Updated: May 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm
A retirement pension from the Navy and a steady routine of morning jogs allow Tom Lohr to fund and survive his quest to evaluate as many ballparks and hot dogs as he can this season.
The Tulsa, Okla., native intends to hit all 30 major league ballparks and a smattering of minor league stadiums to fill what he sees as an information void.
"A lot of people can tell you who's got good hot dogs. A lot of people can tell you who has got the best stadium," said Lohr, who is keeping a blog (ballparkdogs.blogspot.com) and intends to write a book. "Nobody can tell you who has the best baseball/hot dog experience."
So Lohr developed a 12-category scoring system - six for the stadium, six for the hot dog - and is driving around the nation, often sleeping on friends' couches or in his 2008 Toyota RAV4.
His 11,000-mile journey took the Lohr through Colorado Springs on Thursday for a Sky Sox game at Security Service Field.
His initial reaction was not overly positive. He wasn't happy to be charged $5 to park in a dirt lot at a minor league park. The $10 ticket - he always buys the cheapest ticket to not only keep costs down, but to experience the game with the common fan - didn't compare to the $4 rock-pile seat he purchased the day before at Coors Field (the Rockies, by the way, lead his major league standings with 58 out of 60 points).
The location and access were his main complaint.
"Downtown is always preferred," he said. "This is kind of in a shoppy slash suburban area and it's isolated from that, so it's not really a great location for a ballpark."
The Sky Sox, of course, have heard plenty about this topic in the past year as a survey was sent out at the city's request to gauge interest in a downtown park. The team has said the feedback has tilted strongly toward keeping the stadium where it is.
Lohr did like the feel of the park, which is admittedly his most subjective category.
Lohr's hot dog rating system was developed with the help of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, and includes price, taste, bun quality, toppings, portability and "it factor," which considers factors like unique selections or something out of the ordinary that helps a dog stand apart.
The Sky Sox hot dog selection was enough to register on his "it factor" scale, but he followed his normal routine of buying the cheapest dog on the menu. He was impressed to see a whole wheat bun, but turned off to see it was stale.
Then came the condiments, which were offered in packets instead of pumps - actually the more sanitary option but a disappointment to him - and did not include jalape?s or kraut.
Still he found the dog "surprisingly tasty" and rated the Sky Sox hot dog high for portability, as its foil wrapper provided ample coverage to get him back to his seat without risk of spilling.
The Sky Sox total score of 42 out of 60 placed it above a pair of major league teams, but simply average overall.
"We work hard and strive each day to provide the best possible experience for our fans," Sky Sox assistant general manager Michael Hobson said, "and we welcome and encourage any feedback that will help us improve."
Lohr says he is a lifelong baseball fan in search of the perfect dog.
He didn't find it in Colorado Springs, but he'll keep searching.