As a best-selling author and the owner of Mindstir Media book publishers, J.J. Hebert has had the opportunity to travel extensively over the years. Whether it’s for a book signing or meeting up with clients, he’s often seen out and about. His love of sports has also played a major role in his travel history. He has attended many professional sporting events in various cities in the USA.
Tell us about a favorite trip you’ve taken.
One of my favorite trips would have to be my excursion to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 2000. That was before my writing career had taken off and also before the inception of MindStir Media. I had never been to Cooperstown prior to 2000, so this was definitely an eye-opening experience. Baseball has such a long and rich history, being America’s favorite pastime. I think we only spent a couple days there but we could’ve easily stayed there for a week or two.
What attracted you to the Hall of Fame?
I grew up a huge Boston Red Sox fan. Carlton Fisk was being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, so my dad and I and some friends decided to visit Cooperstown to watch his induction speech and also take part in the festivities. I also played baseball through high school and it was easily my favorite sport growing up. I had always wanted to go to the Hall of Fame. It’s kind of like Disney World for baseball fans — you have to go at least once in your life.
When did you travel there and who did you go with?
I can hardly believe that it’s been 17 years since I’ve visited. I’m from New Hampshire, so we drove to New York state. If my memory serves me correctly, it took us about seven hours to get there, give or take. By “we,” I mean my father and a couple friends of ours. One was my former baseball coach and the other was a former baseball teammate of mine.
Please share your memories from the trip.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. As I said earlier, this was my first time — and only time thus far — going to Cooperstown. I thought we were just going to go for a couple days and see the induction speech from Carlton Fisk and also visit the the Hall. To my surprise, when we got to the Hall of Fame there were event tents lining the streets. I quickly realized that each tent housed a Hall of Fame baseball player who was kindly signing autographs.
That day I met numerous Hall of Famers. But first, we went into a local shop and bought a ton of Major League baseballs. We had to be equipped for this! So we went around with our baseballs and had them all signed.
I met up with Pete Rose, the 17 time all-star and three-time World Series champion. In my opinion, he’s one of the best hitters who has ever lived. I was a little nervous approaching him with my baseball in hand but he quickly showed his sense of humor when he looked at the ball and saw that it said “American League” on it. He kind of joked that I had given him the wrong ball because he actually played in the National League, but he signed it anyway and it was a funny experience.
I also spoke with Luis Tiant, also known as “el Tiante” to Red Sox fans. He spoke in broken English but was a really funny guy. Very smiley and welcoming. He’s really well known for his unconventional pitching wind-up and delivery.
We even met Willie Mays, one of if not the greatest centerfield who ever played the game. Of course, fans swarmed him so I don’t really remember much dialogue between he and I but he was friendly enough. Just to shake his hand and have a ball signed by him was good enough for me at the time. Not many people can say nowadays that they met the legendary Willie Mays!
We also met Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, and Bob Feller. These players were all amazing in their own right. Robinson was one of the best third baseman ever; Killebrew was one heck of a power hitter with almost 600 career home runs; and Bob Feller was a flame-throwing righty. They called him Bullet Bob and he pitched three career no-hitters. Ted Williams said that Feller was the fastest pitcher he had ever seen. I actually didn’t get an opportunity to meet Carlton Fisk, the main reason we were in attendance, but we were OK with that, ultimately…
The highlight of the trip would have to be when we had dinner with Warren Spahn. Anyone who knows baseball is familiar with the name. He has the most wins of any left-handed pitcher in Major League history. My former coach set up the dinner. He knew Warren’s business manager, apparently, so we had dinner together at the Otesaga Hotel, where many of the Hall of Famers stayed on their trip. Warren was fairly reserved but definitely exuded confidence. We all had lobster and cracked some jokes. My friend and I were going to play wiffle ball after dinner on the front lawn of the Otesaga and we invited Warren. I honestly believe that he would’ve joined us if his wife didn’t chime in and object. Now that would’ve been an amazing experience, playing ball with Warren Spahn!
Looking back, I wish that I had owned Mindstir Media, my publishing company, back then. I probably would’ve offered to write Warren Spahn’s biography and publish it for him. Unfortunately, he passed away three years later.
What other places have you visited?
Some highlights would have to be Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida. I met up with one of my author clients from Mindstir Media while I was out there in Florida. A beautiful resort in Punta Cana was also a very nice experience. Downtown San Francisco was amazing as well. I got a chance to go on one of the trolleys there and see the area. Nevada was a blast, too. I spent quite a bit of time at Lake Tahoe. I’ve also been to a few wineries in Napa Valley. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but it was still an amazing trip and experience. I’ve never had wine taste so fresh.