The umpire bellows “strike three.” The catcher pats his glove just before the next pitch. And then the crack of the bat launches a ball over the outfield fence, drawing cheers from crowd.
Momentum in baseball can turn on a dime, like when a hot pitcher leaves one over the heart of the plate. If a batter is ready, he could blast the ball to the outfield bleachers where parents will scramble to retrieve a souvenir for their children.
Baseball is a game meant to be experienced with friends and family, which is why it’s fitting to outline this summer’s ultimate baseball road-trip experience.
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The drive isn’t too, too bad — never more than four hours from one city to the next between Aug. 16 and 22. The memories will last longer.
Chances are you’ll gawk at a few runs a game and make a mad dash for a couple foul balls.
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll also get to watch a pitcher take a no-hitter into the ninth inning, see a slugger come up to bat one triple shy of a cycle and stand on your tip-toes when a closer tries to save the game with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count.
So, get your bucket list out, and dust off your glove.
It’s the baseball road trip you’ve always wanted to take.
Day 1: Citi Field
When: 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16
Where: 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., New York, N.Y.
Game: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets
Travel: About 250 miles from State College.
Why: Citi Field is a seven-year old stadium that has yet to host a meaningful Mets home game after the All-Star break. Could this be the season the team — which hasn’t had a winning season since it missed the playoffs in 2008 — has a stake in the pennant race?
It’s possible with a pitching staff led by Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey, who have gotten off to strong starts, and Jonathon Niese and Jacob deGrom pitched well early on.
The Pirates sport a team with three starting pitchers — Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano — who could lead to a Sunday afternoon pitcher’s duel.
Day 2: Fenway Park
When: 7:10 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17
Where: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston
Game: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox
Travel: 203 miles from New York.
Why: Fenway Park is the oldest professional baseball stadium still in use. The field has the largest backstop in baseball, at 60 feet long, and the tallest outfield wall, at 37 feet high.
Historical significance aside, the Red Sox have an intimidating lineup headlined by designated hitter David Ortiz, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and newly acquired third-baseman Pablo Sandoval. And wouldn’t it be fun if Ortiz were close to hitting home run number 500?
The Indians, a team that hasn’t won a championship in 67 years, might still be a few years away despite 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and left-field superstar Michael Brantley leading the charge.
Day 3: Yankee Stadium
When: 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18
Where: 1 E. 161st St., Bronx, N.Y.
Game: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
Travel: 203 miles from Boston.
Why: It’s a chance to boo (or cheer) much-maligned Yankees third-baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Seriously, what more incentive do you need?
The average Yankee batter will be 32 years old, about a year and a half older than any other team in baseball. Research shows that hitters’ skills begin to decline at about 27 years old.
Enter the Twins, a team that has posted four consecutive 90-plus-loss seasons, and this could be a battle of weak teams inside Yankee Stadium unless New York’s old bats learn new tricks.
Day 4: Citizens Bank Park
When: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19
Where: 1 Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia
Game: Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies
Travel: 108 miles from New York
Why: Citizens Bank Park has a reputation as a hitters’ park, but don’t tell the Phillies’ line-up that.
Young players Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera have hovered around .300 at the plate, but the rest of Philadelphia’s lineup can’t escape the dreaded Mendoza Line.
Toronto could provide the firepower as the away team. Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, who leads all big leaguers in home runs since 2012, will be swinging for the fences.
Day 5: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Aug 20
Where: 333 W. Camden St., Baltimore, Md.
Game: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles
Travel: 98 miles from Philadelphia
Why: The construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards made old-school the new trend. The Orioles used steel instead of concrete for the stadium’s infrastructure and built the walls with red brick.
The Orioles are led by sluggers Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Inconsistent pitching, however, has held the team back for years. If Ubaldo Jiminez, Bud Norris, Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen can’t put together solid outings like Miguel Gonzalez, the team will be out of the race by August.
And the Twins, oh the lowly Twins, just don’t have the lineup necessary to compete this year.
Day 6 : Nationals Park
When: 7:05 p.m. Friday, Aug 21
Where: 1500 S. Capitol St., Washington
Game: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals
Travel: 38 miles from Baltimore
Why: A baseball road trip wouldn’t be complete without a clunker, and this one could be just that.
No one could have predicted that the Nationals, who won 96 games last season and upgraded its rotation, and the Brewers, who finished six games shy of a playoff run, would nose dive early this season. Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez lost twice as many games as they won early in the season. But Bryce Harper had a positive start at the plate and the team has rebounded.
The Brewers got off to a rough start with the worst April record in the league.
Day 7: PNC Park
When: 4:05 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22
Where: 115 Federal St., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Game: San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates
Travel: 248 miles from Washington
Why: PNC Park was almost made to be a replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but designers completely revamped their plans to give the stadium a unique look, and it’s one of the most beautiful parks in baseball.
The home team finally matches its field with the likes of MVP Andrew McCutchen leading the way on the field and Gerrit Cole cruising on the mound.
The defending champion Giants were beleaguered by pitching injuries to Matt Cain and Jake Peavy and outfielder Hunter Pence early in the season.
If San Francisco turns the ship around by August, the final game of this road trip could be the National League Championship Series preview.