FARGO - Joey Mellows had never been to North Dakota before.
A native of Portsmouth, England, Mellows, 33, arrived in Fargo for the first time on Monday, Aug. 27, just in time to catch the spectacle he came here to witness: the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks versus the Chicago Dogs at Newman Outdoor Field.
Upon arrival, Mellows was given a warm Fargo welcome: a downpour that delayed the game by nearly two-and-a-half hours. With little end in sight and a 25-minute walk back to his north Fargo hotel, Mellows threw in the towel. The game would finally resume at 11:30 p.m. that night, eventually finishing Tuesday morning at 12:23 a.m.
"Fargo, North Dakota is an incredibly cool place to visit," tweeted Mellows, who also goes by the nickname "Baseball Brit," on Aug. 28. "However ... I'm not sure whether to count this game as I left during a 2 hour 28min storm delay. Wotcha reckon?"
Game 57: The Chicago Dogs at Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
Fargo, North Dakota is an incredibly cool place to visit. However...
...I'm not sure whether to count this game as I left during a 2 hour 28min storm delay. Wotcha reckon? pic.twitter.com/dDj5BFuLbS
- Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) August 28, 2018
"I think 4 innings counts," one person replied to Mellows' tweet.
"Don't count it," another person replied.
Mellows would take the latter person's advice, and returned to Newman Outdoor Field on Tuesday for game two of a three-game series against the Chicago Dogs, or, as Mellows called it, "game 58."
Game 58: The Chicago Dogs at Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
For purists, there are no automatic intentional walks in @AA_Baseball. Four pitches still need to be thrown.
For progressives, @FMRedHawks allow one fan to sit in a rocking chair next to the opposing manager during games! pic.twitter.com/VGBkqDC5xU
- Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) August 29, 2018
Mellows is on the home stretch of a nationwide, baseball-filled, road-tripping adventure that can summed up as borderline midlife crisis and half genius, depending on who you ask. But if you were to ask him, he'd tell you, at age 33, he's just now "living the life." Proving it's never too late to drop everything and start anew.
'I wanted to do something different'
Three months ago, Mellows embarked on the journey of a lifetime in a country he had hardly visited to study, research and write about a sport that he barely knew. For this baseball-loving Brit, his journey has a purpose: to spread his newfound love, passion and enthusiasm for the game of baseball to a country where it simply doesn't exist.
Mellows grew up in Portsmouth, a bustling port city on the southern border of England about 75 miles southwest of London. The adopted son of a former professional soccer player, Mellows - like nearly every other Englishman - was entrenched in the game of soccer at a young age. After obtaining a master's degree from the University of Cambridge, Mellows moved to Seoul to teach at a boarding school.
A nine-hour time difference between England and South Korea proved to be difficult in the early going for Mellows, he said. A soccer match that started at 3 p.m. back home wouldn't get underway until midnight in South Korea. In the beginning, he tried to stay awake and watch, he said, but ultimately, it proved to be too much.
Looking for another outlet to appease his sports-loving self, Mellows turned to watching South Korean professional baseball. Knowing absolutely nothing about the sport didn't matter to Mellows. All that mattered was that he could watch.
As the days, weeks and months passed, Mellows kept watching.
His interest in the sport was steadily rising.
After getting dumped by his girlfriend, he quit his teaching job and decided to travel to the United States to begin his new journey: attending 59 baseball games in 74 days.
"I was 33 and I wanted to do something different while I could," Mellows said. "I had always decided to leave South Korea after four years anyway."
For the past 10 years, Mellows said he has been saving money to eventually "do something." But he never envisioned that this would be that something.
The journey begins
On June 24, Mellows would attend game 11 of 59 on his journey. It was in Houston to watch the Astros take on the Kansas City Royals, just one of a few MLB games he'd attend along the journey. Mellows, who is a contributor to a UK MLB blog called "Bat Flips & Nerds," would sit in the press box as a credentialed media member.
As he'd come to find out, MLB games just weren't his cup of tea.
Prior to arriving in Fargo earlier this week, Mellows spent the weekend in Minneapolis, which included a trip to Target Field to watch the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, Aug. 25, for game 56.
"It was nice to go see the park and watch that level of baseball," Mellows said. "But I find it a bit more sterile and a bit more corporate."
Game 12 would be more of Mellows' style. It was June 25 in Sugar Land, Texas. The Lancaster Barnstormers versus the Sugar Land Skeeters. These kinds of nicknames and mascots alone would draw even the most lukewarm of baseball fans to attend a minor league game.
"To me, the independent league stuff is the purest form of the game," Mellows said. "They're doing it for peanuts, they're not earning the big bucks ... they're living with host families."
Mellows, who says he plans on writing a book on the health of baseball in the U.S. later this winter, frequently gets inside access to players, coaches and front office staff in nearly every town he visits.
A June 26 tweet shows Mellows pictured with former Philadelphia Phillies slugger and current Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia, who holds the NCAA record for most home runs in a season with 48.
One of these men has 206 @MLB home runs & is still the @NCAACWS record holder for homers in a season (48) & career (100).
The other man has a moustache.
*Look out for a special @batflips_nerds podcast with @OSUBaseball legend & @SL_Skeeters manager, Pete Incaviglia - soon! #CWS pic.twitter.com/MwuEaFOzoM
- Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) June 27, 2018
On June 29, Mellows is pictured with none other than former Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro, who attempted a comeback this season at age 53 with the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
- Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) June 29, 2018
By Sept. 5, Mellows will have visited 42 Independent League teams, which include teams like the F-M RedHawks, Winnipeg Goldeyes and Sioux Falls Canaries, in 28 different cities. He'll also have attended 12 MLB games, three Double-A and one Triple-A game.
"For me, the indy stuff, for what I'm trying to research and write, has the more interesting stories," Mellows said. "It's the towns, the people who truly enjoy baseball. The best part for me is the people I've met and the kindness of strangers, really, in terms of welcoming me to their community and their ballpark. It's been great to see so much of the country."
What's on deck
Mellows' pre-planned three-month journey officially comes to an end on Sept. 5, though he says that he plans to attend the Independent League playoffs next week and imagines he'll "do another 30 games or so before I leave the country."
This winter, on top of writing a book, Mellows says he plans on continuing his baseball adventure in Mexico and possibly Arizona to watch winter ball, a place where top MLB prospects and players can be found during the offseason.
On May 9, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that London's Olympic Stadium will play host to the first MLB games ever to be held in Europe, when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox play there on June 29 and 30, 2019.
Mellows says he hopes his current experiences may be useful in helping determine how the sport could grow and reach new fans in Europe.
"If a few people from this experience get interested in baseball outside MLB, I'll be happy," said Mellows.
When asked if he'll be attending the games in London next year, Mellows said if he's in town, he'll be there.
"I don't know where I'll be," Mellows said.
Perhaps he'll be right back in Fargo-Moorhead.
Hopefully, next time the rain can subside.
To follow Mellows' baseball adventure, give him a follow on Twitter @BaseballBrit.