Joe Connor is fueled by his dreams. His dreams just happen to be fueled by the vegetable oil he needs to drive his 1984 lime green Mercedes to a different ballpark every day.
Yes, crazy as it sounds, Connor is spending seven months - the entire 2006 baseball season - driving a two-decades old automobile to a ballpark near you, using his passion for baseball as a means to promote his energy conservation platform that focuses on alternative fuels.
"The goal of this tour is to raise awareness of renewable fuels in the hopes that, in the future, the fuels we use to drive our cars and heat our homes are more innovative, healthier and more affordable than today,” Connor says.
But mainly, this tour is a great way for Joe to watch more live baseball than any person ever has over the course of a baseball season.
Doing the math, Connor’s Fuel of Dreams tour will take him to 48 states and 260 ballparks, while he travels more than 40,000-miles in 215 days in what qualifies as the ultimate baseball pilgrimage.
In the process, he’ll break the Guinness Record for most consecutive days of attending ballgames and visit more ballparks in the span of 215 days than any man, woman or child in the history of fandom.
And he’ll do it all on the dime of the nine companies that have sponsored his tour.
“Brilliant!” as the Guinness commercials exclaim.
Connor, 34, a San Diego-based freelance baseball writer and self-employed marketing consultant, is financing his entire trip with the $23,000 he received from his sponsors, who hope the publicly Joe generates on his innovative tour translates into increased awareness for their own business endeavors.
When he picked up his first sponsor in mid-November - TicketsNow.com – Joe realized he could pull off every baseball fan’s dream without having to incur the debt associated with a season spent on the road. So in December he spent two grand on an old Mercedes – only a diesel engine can be converted to run on vegetable oil – and had it painted an eye-catching lime green.
Although the fuel conversion kit was donated by a member of his growing list of sponsors, Grease Car Vegetable Fuel Systems, Connor still spent $5,000 getting the car ready for the tour.
He then spent almost three months planning out his ballpark itinerary, which includes Major and Minor League, Independent, NCAA, other collegiate and amateur games. The schedule is available at his website, ModernEraBaseball.com.
By the time spring training rolled around Connor had a title sponsor for his tour, officially dubbed the Bionic Gloves Veggie Power Ballpark Tour: Fuel of Dreams, and his car was on the road, adorned with the logos of his multiples sponsors.
Other than the logos on his car, Connor’s only obligation to his sponsors, which include Louisville Slugger and David Sunflower Seeds, is to display his Veggie Power Mobile near high-foot traffic areas outside of most ballparks about an hour before game time.
He also contacts local media a week before he visits each city. In the first month of his tour publicity his been minimal, but Connor expects the buzz to pick up close to summer, when gasoline prices are expected to rise to $3/gallon.
In the meantime, Joe lives a vagabond baseball existence one day at a time. Sure, he has to worry about whether he raised enough money to pay for the trip (he’s a little over budget after a month), and if his car experiences any costly mechanical problems the tour could be in jeopardy.
Money could be a problem, since Connor has no source of income during his tour, other than what he receives for writing a monthly column for MinorLeagueBaseball.com. Seven months of driving and watching baseball leave little time to work, after all.
Joe is cutting his costs by often staying with friends and he’ll spend many a night sleeping on couches before October arrives. He doesn’t have to pay for game tickets since he gets media credentials for each ballpark he visits, the exception being Legends Field in Tampa, where he forgot to follow Yankees spring training protocol. Fortunately, a fan gave his extra ticket to Connor after hearing the commotion outside the gate.
The only other inconvenience Connor has noted is that he often smells like grease, since his car is generally fueled by the used, filtered frying oil from a random local restaurant. Since they generally have to pay to dispose of their cooking oil, it’s usually a win-win situation for both Joe and the puzzled restaurant kitchen staff.
Of course, you’d be puzzled too if some guy appeared in your restaurant asking for your disposable waste.
If your car was painted green and had advertising all over it, you’d get used to the bizarre looks in your direction as well.
But Joe knows it’s all worth it. “You only live once, so you better make the most of each day,” he likes to say.
Connor always wanted to know what it was like to experience baseball day-in, day-out, from the beginning of spring training to the end of the regular season.
Thanks to a lime green Mercedes, vegetable oil, and nine friendly sponsors he will. And it probably won’t cost him a penny.
The idea doesn’t sound so crazy anymore, does it?
Update - Nov. 7, 2007
Joe is still on the road, only this time to the top college and pro football/hockey/hoops venues.