AMARILLO, Texas -- If you're a baseball fan who's spent any time on Twitter this season, you're almost certainly familiar with Joey Mellows.
The mustachioed Mellows, perhaps better known as the Baseball Brit (that's his Twitter handle), is a 34-year-old Englishman who's spending the entire season traveling the United States and attending professional baseball games. He fell in love with the sport while teaching in Korea; in 2018, he left a teaching job in China, dipped significantly into his life savings and attended 75 games in Korea, Japan, Canada and, most of all, the United States. That would be enough for most people, but, then again, most people wouldn't have done such a thing in the first place.
Mellows doubled down this year, depleting his life savings -- and making liberal use of his credit card -- while endeavoring to attend 162 games throughout the season. If he's coming to your town and you have a place for him to stay, he very well may take you up on the offer.
Mellows' explicit goal this time around is to educate Europeans, especially his fellow Britons, about the game of baseball. Its popularity is on the rise, fueled in no small part by the excitement over next week's series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in London (Mellows will, inevitably, be in attendance). But much to his surprise, most of Mellows' Twitter followers are American. He's recognized at most every game he goes to, and interview requests are common.
While Mellows' ever-evolving itinerary is focused primarily on going to games at every Major League ballpark -- this past weekend, he attended Colorado Rockies games with MiLB.com's Tyler Maun -- he's also sprinkling in plenty of Minor League Baseball. I crossed paths with him at Wednesday's Amarillo Sod Poodles game, the first night of my in-progress road trip. Wednesday was the second of two contests Mellows attended at the team's brand new HODGETOWN home (yes, the facility's name is all-caps. It's a stylistic choice).
"[Americans] seem to like the fact that I'm enthusiastic about baseball," Mellows said. "I sound weird, look weird and I'm doing something weird. I think it's just a combination of that. I'm really surprised by [the American response] because it's not what I was expecting. ... Everyone's so friendly and kind and welcoming."
Mellows estimates he's attended 35 Minor League games over the last two seasons.
"To start, it's a lot more affordable," he said. "And I get a greater sense of the community and the place that I'm in when I'm at a Minor League ballpark than when I'm at, for example, Yankee Stadium. ... Here, with the Sod Poodles, where we are today, this is just the Amarillo people. And I like that. You can see what it means to the people.
"I love Texas. I coached soccer here when I was 21 for about six weeks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And I was researching my thesis at university at the time, on tipping culture. So I had to go to local diners and a chain to see how the type of tips varied by the type of establishment you're eating in. ... You're 21 in Texas, you can imagine, it was a good time. So to be back in Texas today, a bit of a surprise. I wasn't meant to be here tonight, but I find it tough to leave. Amarillo's a place I'd heard about, with George Strait and the country music I'm learning about on this trip."
As for other Minor League teams he's visited, Mellows had especially high praise for the Fort Wayne TinCaps and Columbia Fireflies, calling their respective homes of Parkview Field and Segra Park "fantastic at any level." He also was enamored with several teams in North Carolina, which is home to more Minor League clubs (11) than any other state.
"Asheville [McCormick Field, home of the Tourists], that's about as old as it gets," he said. "It's 297 [feet] down the right field line. ... The hills and the mountains in the background, with the trees and things. That was nice, and Asheville's a cool, fun place. I got invited on a stag day [bachleor party] when I was there. Some guy just recognized me. 'Hey, Joey, we're here on a stag day, do you want to come out with us?' I was like, 'Sure, guys, no worries.' I had a great old time. They invited me back to stay with them, but I had to get to Kodak, Tennessee, to see the Smokies the next day, so had to keep it pretty low-key. Those guys were Marines. [Six-foot-6, 6-foot-7], muscles everywhere. Politely declining shots. It was before the Tourists game, there was a rain delay, and they were like, 'Stay out with us.' Oh, boy, here we go.
"In Europe, growing up in the UK, most of the movies we watch are American movies. I'd say 90% are American movies. So we have this romanticized view of the states. ... The Durham Bulls, because of the movie ["Bull Durham"], I was really excited to go over there. There's a pitcher, Seth Frankoff, he's now pitching for the Doosan Bears [in South Korea], I met him and his wife at the start of the trip. And he was telling me about barbecue restaurants in that part of North Carolina and that was really fun. And the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, where you went, I was there for their Opening Night and it was so cool to see lines for about three blocks just trying to get in. It was cool to see what baseball can do, to a community that, economically, they needed that shot in the arm."
While Mellows isn't entirely sure what Minor League ballparks he'll visit next, he said he's intrigued by the state of California.
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"I don't know much about California Minor League teams. I want to go to Stockports. Is it Stockton? Stockton Ports? There you go, getting confused. I know Nate Diaz is from there, the MMA guy," he said. "I've seen footage from the MMA promos and it looks like a rough and ready place. I quite like that, so I want to go to Stockton."
No matter where he ends up, Mellows hopes his experiences inspire fellow Europeans to incorporate Minor League baseball into their own travels.
"Part of the reason I come out to the Minor League ballparks, they're often very close to Major League parks as well. So if you watch the Phillies -- we've got a big Phillies UK account on Twitter -- why not go and see the [Reading] Fightin Phils? The Lehigh Valley IronPigs? They're only about an hour up the road and you'll have a great time there," he said. "Tonight [in Amarillo], it was what, $1 wieners? So I've been fed tonight, Ben. What more could you want? You're watching these top prospects in these top organizations, going up as they develop. And the beer is cheap, or at least cheaper. So, yeah!"