Stoltz rode more than 11,000 miles, visited 30 MLB parks, and
Big Brothers Big Sisters.
As a high school
student in Wisconsin Rapids, Matt Stoltz volunteered in a program that
mentored young children. "It was cool to see the impact we had on
the kids," Stoltz recalls. "They were more attentive in
class. It really helped them."
have imagined that experience would lead to the experience of a
lifetime five years later.
Stoltz, who was
born in Milwaukee before moving to Wisconsin Rapids in the third
grade, spent the spring and summer of 2015 riding his bicycle more
than 11,000 miles, stopping at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums
to raise money for Biking for Baseball and Big Brothers Big Sisters of
Greater Milwaukee. Biking for Baseball works in conjunction with Big
Brothers Big Sisters organizations across America to put on youth
baseball clinics and take kids to ball games.
such a difference in the life of a child," Stoltz says.
"Mentoring and baseball go hand in hand. Things like having your
first catch in the backyard.
always wanted to see all the ballparks so this was a challenge I
couldnít pass up."
Stoltz, who is
22 and a 2014 graduate of UW-Madison, used $3,000 of his own savings,
lined up other donors before the trip began, and found plenty of
people willing to help along his 180-day journey.
amazing. Strangers paying for my meals at restaurants, asking what
they could do to help. I actually only paid for tickets (to the
baseball games) along the way twice. Teams, players, fans really
stepped up to help," he says.
particularly grateful to Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, Cardinals
pitcher Adam Wainwright and former Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins,
all of whom paid for game tickets and some other expenses. Retired
Major League outfielder Eric Byrnes, now an analyst for MLB Network,
did a special TV segment on Stoltz when he arrived in New York and
paid for Stoltzís lodging for the last month and a half of the trip.
He did some
indoor training before he started his ride but says "nothing
prepares you for the trip itself."
to ride 80 miles a day but often hit more than 100 miles ó and 150
during a torturous stretch of 3,100 miles over 29 days in July, which
included a jaunt through Floridaís blistering heat. He started in
Seattle, went south through California and Arizona, east and south
through Florida, then north and west, ending up at Miller Park on Oct.
"You had to
push yourself through the pain," Stoltz says. "And remember
who you were riding for."
He carried about
50 pounds of equipment on his bike ó camping gear for when he slept
outdoors. Through a website, warmshowers.org, he found families who
were willing to host cyclists. He ate mostly by making quick stops at
restaurants but carried Power Bars and lots of water while he rode.
Although he says he ate a lot, Stoltz still lost 40 pounds. "When
youíre biking that long, itís tough not to lose weight."
"lots of close calls in traffic and normal repairs to chains and
cables," he says, but Stoltz made a triumphant return to his home
state on the last weekend of the MLB season. To date, his efforts have
raised more than $24,000. You can find out more about Stoltzís
efforts and how to donate at bikingforbaseball.org.
financial impact is great, but Iíve also had hundreds of people tell
me theyíve actually signed up to become a mentor because of this
heard from people all over the world who were cheering me on, and
having that support group is what made the trip possible. If I was out
there by myself with no support or encouragement, Iíd probably still
be stuck in Seattle," he says.
Four days after
ending his momentous trek, Stoltz started a job as a case manager for
Big Brothers Big Sisters in Kansas City. But Stoltz, who rode his bike
from Wisconsin to West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2012, raising $35,000 to
purchase sports gear for kids in Africa, Asia and Latin America,
expects another adventure in the years ahead.
"When I say
Iím going to do something, I do it," Stoltz says. "Weíll
see what comes around the corner. I know Iíve got a screw loose to
take on these kinds of tasks, but a little crazy is OK, right?"