents, although they got help from teams and hotels along the way to minimize the cost. The family drove from park to park in their Ford Expedition and didn’t make it back to New York until the final day of the trip, when they watched a Mets game at Citi Field.
“This summer has taught us to appreciate the rich history of baseball, the magic that can happen at a ballgame, and the kindness and generosity of so many people everywhere in the USA!” Adam wrote on his blog after the trip.
After seeing all 30 ballparks, Adam put together a “best of the best” list. Some of his stadium favorites:
- Best views — A four-way tie among AT&T Park in San Francisco, Coors Field in Denver, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
- Best overall food — Comerica Park in Detroit for its shawarma nachos and honey-roasted almonds.
- Best weather — Coors Field in Denver. Adam said it was a nice change from the August heat at SunTrust Park.
- Most home runs — An Aug. 22 game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, which featured nine home runs. The visiting Marlins had five, and the home Phillies had four.
- Best domed stadium — Minute Maid Park in Houston.
- Easiest parking — Tropicana Field in Tampa.
- Best on-field experience — Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where Adam got to throw out the first pitch, and SunTrust Park, where Joey Votto agreed to donate to Adam’s charities.
- Best catch — At Rogers Centre in Toronto, Adam caught the only home run of the night. He caught almost 100 balls during the trip.
- Best giveaway item — A Hank Aaron commemorative statue at SunTrust Park.
- Best baseball city — St. Louis.