Andy Sturt admitted he should have been studying for finals with one week left before exams last spring.
Instead, the 36-year-old sport business graduate student was writing a research proposal to document the fan experience at Major League Baseball stadiums. When he showed it to professors Joris Drayer and Thilo Kunkel, they expected to receive three paragraphs. Sturt wrote 10 pages.
Unlike other studies that have analyzed fan experiences at stadiums, Sturt’s research does not only survey a single section of fans.
Instead, he asks himself, “How is the team engaging me from the moment I enter the stadium?”
“There has never been a study, both scholarly and non-scholarly, that has measured a single fan’s experience, in a single season, across numerous venues,” he wrote in his research proposal.
He began the trip in June at a Cubs’ game at Wrigley Field in his hometown Chicago. Eighteen stadiums later, he arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. Originally, he sought to visit 15 stadiums. Now, he plans to visit all 30 Major League stadiums by Oct. 1.
And he’s doing it all in his Toyota Camry Hybrid.
When Sturt arrives at each stadium, he follows a general pattern. He attempts to reach the venue an hour and a half before first pitch, taking pictures with and of statues he spots outside the stadium.
He spends part of the game in the seat he purchased, and part of it walking around the concourses talking to people and performing qualitative evaluations of factors like bathrooms, gift shops and food.
Sturt then moves up to the upper level to spend a few innings in the worst seat he can find. Toward the end of each game, he sneaks down to sit as close to the field as he can.
Some of his tickets have been free, and he tries to stay with friends and relatives when possible.
Still, not counting travel, each game costs him about $100.
Sturt is funding his trip through financial aid from Temple. The project will earn him credits counting toward the master’s degree in sport business, which he expects to receive in Spring 2018.
Sturt earned his bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Colorado Denver in 2016. He had been bartending and waiting tables for eight years prior to deciding to go to school.
“One day I woke up and said I didn’t want to do that anymore,” he said. “And I started going to school and started taking it seriously, and for the first time in my parents’ entire life, they had a kid who got straight A’s when I was 33, 34 maybe.”
Sturt hopes to continue his stadium tour into the postseason and revisit a venue during each round of the playoffs to compare it with the experience he had during the regular season.
Sturt aspires to publish his work in an academic journal. In the meantime, he’s been able to talk about his research through other means.
When he visited the Texas Rangers’ stadium, Globe Life Park in Arlington, Sturt joined the Spanish radio broadcast as a guest during the game. At a Miami Marlins’ home game, Fox Sports Florida’s Craig Minervini interviewed him before the top of the sixth inning.
Currently, Sturt is writing an article for Outsports.com, an SB Nation site that focuses on LGBTQ athletes. Sturt, who identifies as gay, said he has received messages and emails from children as young as 12 years old and as far away as Kansas thanking him for inspiring LGBTQ people who are seeking athletic careers.
“I’ve learned about baseball, I’ve learned about stadiums, but like most importantly, I’ve learned so many things about myself and things I like,” Sturt said. “And like I’ve opened myself up to experiences of things I never thought I would ever do.”
Between games, he visits national parks and other attractions. He has been to 21 so far and got a tattoo on his left calf of a landscape with trees, flowers and a baseball in place of the sun while in California.
Now, Sturt has more than 75,000 followers on Instagram, including 12,000 from Brazil after he hiked with a soccer team in Yellowstone. Sturt plans to earn his Ph.D., and he is open to other opportunities to expand upon his research.
“While you have a wave of momentum, you better ride it and see what you can turn it into, right?” he said. “If I can keep doing this and people still are interested, I may as well keep going.”