Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Minor League Night

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 14, 2009

I am an unabashed lover of Minor League baseball, the “lower” the league the better. Last night I went to the Carolina League game between our local Potomac Nationals and the Lynchburg Hillcats with my two sons and a good friend who brought his son & daughter.

The differences between the full blown Major League experience and going to a minors game is the difference between spending a week at Disney World and happening upon a summertime Firemen’s Carnival out in the country, and I mean that in the best possible way. Every year I trek to a fair number of Major League games, be they in Washington or Baltimore or New York, and I love going to them, but they’re a production. The seats usually coast between $30 and $75, you get bowled over with $25 parking charges and confronted with Epcot-esque diversions and distractions. Baseball, which is to my mind the game that most benefits from an intimate setting, is being played on a magnificent field that seems to be miles away and is being ignored by 35,000 of the 45,000 people in attendance at the game. Sure you can get into it if you’re determined to in the way that I usually am and there’s few things better than a playoff game in a Major League park, but still, there’s just so much laid on top of the experience that finding the essence of the game, the idyll, is a task.

Last night, on the other hand, we enjoyed Dollar Night with the Potomac Nats in a “stadium” made out of aluminum bleachers and wooden walls adorned with the kind of cheesy advertising that only a Southern minor league park can bring you. Every Monday home game fro the P-Nats offers $1 general admission tickets that are at a distance from the field that would cost you $575 at Yankee Stadium and $1 grilled hotdogs– how do you beat that? The game experience itself is what baseball should be about– tons of kids rooting earnestly for “their” team, even if they don’t know who all the players are, chasing down foul balls and getting autographs from the players who willingly make themselves available to sign any ball, bat, program or napkin offered to them. The players run out every grounder, they dive for every out of reach ball; for the most part they’re job applicants rather than acknowledged gods of sport and their aspiration is emblazoned on their uniforms along with the team name.

Somehow it’s the antithesis of what Major League baseball has made itself into– it is pure. It’s an American experience from before the days of Walmart and The Olive Garden, and those are becoming so rare. One of the things I love about goign to these games is meeting the people around me and listening to their conversations. The Dads spend the game explaining the finer points of the double paly to young kids who don’t get it but sit in rapt attention, the Moms make jokes about the Dads, the kids just take it all in between bites of hot dogs and gulps of sugary drinks while dreaming of being on the field themselves. Between innings you get some of the cheesiest, silliest promotions– kids racing the mascot around the bases for a bobblehead prize, tricycle races, bowling with plastic balls down the first base line and, of course, the two staples of Minor League enticements– kids run the bases after the game and the Friday Night Fireworks.

It’s just right. It’s basbeall without commitment to a “huge” night, both financially and logistically. It’s baseball that a non-baseball fan can enjoy– heck, it’s something to do for a few bucks on a warm night, it’s silliness and laughs and bad for you food and some of the best people watching around. If you love the game, it’s a chance to see some great baseball played up close by guys who may just be on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a few years.

Go to a Minor League game. Trust me on this one; you’ll find out what the magic of baseball has always been about.

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3 Responses to “Minor League Night”

  1. gretchenarchangel said

    Awesome post! I love our AAA team (who are the “big brothers” of the Cardiac ‘Cats) and I recommend games at Victory Field and other minor league parks to everyone.

  2. oldpro56 said

    Hi Bob!

    You might be interested in a book I have written-“Beating About the Bushes”. This covers my 8 year professional career in the Orioles organization during the ’60’s. Available on amazon.com or buybooksontheweb.com where an excerpt can be read.

  3. Lucky Crumpler said

    Wonderful article, Bob. It reminds me of the old days watching the Arkansas Travelers and the Shreveport Captains. Baseball for the baseball fans, fans-in-the-making, and those who just wanted to share a great evening with each other. Comedy, pathos, many of the lessons of life, all played out right before you, for only a few bucks. And cheap beer, too!

    Really nice work on this one.

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