Maybe it’s the lights. Maybe it’s the bright green hue of the ball field. Or maybe it’s the mascot strolling through the stands, waving at the crowd, and posing for photos with the little kids. But there’s something about minor league baseball that warms the cockles of my heart.
And recently we’ve had many opportunities to attend minor league games. Our cousin was drafted last year by the Washington Nationals and he currently plays for their Class A team called the Hagerstown Suns. The Suns are in the Southeast Division and frequently travel to North and South Carolina for games. Last week we saw the Suns play the Kannapolis Intimidators (at the Intimidators Stadium in Kannapolis, NC) and had a blast.
First of all, Mr G’s Half-Normal Challenge post was the number one featured article on RockStar Finance the day we went to the game. So we were in a great mood as we approached the stadium. Our second stroke of luck was in scoring two comp tickets in the reserved section via our cousin. Mr. G strode right up to the “Will Call” window, whipped out his ID, and claimed them just like a RockStar.
But Lady Luck wasn’t through with us yet. As soon as we entered the stadium, we saw signs for Weenie Wednesday! That’s right, Weenie Wednesday! Regular hot dogs were only a buck. And not just any hot dogs—Nathan’s hot dogs!
Since Mr. G is a huge dog lover, we waltzed right on over to the concession stand. “Two hot dogs, please,” he said. “And a Diet Pespi”. Then he asked me what I wanted, and I gave him “the look”. You know the one I’m talking about? With one eyebrow raised and a squinty glare? And he exclaimed, “The two hot dogs are for ME!” OK, now I understood. He was being a piglet (as we call Groovy Cat when he inhales his food). I ordered one more dog.
Right before the game began, a cute little nine-year-old girl was called up to sing the National Anthem. She began singing without musical accompaniment—not even a pitch pipe for her first note. Immediately I knew she started way too high and that the “rockets red glare” section was going to be explosive. But I give her credit. Her voice cracked like the dickens, but wouldn’t you know it, she had perfect pitch!
I wish I could say the game itself was eventful—but no it was not. The Suns, including our cousin, had a bad night. They got one hit and were creamed by the Intimidators. And it wasn’t as if the Intimidators were dazzling us with their skills—they just looked good compared to the Suns. But the little kids provided all the entertainment we needed. Watching their excitement over all the audience-participation shtick was the highlight of the evening.
The Intimidators mascot, Tim E Gator, roamed the stadium interacting with the kids and posing for photos. Then he marched two little ones down to the field between innings for a ring-toss match. A teenage stadium employee officiated as they attempted to fling a hoola-hoop over Gator’s head. With each turn, she nudged them closer and closer to Gator until finally someone won.
Then the “squishy balls” came flying into the stands and were up for grabs. That was followed by a round of “Who wants free pizza?” And then came the the T-shirt toss, a crowd favorite. Watching the kids trample over each other for a 39-cent ball, stale pizza, and a flimsy T-shirt was just priceless!
The cost of going to a minor league game vs a major league game is nothing to sneeze at. Check out the rankings of the most and least expensive stadiums for the majors. The average cost for a day at a major league ball park is $78 for two people. The average cost for two at the Intimidators Stadium is around $30—and I’m accounting for full-price tickets and weenies. (Our extravaganza cost us $13.)
And what about the experience? No one ever poured a drink over my head at a minor league game—although I came close. At a Charlotte Knights game in Rock Hill, SC, a few years ago, a redneck kid accidentally spilled a large soda all over my sister-in-law. BUT all was forgiven since Bucky Covington from American Idol gave a free concert in the parking lot after the game. Tell me what major league baseball stadium can make that claim?
They can’t—the minor league experience caters to families. No fist fights break out, no arguments erupt, no pushing, shouting or cursing goes on at the concession stands—and there are no stupid lines for the bathroom. If you want plain, wholesome family entertainment, I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.