Dale and Heidi Jacobs have a new book, “100 Miles of Baseball,” which chronicles their experiences attending 50 games located within a 100-mile radius of their Windsor, Ontario, home.

Dale and Heidi Jacobs have a new book, “100 Miles of Baseball,” which chronicles their experiences attending 50 games located within a 100-mile radius of their Windsor, Ontario, home.

Photos provided by Dale Jacobs

Utica baseball among 50 games mentioned in authors’ new book

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 22, 2021


UTICA — Not many people can say they have seen 50 baseball games within 100 miles of their home in one summer. However, that is the case for authors Dale and Heidi Jacobs, of Windsor, Ontario, who did just that in the summer of 2018, when they even went to a game at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica.

In their 365-page book, Heidi and Dale Jacobs describe the one summer, beginning March 30, 2018, that the couple spent trying to rediscover the heart of baseball across 50 games located within a 100-mile radius of their Windsor home. Many of the 50 games, including college, historical re-creations and the big leagues, took place in Michigan, from Detroit to Utica.

Heidi said that, while traveling to and watching each game, they did a lot of thinking about baseball and what it meant to them. Many of their thoughts are detailed in their book.

“We saw baseball at all different levels, from high school and men’s amateur baseball, to college and university, to minor and major leagues, to historic baseball. Half of the games were in Canada, and the other half were in the U.S. Through that summer, both of us thought a lot about baseball and our relationship to it — “100 Miles of Baseball” is the story of that summer and our evolving reflections on the game, what it means to us and its place in our lives. It also showed us the wealth of baseball and the range of great baseball experiences available in this region,” she said.

Heidi said that one of the reasons they decided to go to all the games and write the book was that they were beginning to feel disconnected and wanted to regain their relationship with baseball.

“We were becoming less excited about going to games every Sunday the Tigers played at home. It was at that point that both of us started to feel less connected to the game, or at least to Major League Baseball. We saw a few games at different levels in 2017, but then over the winter of 2017-18, the idea of seeing 50 games within 100 miles of our house slowly came into focus. It seemed to both of us a way to try to understand our relationship with baseball,” she said.

The research — and the summer of going to games — lasted about 4 1/2 months. The actual writing and revising of the book took a bit over a year and a half.

Dale said the United Shore Professional Baseball League game they attended at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica was one of his favorites.

“As we attended games, I was trying to watch without rooting interest, trying to watch the game for its own sake. We didn’t have kids playing at high school or university games, didn’t know anyone at amateur games, didn’t have any real connection to the people playing. We were just there to watch baseball. And that meant we were different from almost everyone in any ballpark. But at the USPBL game, the point isn’t to cheer for your favorite team (like the Tigers) or to watch a son, grandson, husband, boyfriend, friend, etc. Everyone is there for an entertaining night out and to see some good baseball for its own sake,” he said.

Heidi agreed with Dale and said one of the things that really struck her while doing this project is the incredible variations between games, and the USPBL game was like no other.

“Who you cheered for came down to whether you liked Unicorns or Frogs, Woolly Mammoths or Beavers better. I was impressed at how beautifully they balanced entertaining the family crowd in the stands while providing some really great baseball on the field. It was probably the most fun I had of all the games we went to because every detail seemed to work really well,” she said.

She said they saw some intense crowds in their 50 games — but this crowd was the most joyous one they saw.

Dale said that, for both of them, baseball is far more than just the major leagues and that some of the best experiences watching baseball can come at other levels of the game.

Heidi said she would like to urge people to go out and see a wide range of games because every game they saw had something distinct about. She said her understanding of and appreciation for the game grew with every game she saw.  

Dale said that what makes baseball so interesting to him is that it is a way to still connect with someone who was very close to him.

“For me, baseball is still a way to connect with my father, who passed away in 2009. But more than that, when I’m at the park, I can completely lose myself in this game (no matter who is playing) that I find endlessly fascinating in its strategies, its athleticism, its attention to detail and its atmosphere,” he said.

Heidi said that baseball is interesting to her because of all the things that could happen during a game.

“One of the things I love about baseball is that there is time to consider all the possibilities and all the things that could happen. In that way, I find it a hopeful game, as there is always a way out of every situation. Granted, some of the ways out are incredible longshots, but still, the possibility is always there,” she said.

Heidi said that people asked her and Dale if they’d still love baseball and each other by the end of the project.

“I’d say even more than when we started, so that’s a good sign. And, yes, we’ll see what the readers think,” she said.

Dale said his favorite part of the book was difficult to choose.

“It’s hard to narrow it down, but I think probably the chapter on the game in Sarnia and the way our two voices describe that game that became so important to our summer,” he said.

Heidi said that in re-reading the book right before it went to the printer, she loved reconnecting with all the people they saw in the stands.

“My favorite parts are the descriptions of parents teaching their kids about the game they love and the game they hope their children will grow to love, too. I also like how often Dale and I see radically different things while watching the same game,” she said.

The couple will have a book signing event, but because of COVID-19, they won’t be doing an in-person signing. There will be a virtual book launch via Facebook at 7 p.m. March 31. The link to the event is facebook.com/events/800839593876122.

Dale and Heidi said they are currently working on other books that they hope to have published soon.