Andy Sturt is having the time of his life doing a school project, and never did he think education could be this much fun.
A graduate student from Temple University's School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), Sturt is working on a research project that keeps expanding by the day. He is evaluating the quality of the Major League Baseball fan experience.
Originally, Sturt was going to sample 15 ballparks. But once he started, he decided to go for all 30. And while he originally was going to limit his findings to the regular season, Sturt now plans on attending some playoff games to compare the differences.
Best of all, Sturt is having a blast not only visiting baseball stadiums but seeing the country. He decided that if he had to do all this traveling he would experience as much as he could, which is why he has visited 21 national parks in addition to 19 ballparks so far.
"It's been an unbelievable experience," he said as he visited Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 26.
What he never envisioned during this trek, which began June 6 at Chicago's Wrigley Field, was that he has become a social media phenomenon. Before he visited his first park, Sturt said he had about 200 Instagram (@WhatWhatAndy) followers and about 40 on Twitter (@WhatWhatAndy). He now has more than 75,000 Instagram followers and more than 8,000 on Twitter.
"I had no idea it would get this big," he said.
Then again, the second part of his independent project is marketing himself. And Sturt has no trouble doing that. Before games, he places his business card, which gives address to his social media accounts, all around the ballparks. The back of the card says, "Join my epic summer road trip exploring MLB stadiums."
On his car, he has all his social media addresses on the window. He often leaves his business cards on the car and finds that fans pick them up and contact him.
Through his social media efforts, he has become recognized in some towns, such as Kansas City, where a person saw him and told Sturt he needed a haircut and took him to the barbershop where he worked and gave him a free haircut.
Sturt has been interviewed during a live Miami Marlins TV broadcast and on the Texas Rangers' Spanish radio broadcast.
Of course, this is more than about watching games for Sturt, although he admits to being a life-long baseball fan. He is evaluating everything involved in the fan experience. That includes the cuisine, what it is like outside a ballpark, if there are statues or other items that detail a team's history, the visibility from even the worst seats, whether a team has a Hall of Fame at the park, and, yes, even the rest rooms.
"I want to see the bathrooms on the third floor and see if they are as clean as the ones on the first," he said.
He has utilized financial aid to support his research project, done all by driving. So far he has put on 19,000 miles on his car, having been as far as Seattle. As an offshoot, he hopes to write a book about this experience.
Sturt, 36, is a late-bloomer as far as education goes. He was admittedly a poor high school student whose grade point average was lower than Clayton Kershaw's ERA. After doing various jobs, including being a waiter, he decided to return to school, earning his associates degree at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo., and graduating summa cum laude with a BA in communication from the University of Colorado Denver in 2016.
He went to Temple in 2016 and will earn his Master of Science degree in Sport Business during the spring 2018. He's already earned some life-long memories ion this trip,with more to come.