Listen: Walking Across Ireland with Rick Becker | Irish Baseball Podcast

In episode 44 of the Irish Baseball Podcast, host Rick Becker discusses his recent trip to Ireland with guest co-host Brian McArtin. Rick walked the Ireland Way, Ireland’s longest coast-to-coast walking and cycling trail.

Show Transcript

Note: The following is a machine-generated transcript. Please excuse any typos or transcription errors!

Announcer 00:00
On top of the inning tear, welcome to the Irish baseball podcast brought to you by the Irish American baseball society. If you love baseball, and if you love Ireland, stay tuned for a discussion of all things Irish baseball.

Rick Becker 00:14
Hello, and welcome to episode 44 of the Irish baseball podcast. I’m your host, Rick Becker. But today, I’ll be sitting back and playing the role of guest as Brian McCartan interviews me about my recent pilgrimage on Ireland’s national famine way. And we will also talk about a ton of other topics. Thanks for doing this, Brian,

Brian McArtin 00:35
no problem. And it’s gonna be a lot of fun. Looking forward to getting this done and learning about what you have going on. And hearing somebody actually ask you the questions for ones is that you asking the questions everybody else. So it should be fun.

Rick Becker 00:46
I don’t know if I will like it more because I have to do less preparation, or if I will like it less because I have less control. So we’ll find out.

Brian McArtin 00:53
If it makes you if it makes you feel any better. I did zero preparation. So we should be okay, fantastic. Let’s get into the whole thing of the common link that we have between each other here is the big link we have between the Irish American baseball society. I got involved in it earlier on with John Fitzgerald, we you know, and John’s a great guy, and he’s a local guy by me. And we did a lot of stuff earlier on. 1015 years ago, Don and I worked on the Emerald diamond movie together. John brought me in. We did music for the Emerald diamond movie and stuff like that. And that’s how I got involved. So my question is how you got involved in the Irish American baseball society?

Rick Becker 01:27
Yeah, that is a fantastic question. So I had been following the Irish American baseball society on Facebook, because I found out about it because of the movie, the Emerald diamond. And I was just following on Facebook. And I had started another podcast, a completely different podcast, when John sent out the feelers for somebody to host an Irish baseball podcast, on the Facebook page. And I’m like, Well, if I’ve got the equipment, and I’m already learning how to do this thing, I mean, I have over 25 years in radio broadcasting. But this was my first foray into podcasts. And I thought, if I cast a wider net, if I did two podcasts at the same time, it would sort of helped me develop all of those skills. And I’ve really, really enjoyed it. And at this point, it’s not even about developing skills. It’s about hearing all these different stories and talking to all these different people about baseball, about Irish history. It’s really taken me in a lot of different directions. And that’s how I got involved. I just send them an email on Facebook,

Brian McArtin 02:40
right? Yeah, it’s it’s crazy how many people this thing is linked together? You know, people of all walks of life, have really jumped into this whole thing that John’s put together and with the baseball society, and the board of what together, you’re talking about radio, something that seems to be like, it seems like 2030 years ago, everybody wanted to be on the radio. No, that was the big thing. Everybody wanted to be on the radio, with the change of podcasting, and all that other stuff. I’m sure. This is kind of like the next evolution for you as being somebody who was in radio before.

Rick Becker 03:07
You know, I was thinking about this yesterday, just yesterday, actually, it really feels like the people who were doing radio because they wanted to make money or because they thought it was an easy way to get into the local scene or something like that. They fell off when radio started to die. But the people who really loved the art of broadcasting made their way into podcasting. And it’s so similar in some ways to what I was doing in radio. I mean, I was in sports radio for over a decade. And I’m talking about sports here on the Irish baseball podcast. So it’s similar in that respect, but it’s so different. Because even though John does run the society like it is John’s baby here, still, he gives us so much more control than you would have from a program director at a radio station, or when I was a sports director for a statewide news network that my news director would ever have given me. And it’s really fun to have all that autonomy to go out, find interviews, find stories that I think are particularly interesting, and share them because I never would have had that opportunity. If I would have just stuck to radio.

Brian McArtin 04:28
It’s crazy. My father is a ham radio guy. He’s gonna if he he’s never gonna see this or listen to this because he’s just not that guy. But my father is the ham radio guy. His house looks like a bomb shelter have radios everywhere. Florida sale, I have guitars. He has radios, you know. And so I grew up with him in the other room, trying to reach the guy on the other side of the world and having conversations. My dad was essentially doing his own radio show when I was a kid, but we lived in an area where we were so from the city Yonkers in New York, right so where I lived, grow hung up was that the highest elevation in the city you can be at. So we were picking up radio stations, FM radio stations all over the place that we wouldn’t get anywhere else. So I was listening to college radio in Jersey in some parts of Pennsylvania, you know, some parts and an all new all those New York College radios WFP v 90.7. You know, the Fordham radio station that has the Irish radio program on Sundays. So I was like a big fan of radio growing up, and the evolution of podcasting has just made it so great for everybody. And the fact that you can kind of niche in and what you really want to listen to now is really cool.

Rick Becker 05:33
I started podcasting, basically, during the pandemic, like when the pandemic was at its biggest peak, and everybody was sitting at home, and we didn’t know what we were doing with our lives. And it helped me get through a rough time. Like, that was a tough time. For me, I lost a lot of jobs, I lost multiple jobs because of the pandemic. And I was sitting at home, I didn’t have anything to do. And I just started doing zoom calls with people that ended up becoming podcast episodes. And between this podcast and my other podcast, like, I have some of my best friends in the world now. And I wouldn’t even know them barely if I didn’t start this podcast or the other podcast. And it’s such an interesting thing, how we reached out, and we made more connections during a global pandemic, when everybody was sitting in their basements.

Brian McArtin 06:29
I hear these stories all the time of people finding their thing during the lockdown. And obviously, depending on where you were living, everything was different. Some places shut down longer. Some places were shut down, you know, you know, that’s a whole other thing in itself. I can’t relate to that. Because during COVID, I’m a so my day job is a 911 Dispatch. During COVID, I was working 80 hour workweeks, and like, everybody was telling me about how they were doing all this cool stuff. I’m like, Man, I’m just trying to get to bed. I’m trying to see my kids for 10 seconds. Hey, guys, nice to see you. I’ll see you next week. And I was very back to bed. And I was like, at one point, I was like, I’m kind of jealous of these people getting getting locked down. I was like, I want to be locked down. This is crazy.

Rick Becker 07:08
Well, to be fair, I live in Florida. So we weren’t locked down for very right. But actually, I do understand what you’re saying my wife was working a full time job the whole time, she didn’t have the quote unquote, luxury. Now looking back on it, it was a luxury. But when you were going through it, it felt so uncertain. And you’re just trying to do anything to distract yourself, because you didn’t know when you were going to be able to go back to work. And that’s a really weird feeling. Yeah,

Brian McArtin 07:42
it was there was a lot of uncertainty. And obviously, the difference between Florida and New York are leaps and bounds the way that things were handled. But you know, I think you really hit it on the head there with the uncertainty thing. I think that’s really what it was, I got people, you were talking about losing multiple jobs. And that was something when I had talked to John, and you know, we’ve reached out to each other, John, and mentioned to me that you have a bunch of unique jobs in relation to sports and stuff. And I wanted to see if you wanted to touch on some of those. Yeah, so

Rick Becker 08:09
we’ll be talking in a little bit about my trip to Ireland and my pilgrimage in Ireland. And I knew that I had that coming up for about two years. And I didn’t want to take a full time job where I would have to ask them for two, three months of vacation, or that I was going to end up having to quit. So I decided that the better course of action would be to just have a little fun for two years and take a bunch of part time jobs in sports. And I try not to actually say Who are my employers, but I live in the Tampa Bay area. So you can basically figure out my couple of employers. And it’s been a wild ride down here. We’ve had a lot of success very, very recently. And I got to be a part of it. Because I was working for these teams in maybe it’s not the biggest capacity in the world. But I had really steady part time jobs, where I worked for a bunch of sports teams. I also worked as a race director where I was organizing a 5k 10k race every month, just doing a lot in the world of sports that big sports like professional football and small sports, like individual people running a 5k race that takes them an hour to run, you know, yeah,

Brian McArtin 09:33
it’s really cool. And that’s how I was wanting to get into what you’re doing in Ireland and that in that whole thing of like trying to get time off that that has got to be insane in general, and you have that unique advantage of being able to do that. Let’s get into the meat of it here and let’s talk about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and what made you decide on on bringing awareness to this cause of domestic violence and a real problem that we have, you know, worldwide obviously, but What brought it to you that made it something that you really wanted to dig into?

Rick Becker 10:03
Well, I can imagine now, knowing that you are a 911 operator is your full time job, you are probably bombarded by this more than most people, you probably deal with some pretty awful situations. But I grew up in an abusive household. And while I was going through that, I knew that when I became an adult, I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t something that got pushed aside like it was when I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to raise awareness to this. And I also knew that as somebody who always played sports, and was doing things that were sort of stereotypically macho, I wanted to say when I became an adult, that it’s not weak people who become victims of domestic violence or child abuse, it’s not people who can’t defend themselves. Sometimes these people are some of the strongest people you’ll meet, but they’re in tough situations. And I thought, that’s one of the reasons that I picked something so physically daunting, was because I want to say this isn’t about being weak or strong. This is about being in tough situations about trying to get out of tough situations. So I wanted to do this as a way to raise money for Kasaa of Pinellas County, Florida. It’s our local domestic violence shelter. And speaking of sports, one of the things I absolutely love about this organization is at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or a Tampa Bay rowdies soccer match. If you go into the bathroom, either bathroom, the men’s bathroom, the women’s bathroom, I assume the women’s bathroom, there is a sign from Kasaa that says if you’re in an abusive situation, take this opportunity right now and call this number. And it’s one of the things that I thought was such a creative idea. Because when I was in an abusive household when I was a kid, my father used to take me to baseball games all the time. Now, I don’t know, if I would have seen that poster in a reading Phillies minor league baseball game when I lived in Pennsylvania, if I would have called. But the more I would have seen something like that sign, the more I would have realized that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t by myself, that there were people who wanted to help. And I think that’s such a cool thing that they do, and I don’t think they get enough credit for it,

Brian McArtin 12:38
it really is a great cause. And you are where you’re talking about, like what I do for a living I mean, I come across this is every day. This isn’t like a once in a while thing. I mean, it’s multiple times in a day it whether it’s not always a physical abuse, there’s a lot of, you know, mental abuse, and there’s a lot of verbal abuse that happens. A lot of stuff involving kids and stuff like that. And it’s hard to process on a daily basis. For me, as somebody who’s not involved, I couldn’t imagine, you know, with you being somebody who actually experienced this, and I was very lucky not to have that situation in my life. But you know, for somebody like you who, who experienced this, and being able to go out here and talk about it now as an adult, you know, and just go out there and say, Hey, this isn’t right. And, and it really takes a lot on on from you. And I really respect what you’re doing here. So let’s get into what you actually did already. And that the walk that you’ve already done and a pretty serious amount of miles that you put on. What made you decide on the location you did? What made you decide to even what gave you this idea to do the big walk I know you’ve got into like it being a physical thing and being you know, physically challenging thing. But what made you decide on that? You know, I see, I was reading before, when we talked about this earlier about the Ireland way thing. And what made you choose choose that location. And to do this,

Rick Becker 13:49
I’m going to try to go back to my radio days and do the shut up and play the hits. So I’ll try to give the shortest version of this as humanly possible. All right. So back in 2012, my wife and I were at Target. And we saw a $5 DVD for a movie called The Way with Martin Sheen. We decided to buy it because it was $5 that basically be the price of renting a movie online. So we watched it and I was completely enamored. This was Martin Sheen’s character walking El Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, or from southern France to Santiago, Spain. And I immediately said, When I turned 50, I’m doing that. Then the pandemic hits. And I take an online Irish class because I’m killing time. And I discovered the Ireland way, which was my original intention. I was going to do the Ireland way which goes from Southwest Ireland to North Ireland. I was going to Start in West Cork in the town of Castle Town bear. But within the first week, I suffered a knee injury. And we realized that it was not going to be sustainable in the amount of time that I had given myself, I’d given myself like two months to do this. And it was scheduled to be a 40 day thing. But it was not going to be possible the trail had fallen into disrepair at certain points because of COVID. And some of these small towns along the trail we’re taking in Ukrainian refugees, great cause great situation, I’m not complaining that they’re doing that at all first world problem if I were to complain about that situation, but it became obvious to me that I had to find a different trail. So two years of planning on this one trail, and in three days, I had to completely change course, I had to find a new trail, get on trains, get on buses, and get to the start of the new trail. And that’s when I found Ireland’s national famine way, which may have been a more significant trail to pick. Because while it is not the same thing, it is similar in the people who took this trail, originally, the people who were going from Western Ireland, to downtown Dublin, were there to get on a boat, and try to find a better home situation for themselves. So to follow that trail, while raising money and awareness for domestic violence, I felt was so much more symbolic. But more importantly, there weren’t as many mountains, so my knees were able to continue walking every day. And I could put in a lot of miles. But going west to east instead of south to north gave me that opportunity to not have to climb as many mountains have a flatter situation. And the trail went through more towns. So that made my wife happy. Because if I did tear something, and I couldn’t go on anymore, there was a doctor somewhere close.

Brian McArtin 17:13
How long exactly did you go? Like how many? How long did it take you to do it from start to finish even with the detour which by the way, talk about adapting and overcoming and taking three days to do something you planned all that time. Sometimes the best things happen that way, I would

Rick Becker 17:27
definitely agree that sometimes the best things happen that way. So we’re all pretty familiar with Ireland. And we know that it is taller than it is wide. So it was quicker to go the second way. But all in all, it was about two and a half weeks with everything involved. But I did have that quick turnaround. So it was unique to get that done. And I was really, really upset. I was sitting on the top of a mountain trying to nurse my knees. So I could just get down to the bottom of the mountain.

Brian McArtin 18:01
Because going down, it’s harder than going up when you’re when your knees hurt. And that’s for sure. Going down

Rick Becker 18:05
is always harder than going up. And I think that is something that a lot of people don’t understand. But it very, very much is when you’re facing any type of injury. And when I think about how upset I was that this thing I planned for two years was like falling apart around me when I was on the top of that mountain. But by the time I got down to the campsite, where I rested and regrouped that night, I was feeling positive. And that’s incredible. Because the depression I had at the top of the mountain to the optimism I had at the bottom of the mountain were two completely different emotions.

Brian McArtin 18:45
It’s really great to hear that story of having to kind of overcome a little bit. You know, obviously life sometimes throws those curveballs at you, no pun intended with the baseball thing we are but you have been to Ireland before this at all.

Rick Becker 18:57
This was actually my first time out of the country. So get out here. Well, I was experiencing a lot of things for the first time I was going through customs at the airport. And I was trying to explain what I was doing. And the guy there was looking at me like I was insane. I had to go through a lot of stuff for the first time but it was really, really great. I’ll tell you what, I cannot say enough good things about Ireland to everything I thought I would experience going back to you know the land of my ancestors. I had no idea how much I would love it there. I was in Dublin for three hours and I’m like this is my favorite city in the world. Like I just can’t get enough of this place

Brian McArtin 19:41
any other highlights of your of your travel other than the walk obviously, which was their main reason of being there. Were there any other encounters with people with the people there anything like that, that really stuck out to you where you’re like, Wow, this is a really incredible place in the world

Rick Becker 19:54
when I was going to Castle Town bear, which is this tiny, tiny town In West Cork, I was taking a train from Dublin to Cork city. And then I was taking a bus that was going to take me to Glengarriff. And then I had to get a cab from Glengarriff. To Castle Town bear. That’s how in the middle of nowhere, this little fishing village is in West Cork. But on the train from Dublin to Cork City, I sat with three other people. It was a grandfather, his granddaughter, and a woman who worked for Cadbury and she was from Brazil originally. And she just up and moved her life to Dublin, because she wanted to try something different. And she was absolutely loving Dublin and having a conversation with these people for like, two and a half hours, I think. And they were the nicest people I’d ever met. And I was learning about Brazilian culture and what it’s like in Dublin, and she was in a rush, so she didn’t bring any Cadbury eggs like she normally does. So I’m still a little mad at her deservedly, so, deservedly so yes. And this grandfather was such a unique character. He was dressed like he was about to go to the country club. But every time he laughed, he sounded like and here’s a reference, you’ll probably like he sounded like Johnny Rotten every time he laughed. And at one point, he had to go use the restroom. And we just looked at his granddaughter, and we were like, how much of what he’s saying is actually true. She goes, I’d say about half of the stuff he says is true. But the great thing is he believes all of it. And it was just those kinds of interactions that I never would have had, if I would have done a normal vacation, if I just would have gotten on the tour buses, and I just would have done the normal stuff. I never would have had those interactions, I sort of forced myself to be in places that I wouldn’t have been normally, so that I can feel more of what Ireland does actually like than just sightseeing.

Brian McArtin 22:09
You know, there’s an old saying says don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. And that guy’s living that life there. So you can’t, he can’t there’s a lot of that there’s a lot of those characters. My wife is from the Woodlawn McLean Avenue section of Yonkers, New York, and if anybody has any sort of Irish American connection, you know, where I’m talking about, you know, it’s the golden street with 30 Irish pubs up and down the street, you know, it’s amazing. And the Irish culture there is so, so big, especially amongst, you know, a lot of that was all immigrated people that lived in the Bronx, and then when the Bronx started changing, people started moving up to Yonkers, and you know, everything moves around there, you know, the Irish adapt like that, you know, you talk about like, the guy, you know, was the those characters, those guys that you’re talking about there, there’s got to be 70 of them just living on that street alone, and they’re not in there in America. So you can imagine how many of those guys are over there. You know, like telling the story, you’re like, I don’t think this is true at all, but sounds good to me, man. I like it.

Rick Becker 23:05
We’re gonna continue this conversation in two weeks on episode 45 of the Irish baseball podcast. I would like to thank Brian McCartan for conducting this interview today. While we were recording, Brian had the great idea of opening up some old packs of baseball cards with me on Zoom. It’s a segment that we’re calling old stale gum, and you can see video of that interaction on the Irish American baseball society’s Facebook page. And at Irish baseball.org. Brian will be conducting some interviews with musicians throughout the New York Irish music scene that you will be able to hear very soon, also at Irish baseball.org. Before we go, I just wanted to remind you that my pilgrimage on Ireland’s national famine, way was partially done to raise money and awareness for Kassa Pinellas County, Florida. In the fight against domestic violence. There are no processing fees or middlemen. So every dollar you donate goes directly to Cass so they can help survivors of abuse. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I would love if you could donate $20 today at Castle pinellas.org/walk with Rick slash, that’s c a s a p i n e ll a s.org/walk with Rick slash. Using an Irish family name of Daugherty as my moniker on this walk was a decision that I made to not give any of the credit for this walk to my abusive father. I just don’t want the last name difference to confuse anyone. I am Rick Becker and this has been episode 44 of the Irish baseball podcast.

Announcer 24:52
You’ve been listening to the Irish baseball podcast. The Irish baseball Podcast is a production of the Irish American baseball society. See visit us online at Irish baseball.org And remember there’s no place like home