Sunday, May 07, 2006

I'm Making A Major Commitment To Attend A Minor League Game This Summer

I have never been to a minor league baseball game, and shame on me.

I have never experienced the coziness and small-town feel of baseball in the raw, and that absolutely has to change.

It's not like there aren't opportunities around these Southeastern Michigan parts. There's the West Michigan Whitecaps out Grand Rapids-way, the Lansing Lugnuts, and the Tigers' Triple A affiliate Mud Hens in Toledo. All are within a couple hours drive of my metro Detroit home.

The funny thing is, I've often wondered what it would be like to pay less than $20 for a baseball ticket, less than $5 for a beer, and less than $3 for a soft drink. I've wondered what it would be like to pay less than $15 to park my car, less than $5 for a dish of nachos, and less than $50 for a souvenir. I also fantasize at what it would be like to pay less than $5 for a program, and less than $4 for the staple of all baseball staples -- a hot dog. With all the fixin's.

So what am I waiting for? The Mud Hens might be the best bang for my buck -- because their roster is filled with Tigers of the past and the future, and it's only about 75 minutes south on Interstate 75 to Toledo. Even with gas prices through the roof, that may be the way to go. Lansing is about the same distance from me, and maybe I'll do the Lugnuts next time. But for now, I'll set my sights on Toledo.

Folks who have been tell me that the minor league baseball experience is underpriced, really. The ballparks are fan and family friendly, the players are accessible, and the entire feel is Norman Rockwellian. Better than the Orwellian feel that MLB can exude from time to time.

And, the baseball isn't bad. The bats are wooden -- hear that, college baseball lovers? -- and that's almost enough for me right there. Even the lower tiers of minor league ball will provide an enjoyable baseball viewing show, for these are professionals, no matter their salaries, and they're all trying like the dickens to make a living out of it. Doubtful you'll see anyone dogging it -- failing to run out a grounder, jogging lazily for a ball hit into the gap -- on a minor league field, because these players aren't raking in $50,000 per game, regardless of their level of effort.

The Triple-A All-Star Game will be played in Toledo this July, but as my colleague at MCS Magazine, Eric Smith, reminded me, that might not be the truest representation of a night out in Toledo for baseball. He might be right. So maybe I'll settle for a regular season contest. Besides, all of the home team will be made up of Mud Hens -- not All-Stars from teams I have no connection to, really.

If any of you have had minor league baseball experiences you'd like to share, leave me a comment. I'm interested.


Blogger Ozz said...

Toledo's stadium is only a few seasons old. It's a nice place to see a game.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Ian C. said...

It's become a cliche to say the minor league game is more "pure," but there's definitely more of a sense of fun, that a GAME is being played. I don't know how it is for other people, but it's interesting what you'll pay attention to - strategies, signs, tendencies, etc. - when you're not familiar with the players.

And you just cannot beat the value. In Charleston, SC, where my sister lives, I got a first-row seat to a River Dogs game, right next to the dugout, where I could see in, for $10. In fact, I think I spent $20 the whole evening, between the ticket, parking, and food.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Lee Panas said...

I love minor league baseball and I now watch more minor league games in person than major league games. Not only is it a lot cheaper but it's a better baseball experience. I feel like I'm part of the game. Attending a major league game has become more of a generic entertainment experience so I prefer to watch those games on television.

9:11 AM  

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