Pippin the traveling sports-fanatic aide

If Matt Pippin were Peter Pan, Wrigley Field would be his Neverland.

Pippin, 29, a senior legislative assistant for Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), readily admits that, in a way, he’s never really grown up. For the past three years he has indulged his inner boy by traveling to numerous professional sporting events around the country.

Last year, he crisscrossed the country to attend 28 professional baseball games, six football games and three bowl games for a total of 160,000 miles of flying time.

Pippin has strong loyalties to the University of Southern California, his alma mater, and to the Cubs of his native Chicago, never mind that it’s been 98 years since they won a World Series.

He boasts a voluminous collection of ticket stubs and baseball caps. “Otherwise, you forget which games you’ve been to,” he says.

Pippin found out the hard way that being a die-hard fan doesn’t guarantee Cubs season tickets: “The last I checked, I was number 1,100 on the list.”

Some of the games have provided Pippin some of the most unforgettable moments of his life, he says. He witnessed Cal Ripken Jr.’s last home game in Baltimore, although he whispers that he can’t remember which team Ripken’s Orioles played. He saw the Cubs clinch a spot in the playoffs in 2003. He watched USC “destroy” Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

The aide inherited his passion for sports from his mom, the football fanatic in the family. He readily admits, however, that he never demonstrated much athletic prowess: “I played high school football for a couple years, and then I’m like, you know, I probably need to focus a little more on debate.”

Given Pippin’s dedication to all things baseball, it seems fitting to ask him to choose a favorite field. The answer is predictable: Wrigley.

“It’s the least commercial,” he says. “There is no Jumbotron, and it’s just baseball in its pure form. They’re not trying to squeeze out every dollar from you.”

His pick for the best football field is the Rose Bowl because of it’s nestled against the backdrop of the scenic San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

So what does it cost to take in three dozen sporting events every year?

“I don’t know the exact number,” says Pippin, “Quite a bit. I mean, a fair amount.”

He declines to get into specifics, although he admits making some lifestyle sacrifices to indulge his costly pastime.

“I don’t have a car,” he says. “I live in a modest apartment and I don’t have debt.”

He says he monitors travel deals on the Internet and only buys tickets when he can afford it. He saves money by staying with friends. “What I do provides the unique opportunity to see friends in far away places,” he says.

The games also allow Pippin to bond with his mother. For Christmas last year, Pippin surprised her with trips to the Sugar, Orange and Rose bowls in 2006. That’s Atlanta, Miami and Pasadena in three “pretty crazy” days.

Pippin says he has racked up so many frequent-flier miles that he won a trip around the world.

The 23-day, 22,000-mile solo adventure started in London in August. After four days in Britain, he jetted off to Berlin for a day and then to Istanbul to meet up with friends from the State Department. Then it was off to Dubai, where monstrous sandstorms distorted all his pictures. Later, a friend remarked that the photos were artistic. Pippin, with a deep laugh, says: “No. That’s sand.”

Saigon was next on the itinerary. As an American, he expected to be treated poorly, but he says he experienced the opposite from the warm, inviting Vietnamese.

In just days, he became a regular in a Vietnamese coffee shop where locals practiced their English with him. He quickly made friends. Red-eye flights are a nightmare, but Pippin flies so often that he prefers them to “maximize the time.” And he admits that he sometimes views his time outside the Beltway as a welcome relief.

“Plane time is great because BlackBerrys don’t work,” he says.

On a summer break from college, Pippin interned for Akaka. He moved to Washington in 2001 to handle healthcare, banking, housing, transportation and trade issues permanently for the senator.

His next sports trip takes him to sunny San Diego, but he says he won’t continue at his feverish pace. “I won’t go on forever,” he says.

Peter Pan might be insulted.