Episode 142 — Mark Zubizarreta: Vending at the World Series, Being Part of a Ballpark’s Community, & 10+ Years of Friendly Baseball

Mark Zubizarreta is a life-long Texas Rangers fan and the founder of Friendly Baseball in North Texas. From his early days selling hot dogs at The Ballpark in Arlington to witnessing his Rangers clinch a World Series title, Mark shares his unique perspective on what makes baseball more than just a game.

Join us as we explore the close-knit community of ballpark staff and season ticket holders, reminisce about the glory days at the old park, and discuss the transition to Globe Life Field. Mark also takes us behind the scenes of Friendly Baseball, a grassroots initiative that brings people together every Monday during the summer for pick-up baseball games. It’s a story of friendship, community, and the love of the game that you won’t want to miss.

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Read the full transcript

[00:00:00] Mark: when we started hitting really like our stride, I would say was 2020 and people wanted to be outside and so what we offered them was a chance to come outside.

[00:00:13] Mark: And play ball. I don’t know how many people are going to show up. There’s a lot going on in the world. Let’s just see who wants to play baseball. Here it is. Let’s go. We had 20 people show up, you know, 10 on 10 baseball, and we’re like, Whoa.

[00:00:26] Mark: And then someone goes, Hey, Friendly Baseball used to happen every Monday. Are we going to do it every Monday? And I was like, uh, sure. So we go rent a field, we get bases, you know, and people start pitching in. They’re like, this is the greatest thing. 

[00:00:42] Anna: What’s up bucketheads? Thanks for tuning in and welcome to episode number 142 of the baseball bucket list podcast. I’m your host, Anna DiTommaso, and each week on the show, I speak with a different baseball fan about their favorite memories. What’s left on their baseball bucket list and what the game of baseball means to them. 

[00:00:57] Anna: This week, I got a chance to sit down with mark Loretta from North Texas. Mark is a lifelong Texas Rangers fan who fell in love with the game thanks to a hot dog vending job at the Ballpark in Arlington. We chat about how ballparks staff and season ticket holders really are like a big family. What it was like to watch his team win a World Series, and about the differences between the old park and Globe Life Field. 

[00:01:20] Anna: Mark also runs friendly baseball here in North Texas, which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard of. During the summer, every Monday, a crew meets at a local high school ballpark to play pickup baseball and everyone is welcome. Friendly baseball started back in 2012 as a way for friends to play ball with each other, but quickly became something that an entire community looked forward to. Mark shares the story of how Friendly Baseball got started, what a typical night at the ballpark looks like, and offers advice for anyone who may be interested in starting something similar in their own city. 

[00:01:51] Anna: This one was a ton of fun. I love Mark’s energy for spreading the good things in baseball. And I really enjoyed chatting with him. So let’s get right to the interview. Now without further ado, sit back, relax and enjoy some baseball banter with Mark Zubizarreta.

[00:02:07] Anna: Mark. Thank you so much for joining us today on the baseball bucket list. How are things? I mean, you are literally less than an hour away from me right now. So I know how your weather is, but how is life?

[00:02:19] Mark: Uh, well, life has been like, as if someone’s messing with a thermostat, it feels like, you know, one week you’re ready to just wear flip flops and shorts and it’s baseball weather and you’re ready to go and then the next we’re wearing hoodies and so it’s getting to that season, you know, baseball is on the horizon.

[00:02:38] Mark: It feels like, uh, just, just a few days away and then we’ll be there. I’m excited.

[00:02:43] Anna: Yeah, the saying I’ve heard is, welcome to Texas, if you don’t like the weather, stay for five minutes. So, I mean, I definitely, I feel that this year too, but, , yeah, it’s exciting where I’m, some days you wake up and it’s like, wow, you can almost feel the baseball in the air. And then the other days you’re like, are we sure it’s not winter or summer or I don’t know, but you know, so looking forward to it.

[00:03:06] Anna: Can’t wait to be back out at the ballpark, but, , you know, the first question I’m going to start with. How did you fall in love with the game of baseball?

[00:03:14] Mark: I fell in love with the game of baseball because I was given a employment opportunity at the Texas Rangers to work with them, you know, kind of as a vendor and just being around it all the time, you know, the sounds, the ball game, and it was up close and personal. Cause as a vendor, you get to really walk up and down any aisle, anytime you want.

[00:03:34] Mark: So you get some really incredible sites, like you’re behind home plate for every flyover and the national anthems. And then I really started to fall in love with like the people there, like the, the season ticket holders. And we would like talk, you know, um, you know, like the cookie lady and the nun, and we would just really like get to know each other.

[00:03:54] Mark: And I don’t know, I probably was like one of the worst selling vendors because I was more excited to talk to people who love baseball and they taught me a lot. And. Just being there was like the whole goal. So I knew I fell in love with it whenever I had four dry sockets. And my boss is like, Hey, you should probably not go to work.

[00:04:14] Mark: Like you just had, uh, your wisdom teeth removed. You got four dry sockets. You can’t talk. And I’m like, but my friends are there. And so like, I went out to the ballpark, said hello to everyone. I probably sold like four hot dogs the entire time. And I was like, yeah, this is, this is a great place to be.

[00:04:31] Mark: So. 

[00:04:31] Anna: What a great story. I love that, When we were traveling to visit these ballparks kind of all across America, a lot of times we would buy tickets off of StubHub or something like that. And so we would end up with season ticket holders seats for games that they weren’t able to go to. And one of my favorite things to do was talk with all of like the seats neighbors, because you could learn so much.

[00:04:53] Anna: I mean, it really is just like a little family there. So, , what a cool thing. Was this, I’m assuming this was the old ballpark. So this must’ve been, , a couple of years ago.

[00:05:04] Mark: Absolutely, yeah. I started there in 2011. That was my first

[00:05:10] Anna: That’s a good year to start.

[00:05:12] Mark: Yeah, it really was. Uh, questionable ending of the season, but you know, just really got to see some magical stuff and, and I rode it all the way through, uh, 2016 and then 2017 I, I went on, you know, college life and that kind of stuff.

[00:05:29] Anna: Very cool. So, have you been to the new ballpark?

[00:05:33] Mark: I have, yeah. I have a mini Ticket plan, like, you know, and just kind of go make my own ticket plans. It’s kind of fun. It’s really nice. And, uh, yeah, it’s a really nice ballpark. So I’m, I’m thankful we have it.

[00:05:46] Anna: yeah. What do you think in relation to, you know, kind of comparing it to the older ballpark?

[00:05:51] Mark: You know, there’s a lot of charm that they brought from the two previous stadiums that they could kind of like reference in their architecture and their design. So I would say that was like a real benefit that we could like notice. , and then really just, I would say the difference maker would be not being out there when it’s 107 at first pitch.

[00:06:11] Mark: So, you know, like, like it was, it was kind of the question of like, Oh, well, who’s pitching, who’s playing it’s still 107, you know, like, like, is it really must watch baseball today to go and do this, but now it’s kind of transitioned into, Hey, I got tickets to the ball game. You know, you want to go sit in the AC and watch it.

[00:06:32] Mark: And we’re like, yes, you want to be there. And they really brought the stadium for the fans. So that’s why I would say it’s the biggest improvement.

[00:06:39] Anna: Yeah, I uh, I remember that the air conditioning was like the biggest selling point, you know That’s kind of what got most people on board I definitely think that that’s a that’s a difference maker Like I’ve been I’ve been to games at the old ballpark in July and August and I’ve been to games in the new ballpark In July and August and I could tell you like if the walk from the car up to the park is the worst part about the experience, then that’s, that’s not so bad.

[00:07:03] Anna: But, , I have to say one of my favorite things about the new park and I, Make it known that I do miss the old park, you know That’s that’s the the one that I I consider to be the OG even though it wasn’t the first one here but the new park has that Karbach brewing porch up in left field and That’s a really cool place to kind of hang out, watch the game, and Annie up there is uh, the best vendor.

[00:07:32] Anna: She is the sweetest lady and uh, I mean like all season long I just, I, I always have to go say hi to her, so it’s cool that they’ve got, you know, a bunch of, a bunch of good folks on staff there too.

[00:07:43] Mark: Well, that’s great that you get to go and you know people’s names. So that’s even better. I’m glad to hear that. That’s so great to hear.

[00:07:50] Anna: Yeah, it’s a it’s a good

[00:07:51] Mark: But yeah, I agree with you. I think that the previous ballpark was something really special and that is the ballpark. I agree. And it’s Wonderful.

[00:08:01] Anna: Yeah, for sure for sure So I usually follow that up with you know, who your favorite team is But I think it’s it’s gonna be no big surprise that you are of still in fact probably a Texas Rangers fan

[00:08:12] Mark: Yeah, absolutely. I got my, uh, actually my Rangers, like, championship shirt on. So, uh, you know, uh, gotta be excited. Uh, it’s a good time. I think there were some really bad years. I think you could have, like, Woke up, placed money against the Rangers, and been like, I don’t know who they were playing against, but the Rangers are gonna lose 20 bucks.

[00:08:33] Mark: And they could have like, made some pretty good money. So I think like, that was for a long time it was like that. So it’s great that it’s changed, and now it’s, it’s, it’s, It was a really nice year. It was, uh, it was really something special.

[00:08:46] Anna: it definitely was. And I think it surprised a lot of people, you know, even, even fans of the team who were kind of there through that lean rebuild period. I don’t think anybody was expecting this much success that quickly. I think they were kind of thinking there’s going to be some close years where maybe they’re duking it out for the The West title or whatever it may be, but I don’t think anybody had 2023 World Series champions on their bingo card, except for maybe the guys in the clubhouse.

[00:09:15] Mark: Yeah. And thank goodness they did. I know I personally didn’t, but you know, I, I think you sometimes get caught up with what things look like on paper, you know, and then like, you really forget that culture means a lot, you know, and, and people’s happiness and health and a lot that comes into play there, like these are actual human beings.

[00:09:37] Mark: And a lot can go into just having a day where you’re just not at 100%, but there’s a guy who’s really hungry, who’s really motivated. He’s got a good team behind him and he makes all the right steps. They walk away with the win. And I think that’s what we really saw this season. Uh, a lot of like really well built teams. , you know, kind of just didn’t, didn’t really click when they needed to click at the right moments.

[00:10:01] Mark: Uh, there were outgranted injuries, you know, I, I know your team had like the most awe inspiring start where everyone was like, I, I want that start. And then, You guys have rolled into the wild card and it was kind of like, yeah, we’re, we’re here. Let’s let’s see what we can put together, you know, and, um, so it was, we saw like a whole variety of, of teams and that’s just really, I think, gives, uh, more, Congratulations to having it as a 162 game season.

[00:10:32] Mark: It’s not just a quick sprint. It’s a marathon. It talks to, you know, depth and culture really there.

[00:10:38] Anna: Yeah, definitely. I mean, and, and this year is such an indication of that, just the way that the regular season ended and, you know, the way the, the Rangers kind of had to Back into the wild card game on the last day of the season. It worked out fine for them, you know, luckily, but curious to see I’m excited to see kind of what the team looks like next year.

[00:10:58] Anna: You know, is it gonna be are we going to have good baseball in Texas for the foreseeable future? Or is it kind of going to be one of those, you know, well, we did it. Let’s move on with life. So it’ll be interesting to watch.

[00:11:11] Mark: Yeah, it definitely will be. I feel like there’s some good key players in place like Chris Young and, you know, and like Bruce Bochy, and they have kind of really high expectations. Uh, there’s a lot of good prospects coming up. Evan Carter, Wyatt Langford, obviously, and you got some real depth pieces like, you know, Brock Porter and Sebastian Wolcott, you know, Hicks, so you really got some key players to kind of keep it going for a little bit.

[00:11:37] Mark: But I think as long as you have the leaders in place. But players will want to play up to their expectations. And I think that that’s a really good situation to be in.

[00:11:47] Anna: I think you’re right about that. You know, when you think back to some of the teams that have been successful and they had no right in being so successful, a lot of it comes back to the guy who’s kind of steering the ship. So it’ll be interesting. I look forward to the season. And I’m. You know, excited to kind of see what happens and a fresh take on that Texas Houston rivalry.

[00:12:07] Anna: And you know, that’s always fun. So lots of good drama to come. I’m sure.

[00:12:12] Mark: Absolutely. 

[00:12:13] Anna: I want to talk now a little bit about something that you put together and I have yet to attend. I’m going to, I promise you that I will be there this year. I love the idea of Friendly Baseball and I’d love it if you could just kind of give the listeners an overview as to you know, what it is and how it works

[00:12:39] Mark: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, , Friendly Baseball, that’s the organization and we would love to have you out there anytime. It would really be great. I put a smile on all of our faces and anyone listening, you, you are getting the welcome right now. So if you guys are wanting that invitation saying, is it for me?

[00:12:56] Mark: I’m just going to say this right now. It’s for you. It’s for everybody listening. It’s for the person that isn’t listening. That maybe needs that invitation. Uh, this is the extra invitation for them. Just go ahead and hand it to them. You know, bring them a glove. We got a glove for them, whatever you need.

[00:13:09] Mark: If you want to play baseball, that’s what we’re all about. So. Who we are what we do if you’re wondering why am I getting invited to um, it was created in 2012 and what it kind of spurred about was that we wanted to play baseball and. We were there were some folks that were kind of getting told no no, no and that kind of leads into the more political side of how where , the baseball environment went and such as that, like, you know, travel ball versus rec ball versus just like playing.

[00:13:40] Mark: And a lot of people kind of are priced out. And so what we found was an opening among people who wanted to play. They were passionate. They wanted to get out there and play ball. And so what we initially started off in 2012 was to show up and play ball. We have extra gloves. We have extra bats. Let’s go out to the baseball diamond and play catch.

[00:13:59] Mark: Let’s play, let’s play ball. And. About 18 people showed up. So we had nine on nine baseball for the first time. And we were like, this is insane. Let’s do this. We got dudes out there who are shirtless in 103 degree heat, middle of summer, chunking the baseball as hard as they can at some guy using an infielder’s glove behind home plate, and the batter doesn’t even have a helmet on.

[00:14:23] Mark: And he’s got this probably like illegal bat. I don’t know. It was probably illegal. His metal and no one’s tested those since the nineties. , And he’s swinging that, and we are just having a great time. And we kept doing it, and we’re like, wow, that was so much fun, let’s do it again. And, you know, we kind of, we kind of kept getting chased around, because they were saying, oh, we can’t use this in the city field, like, this is closed off, you gotta go here, you gotta go here, so like, we end up renting it and pooling money, and we’re just kind of like, hey, let’s just keep this going.

[00:14:52] Mark: And then the next year, someone’s like, Are we doing it again? And I was like, uh, yeah, yeah. I just, just hit the Facebook group, Friendly Baseball. And so we would kind of keep making posts, like, let’s go out and play catch and hit. So that’s what we initially called. It was called catch and hit. And, uh, it really turned into this thing where people were like, when we started hitting really like our stride, I would say was 2020 and people wanted to be outside and so what we offered them was a chance to come outside.

[00:15:27] Mark: And play ball. And we just said, it’s going to be kind of hairy about this. I don’t know how many people are going to show up. There’s a lot going on in the world. Let’s just see who wants to play baseball. Here it is. Let’s go. And again, We had 20 people show up, you know, so a little bit more, you know, 10 on 10 baseball, and we’re like, Whoa.

[00:15:47] Mark: And then someone goes, Hey, Friendly Baseball used to happen every Monday. Are we going to do it every Monday? And I was like, uh, sure. So we go rent a field, we get bases, you know, and people start pitching in. They’re like, this is the greatest thing. And then I feel like we really hit a stride was we had a, a man come and he informed us, he said, Hey, I wouldn’t have come to this.

[00:16:11] Mark: Because I’ve got a lot going on in my life. And I was like, what do you mean? And he said, well, uh, my brother lived with me in an apartment and unfortunately, , he committed suicide and it was a very dark time for me in this apartment and the world’s closed. So I can’t go out, I can’t get help. I can’t do everything like that.

[00:16:27] Mark: And he said, but I just saw that this was free and it was outside. He said, so I, I came. And at that point it clicked in our heads. We’re like, okay, we can never charge for this This has to be free baseball and that guy kept coming every single week and he kept playing ball He really stuck with us. He’s one of our best friends right now, and he comes out whenever he can, you know , and the word just kind of spread that like We you know, these guys are meeting up.

[00:16:56] Mark: You guys are welcome to come anytime Uh girls come out They hold the baseball bat and they say I want to play baseball play baseball. That’s it, right? Like there’s no like hey, you know, you can’t play. No, everyone’s welcome. So Uh father son starts showing up say I really want to play ball with my son.

[00:17:15] Mark: Come on out. He’s four. Okay, cool. So between the innings whenever everyone’s warming up toss him a ball Let him run the bases, you know kind of get that that experience right and as he grows up He watches a little bit more now. He’s five and six. He’s playing the outfield with him You know dad might make the catch kid throws it in or kid tries and catches it dad throws it You know, whatever it was, um, just kind of that build up and now you have seven eight year olds start playing then they’re really good Better than me.

[00:17:43] Mark: So and i’m like, wow, these kids are really good. , And it just kind of creates this whole culture of like accessible baseball to all. , It’s a very long season It’s march through october. Um, we partnered with a high school and we found a high school where they said look These kids are using an infielder’s glove in the outfield.

[00:18:02] Mark: Uh, they’re sharing the equipment. They don’t have, we don’t have a lot of money, et cetera. And I said, I’m paying this rate for the city field. It’s having to change parks all throughout Fort Worth every week. It’s really a headache. Can we partner? And they said, yep. Chase that exact rate. You get every Monday from 7 PM to 9 PM.

[00:18:19] Mark: So guys come out. They help pick up trash. you know, drug free, alcohol free, good environment. And we are welcome back every year. Next thing you know, the program took that money. Outfielders have three outfield gloves that belong to the high school. Infielders have their own gloves, and it was just a great way to kind of like, see their program grow, and us establish ourselves in the community and help out others.

[00:18:49] Anna: love about that I mean I love the fact that it started because of You know you and a core group of friends just kind of missing out on something that used to be a big part of life You know, it used to be pickup baseball was You You could, you’d have trouble driving somewhere and not seeing it. And now that’s just obviously not the case with, you know, kind of, as you mentioned, more and more kids getting involved in like trying to be the next major league top prospect at the age of six.

[00:19:16] Anna: to see that kind of transition from something that you guys were doing as Something that you wanted to do to something that becomes meaningful for the community and you have specific Instances where you know person comes out and says thank you for doing this. It just it’s so illustrative of The power of the game of baseball it just it really is in the power of community And I love that it’s just been going on for I mean that’s over ten years now.

[00:19:46] Anna: I mean, you’re almost You You’re at 12 years. I guess this will be I mean, that’s wild to have that much success and I can’t say enough good things about the idea and kind of the way that that it’s it’s playing out. So give people an overview as to what a typical night looks like So it’s Monday night you roll up to the high school for the first time, you know, what are you getting yourself into?

[00:20:12] Mark: Yeah, um, Monday night, you know, you gotta bring water, uh, you gotta bring some good gym shoes, , cleats are fine, just, like I always tell people, like, don’t use your cleats on other people, so, cleats are for the ground, um. You know, and the, the hardest part about Friendly Baseball, there’s only two hard things.

[00:20:29] Mark: One, it’s, it’s the walk, because when you park there, you’re like, Great, I see the baseball field, but there’s this big hill. Oh my gosh. So you kind of walk down the hill. That’s the hardest part. And then the second hardest part is Friendly Baseball, your own team pitches to you. So I would be putting a change up middle middle for you and just hoping you crush this ball because I want you to score right now there are some balancing acts that kind of competitive balance like such as four outfielders and a seven run rule per inning and in all reality whenever I give you a change at middle middle You’re probably going to yank it as hard as you can in the ground of the third baseman, and you’re trying not to pull a hamstring while you run to first.

[00:21:11] Mark: Because your eyes light up like a beach ball, you’re like, this is my chance, and then just wham. Then you’re like, I’m in, I want to play again. And so now it’s time for you to go play the field. So we’ve switched innings, right? It’s the bottom of the first, and it’s your turn to go play the field. And the way Friendly Baseball works is, first one out there gets the position.

[00:21:32] Mark: So you play it for that inning, then let someone else have the position. So second inning, you know, you were playing third base first inning, and now you want to go live out your shortstop lefty dream. Do it. Just be the first one out there. And you have a really good community where people, it’s funny because like, I would say it’s seven o’clock, Uh, you see people just rushing to the positions.

[00:22:02] Mark: And by like 7. 30 there’s probably like three dudes rushing. And then probably by 8 there’s just everyone, Oh, you go play outfield, it’s, it’s okay, you know. And uh, it’s fine. And it’s action packed, like, we’ll get games where it’s probably 20 to 17, we’ll get games where it’s 5 to 7. , but the, the, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, because the teams change next week.

[00:22:26] Mark: And it’s schoolyard pick. , Sometimes, the admins, which are all volunteer, unpaid, they just kind of get this little twinkle in their eye, and they’re like, oh, we got a married couple. They should be captains against each other. I don’t know why, but that, that seems kind of like counterintuitive. Cause a lot of times, you know, couples play together, they stay together and now, and now we’re kind of like, Ooh, husband and wife, who’s going to win?

[00:22:51] Mark: You know? And so, uh, we, we give them these little silly hats and they, they, they pick them on the whiteboard. And then as soon as you get picked, you sign your name and that’s the order that you bat. , And you know, we got folks out there who 60 years old and they say, I want to hit. They hit the ball and they give a dude a high five and that person runs for them.

[00:23:11] Mark: So, you know, if you want to play, you really feel in your heart. We’ve had folks come from Austria that said, I’m flying in for two weeks to see the Rangers and da, da, da, baseball, you know, going to go see, the Astros and all and the Blue Jays. He was going everywhere and he kind of said, I really want to make sure I see Play Friendly Baseball.

[00:23:31] Mark: And I was like, uh, Oh, you’re comparing major league baseball to Friendly Baseball. And he’s like, I know, but I can’t miss friendly. And I was like, okay. So he, he found a Monday, he came out and I was like, okay, this guy’s gotta be first captain because he came from Austria to play. So we, we kitted him out.

[00:23:51] Mark: He played schoolyard pick teams. And that’s just kind of how it goes. You know, there’s three outs. It’s, it’s just normal baseball after that. every Monday.

[00:24:01] Anna: It sounds like such a fun experience. It sounds like you guys have really built up a community there. It sounds like you probably found yourself, you know, a good group of friends that you maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. And I just think the world needs more of that. You know, I think that we’re, we’re so connected online.

[00:24:18] Anna: But we’re so disconnected in person and it’s it’s becoming unfortunately more rare to hang out with people in The real world, you know, so I love that. There’s this standing appointment You’re not committing to anything if you can’t make it one week, you know, so be it But this group is always going to be here for you on Monday to come hang out, you know and try your best to To just have fun and not get hurt and, , I’m, I just love the idea and I can’t wait to, to be a part of it.

[00:24:48] Mark: That, that, that’s great. I’m glad that we have excited you to come, hopefully, you know, some other folks can come on out. It’s, it’s always welcome to everyone to come on out and join us. We’d really love to have anyone that, you know, just shoot us a message. We’re on social media. , I am not the most active on social media.

[00:25:05] Mark: So you might see like a few posts a week I’m trying my best but you can message me and i’m gonna do my best to reply And you know get you taken care of answer your questions, you know, we’re on x we’re on Discord and we’re on facebook. I would say the largest conglomerate is on facebook. So but we’re always available

[00:25:22] Anna: Yeah. Nice. And everybody’s welcome. It says so right in the name. Friendly Baseball. So, um, that’s, that’s super fun. I want to pivot to you specifically now. What is your favorite baseball memory?

[00:25:35] Mark: You know, I, I would probably say getting the chance to work a world series game with my brother. Um, he’s the one who kind of got me the job with the Rangers and just being out at the ballpark. , You know, it’s 2011, being out there, and the World Series, the energy is just insane.

[00:25:53] Mark: And, you know, whenever you’re kind of in high school, you’re experiencing it for the first time, the ALDS is something interesting, and then, you know, the ALCS, you’re like, wow, this is intense against the Tigers. Like, wow, this is some real gourmet energy. And then the Cardinals come to town and just, just, This magic white tent appears outside of the ballpark and they’re, I have to be there three and a half hours early, this is really nuts, you know, and they’re extra, extra early, you know, and I’m skipping school early to go out there and work a ballgame and then my brother’s standing there and he’s like, yeah, this is my second World Series.

[00:26:28] Mark: This is how it’s done. You know, I’m kind of looking up to him and watching, I, I probably watched more of the World Series than I did sell stuff. So if you were there in 2011 and you were wondering where the hot dog guy was, , yeah, he, he was watching the game. He was having a great time, you know, he was really enjoying it.

[00:26:46] Mark: Uh, just let me know that hot dogs on me. Uh, I’ll get you hooked up on another time. We’ll go out to a ball game together. We’ll talk, you know, and, uh, you know, that I would probably say that’s my favorite moment. It’s just really. Feeling like the energy of October baseball, being there with family, you know, that’s probably number one and just really taking it all in.

[00:27:09] Anna: Yeah, that’s incredible. I love that so much for so many reasons and uh, good on your brother for kind of getting your foot in the door to, to make that a possibility. What a fun experience y’all had together. What’s left at the top of the baseball bucket list, right? Like you, you worked a World Series game, but is there something that you still want to do?

[00:27:29] Anna: A place you want to go? A person you want to meet? Something like that? 

[00:27:32] Mark: boy. You know, there’s, yeah, there’s a lot, you know, like I. I think that the more you watch baseball, the more I get inspired, at least I’m kind of like, wow, that person’s a real trailblazer. That person’s really impressive on the way to communicate. , And you kind of see something and you think that’s beautiful.

[00:27:51] Mark: I’d love to see that. I’d like to go there. Um, I, you know, I, I, I chart where I go on your website and I have a real joy of that because I like to sit there and just go, wow, look at, look at all the places I’ve been to, um, and I, I would say what’s left is just to kind of, kind of see the people who really inspire me.

[00:28:12] Mark: , You know, like, like Tom Grieve, he’s out there, you know, he’s, he’s an icon, Mr. Ranger himself, very well, always defends the organization, always defends the players, uh, invitational to the fans, he makes baseball there, so he’s kind of always been like this, this. This mentor from afar where I kind of like look at them, you know, I’m like, wow, that, that, that’s a guy that like handles baseball really well.

[00:28:34] Mark: And he inspires others to follow it. So I, I love when did meet Tom Grieve. He’d be great. I recently got back from Japan last year in Korea where I got to see baseball over there. , Two weeks, it was not enough. , You know, I, I saw you go to Japan with JapanBall and everything like that. So really jealous.

[00:28:51] Mark: I’m like, wow, it’s. That’s on the bucket list is to go there and spend even more time, you know, uh, we, we knocked out a few ballparks. Um, you know, I got to go play, pick up baseball in Japan. I just walked into a park and saw some folks and said, can I play? And they said, yeah, so that was, that was a really up there.

[00:29:07] Mark: Um, you know, I, I took an empty suitcase and filled it up with baseball gloves for my friends and kind of walked around. FaceTiming the store and everyone probably thought I was crazy. Uh, bought them all baseball gloves and whatever my friends needed. So I was like, okay, here’s a glove. And the customs guy must’ve just been like, why are there 13 baseball gloves in here?

[00:29:29] Mark: So that was, that was pretty nuts. Um, but really I, I think like to go back, I really want to experience, , German baseball. They have that new baseball stadium. It has Neuschwanstein in the rear. Uh, that looks really incredible. Uh, Regensburg has a great ballpark. I want to see that. , Tenerife, they have a really nice baseball view out there with the mountains and the beach.

[00:29:50] Mark: That, that looks incredible. Um, so that’s kind of like a more vacation destination for baseball. , I’ve been to Puerto Rico a few times, still didn’t see the baseball game there. And I walk into these ballparks and you’re like, Cibao and San Juan and just kind of go, when’s it happening? And I was trying to figure that out.

[00:30:08] Mark: So one day, uh, hopefully I can actually time it just right in Puerto Rico and see a game. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s just kind of got to hit all 30 ballparks. I’m, I’m nearing it. I think I’m, uh, So once I hit all 30 MLB ballparks, I’ll kick my feet up and say, wow, let’s go do it again.

[00:30:27] Anna: You really can explore the world through baseball, right? Like there’s so, I mean, you, there’s baseball everywhere, you know, it might not be professional baseball, but it’s definitely there. And like you said, you can walk into a city park. Probably wherever you are and play a pickup game if it’s there. So, um, that’s really fun.

[00:30:47] Anna: It’s cool to hear that you did that. One more question I have for you. Let’s say that someone’s listening to this and they don’t live anywhere near North Texas, but they’re inspired by what you’re saying. Maybe they’re thinking to themselves. Man, that sounds cool. I would love to do that in my city. What piece of advice do you give that person who’s maybe just kind of starting to turn the gears of, how do I do this?

[00:31:13] Mark: My piece of advice is do it. So it starts off by saying I’m going to do this. I’m going to go and host this group to play baseball. , And I would say give people a medium to contact each other with, uh, whether it be a text message chain or, you know, You know social media such as snapchat facebook instagram, whatever you guys do discord whatsapp smoke signals but something to kind of say hey i’m coming and Uh, we’re gonna do it this day.

[00:31:46] Mark: Does that work, you know and just kind of start adding in people and then find a park Uh, check out the rules. I really, I really stressed that. We would bring a ladder and jump the fence of locked ballparks. So I don’t suggest that. Um, you know, I really suggest kind of reaching out. Uh, look, look at city parks first.

[00:32:07] Mark: Free parks are always the best. You know, kind of get it going that way. Have a way to talk. So that way when people say, hey, I got a friend who kind of wants to play, have them jump in, you know, and that kind of thing like that. Someone’s gonna bring water, someone might bring baseballs, but it’s because they can all talk and you can figure out what gear you need.

[00:32:22] Mark: Do we need baseball, do we need a, uh, a glove? And my, my saying is just do it. You can always adjust, you know, if you don’t have a catcher, put a trash can back there. And then when it goes bump, you just pick it back up and junk it back at the guy, you know, like it’s really in your, in your ballpark. And it starts by making people aware that this is happening and when it’s happening.

[00:32:47] Mark: And I would love. To help you out in any way reach out to me, uh, all my social media is out there. I’d love to help out. I will personally talk to you. I’ve talked to, um, you know, Spencer. He’s out there in, um, Ohio him and his father plowed over their cornfield for field 42 made a very special great ballpark out there.

[00:33:08] Mark: He’s trying to grow a community out there near Defiance Ohio. You know, and so I’m trying to get him connected with people to come play baseball in a cornfield. Um, very just great moments there. I’m helping out folks up there in Wisconsin and they’re asking me, how do I kind of get the ball rolling on that?

[00:33:24] Mark: So just, just reach out. I’m happy to do it. Cause maybe one day. It, your community gets going and I can come join you guys for a ball game. So I would love to help out. Please don’t be a stranger. , All you need. Is nine people because once you have nine you can play three team baseball where six people are in the field and three people are hitting and then as soon as you know team a is done hitting then b team hits and then c team hits and then if another person shows up 10 well now you just kind of keep adding people and that’s all it takes to play ball it’s it’s really worth it.

[00:33:59] Anna: I love it. Such great advice. So good. Give folks, uh, the social media channels one more time.

[00:34:06] Mark: Yeah, so Facebook, just type in Friendly Baseball. You’ll see us pop up right there. There’s a thousand seven hundred and hopefully it’s a thousand seven hundred plus you listening, so that’d be really wonderful. We have X, which is that Twitter changeover thing. Friendly Baseball there. The username is kind of funky but if you just type in Friendly Baseball it’ll pop up.

[00:34:29] Mark: Um, and we have a Discord, so, um. Don’t really know how to send that out to you, but if you’re on either one of those, there’s a link to it. Um, you know, I can get those out to you in any way you guys can message me or whatever. I’ll reach out and get you set up with discord also.

[00:34:48] Anna: Awesome. Mark, I cannot thank you enough for making time to do this. It was such a pleasure. I really enjoyed it. I cannot wait to be out. And, uh, Fort Worth in just a couple of weeks for opening day. And I, rumor is we have a special guest joining us that day too, uh, Ethan Bryan is going to come down from Missouri.

[00:35:06] Anna: So, uh, I look forward to it for, for so many different reasons. And I cannot thank you enough for putting good out in the world. I mean, I just, I really genuinely thank you for, for sharing the best parts of baseball.

[00:35:20] Mark: No, thank you for this opportunity. You have such a cool podcast. Thanks for everyone who listened through it. You know, this is some of my favorite podcasts to listen to when I drive to work. So it was, it was really special that I get to this opportunity to jump in on and talk to you folks. And thank you guys.

[00:35:35] Anna: And that will wrap up this episode of the baseball bucket list podcast. Special. Thanks to mark Zuby Zirretta for joining us today and sharing those stories and memories. This sounds like something you’d like to do. If you think you might like to be a guest on the show, head to baseball bucket list.com/podcast and fill out an application. 

[00:35:52] Anna: I’d absolutely love to hear from you. While you’re there and make sure to spend some time on the site, sign up for a free membership. Build your own baseball bucket list and track your ballpark visits. If you find yourself enjoying the show each week, please take a moment to rate and review it in the podcast app of your choice. I would really appreciate it. That’s it for this week. 

[00:36:11] Anna: Thanks so much for listening. We’ll see you next episode. 

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