Andrew Buchold first become suspicious when his dad Adam mentioned a pre-dawn orthodontist appointment two days before his 14th birthday.
“He said, “We’ve got to get your bottom braces on at 5:30 in the morning and that’s the only appointment they have available for awhile.’ And I’m thinking that’s a little unusual, but whatever, okay,” Andrew said.
“But as we started heading out, I knew the (orthodontist) office was not open, so I thought, I don’t know where we’re going, but I know it’s a surprise.”
Dad was fooling, of course. This was no trip to a dentist.
Instead, Adam Buchold surprised his son by driving from their home in Castle Rock, Colorado, to the nearby airport in Denver. Once there, waiting were four of Andrew’s youth baseball teammates and their fathers for a surprise, cross-country flight to Pensacola and unforgettable experience at the Airbnb inside Blue Wahoos Stadium.
“I still was thinking, we were going fishing (in Pensacola) until (friend) Will says to me, ‘Hey, nothing makes you say ‘Wahoos’ like the color blue.’ And then I find out about this. I mean, wow, amazing.”
A dreaded trip to the dentist quickly turned into an unforgettable memory.
The five teenagers, ages 13 and 14, grew up playing baseball together in Colorado since Tee Ball. They continued together with the Warriors Barnstormers youth travel team from South Metro Denver.
A year ago, they traveled to play a tournament in Cooperstown, New York, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, they drove to a tournament in Kansas City. None of the group had been to Pensacola, though.
From the time they arrived Wednesday afternoon at Blue Wahoos Stadium, the same day as Andrew’s 14th birthday, it proved a joyful time among fathers and sons. The group took turns with swings in the batting cage and on the field. Both fathers and their sons alternated with infield practice.
The group stayed on the field throughout the evening, stopping only for a dinner and ice cream dessert.
They stayed in the home clubhouse overnight, playing ping pong and watching baseball, before heading to Pensacola Beach to unwind before returning to Colorado.
“The memories they are creating and experiencing here, as well as myself and the other dads, we’ll never forget this,” said Adam Buchold, Andrew's father. “In the times we are in, as strange as they are, this is special.
“Nothing like it. There is nothing like this.”
The Blue Wahoos launched their Airbnb experience, the first of its kind at a sports venue in America, in late May. The idea was formulated by Mallory Studer, daughter of Blue Wahoos co-owners Quint and Rishy Studer, who suggested during a dinner conversation about using the home team clubhouse as an Airbnb in a summer without baseball.
It was then when Adam Buchold saw the first notification pop up on his cell phone as the announcement of the Airbnb made news channels across the nation.
When he tried to book August 12 for a surprise birthday gift, the month had not been opened due to then-uncertainty about whether the Blue Wahoos would play baseball this year.
He contacted Bailie Tate, the Blue Wahoos group sales manager, who has managed the Airbnb since its launch and put a request on the date.
“I said if it doesn’t work out this season and you guys are not playing baseball in August, give me a call and I will be back,” he said. “And that’s how it all came together. She contacted me to let me know and here we are.”
The 10-member group became the 15th different state represented, so far, among the stadium Airbnb guest list.
On Sunday, a larger group from Alabama will become the second to stay in both home and visitors’ clubhouses. The Blue Wahoos recently converted the visitors clubhouse to accommodate 10 guests and give options for a group to book 20 or so people.
“I have a step-daughter who is just finishing college in sports management,” Adam Buchold said. “And I am looking forward to telling her about this and what you all have done here.
“She works for the Colorado Avalanche (NHL team). You all got creative, right? And you are connecting your team to the community that surrounds it. This is so incredible."
The group was feted with a steak buffet dinner they purchased as an add-on amenity, created by Blue Wahoos executive chef Travis Wilson. It was followed by ice cream for dessert, served in the Better Homes and Garden Lounge at the ballpark, typically reserved for Season Ticket Members during the baseball season.
Adding to the experience, the Blue Wahoos had jerseys waiting in the clubhouse and personalized name plates for each member of the group on the lockers.
“This has been the funnest experience I have ever had,” said Andrew Buchold on his special birthday. “So cool.”
Along with the Bucholds, the others part of the trip were Eric (father) and son Will Adrid, Josh and Caden Kennedy, Jason and Owen Schermerhorn, and James and Anthony Piscatelli.
The fathers all received the go-ahead from their wives to take the guys-only trip to Pensacola to go fishing and stay at the Blue Wahoos’ Airbnb.
“That’s why we’ve all been married forever,” said Adam Buchold, laughing. “Our wives totally understand the concept of a guys trip. We just knew this would be something these kids would never forget.”
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