Major Fun at the Minor Leagues

Minor league baseball games offer affordable family fun, especially with deals, discounts and eccentric entertainment specials available in several markets across the country.

During a warm midsummer night at O’Brien Stadium, home of the Peoria Chiefs in Peoria, Ill., a batter warms up in the on-deck circle. To his right, as he imagines faraway big league glory 172 miles to the northeast at Wrigley Field, a mascot called Clammy Sosa devours a bat boy. Finding bat boys distasteful, the massive-headed mollusk regurgitates the boy back onto the field. It’s just a typical night at one of the more than 200 minor league baseball stadiums across the country.

The National Pastime on a Smaller Scale

The minor leagues offer families an affordable, entertaining alternative to an expensive trip to a big league park. There are more than 15 different leagues within minor league baseball, whose teams are associated with major-league franchises, and a handful of unaffiliated independent leagues. From the lowest level Rookie Leagues to Triple-A teams, you’ll find box seats around $10 to $15 at most stadiums (and lawn seats for even less), kids’ play areas, and no shortage of essential snacks: hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and nachos with mysteriously radiant orange cheese.

ZOOperstars—like Clammy Sosa—provide unusual entertainment as they amuse the crowds. You might even have the chance to see baseball’s next superstar. Whether you visit the nearest ballpark for an afternoon game or make a summer road trip to visit several stadiums, you’ll find baseball being played for the love of the game in an intimate and inviting atmosphere.

Family Friendly Discounts and Events

Whether in Peoria or Pawtucket, most clubs offer regular events and promotions geared toward families. Fireworks displays, running bases and player autograph sessions are common at most parks. The Indianapolis Indians Family Night promotion on select dates offers four box seats, four hot dogs, four sodas and four baseball caps for $52. The Durham Bulls Family Night will let everyone enjoy all the hot dogs, french fries and popcorn they can eat for $1 per item.

To burn off those hot dogs, the Kane County Cougars in Geneva, Ill., have a KidZone with an inflatable obstacle course, a bounce/moon walk, a giant climb-and-slide and a speed pitch allowing each aspiring pitcher (young and old) a chance to test the speed of his or her fastball. The Cougars also host a Family Campout, where families watch a game, fireworks and a movie on the big screen from the outfield, then pitch a tent in the Cougars’ campground for the night.

If your Little Leaguer prefers to work on his game, on select Saturdays during the season the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island offer free youth clinics before games, with the manager, coaches and players. Wherever and whenever you catch a game, check the team schedule for family promotions and discounts because really, who doesn’t love $1 hot dogs?

Eccentric Entertainment

Creative promotions make a minor league game memorable. Hampers, Halloween costumes and Harry Potter are just a few of the always entertaining promotions you’ll find at minor league ballparks during the summer. Oh yeah, and the baseball games are fun, too.

Here are a few notable family-oriented promotions from clubs across the country, some more eccentric than others:

ZOOperstars at numerous ballparks, May through August

The ZOOperstars are large, inflatable animals with tendencies to dance on dugouts and yes, devour bat boys. With a number of characters, from Alex Frogriguez to Cow Ripken, Jr. to Derek Cheetah, the creatures tour Minor League stadiums throughout the summer, eliciting giggles from young and old, because it’s impossible not to enjoy Roger Clamens eating an umpire and spitting out his shoe.

Harry Potter Poster, August 3

Buffalo Bisons at Dunn Tire Park. Buffalo, N.Y.
The Bisons give away a free mascot/movie poster, “Buster Potter and the Sorcerer’s Bat,” to the first 2,000 fans. Anything even almost related to Harry Potter is sure to be popular with, well, everyone.

Halloween in August, August 3

St. Paul Saints at Midway Stadium. St. Paul, Minn.
Kids and parents alike can dress up in their favorite costumes and head to the ballpark. Is it more fun to watch a game while dressed as Spider-Man? Probably.

Bark-in-the-Park, July 5, August 13

Portland Beavers at PGE Park. Portland, Ore.
Bring your dog to the park so every member of the family, even non-humans, can enjoy the game. Dogs are always fans of ball sports.

Hamper Give-Away Night, August 20

New Britain Rock Cats at New Britain Stadium. New Britain, Conn.
To help messy kids and the mothers who love them, the Rock Cats are giving away hampers to promote bedroom tidiness. Who says giveaways can’t be functional?

Destinations: Geneva, Peoria, Indianapolis, Saint Paul, Durham, Buffalo, Portland, Pawtucket

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Baseball

User Comments

Go Cyclones! When I'm back in New York, I try to hit at least one or two Cyclones games in Coney Island each summer. They're the NY Mets' farm team. Or is it AAA? I can't remember. Anyway, it's fun to sit in the stands--which are filled with families--and watch the kids totally get into the goofy games played between innings, with the Coney Island amusement park rides towering above the stadium wall in the background. Then hit the Boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean and pick up some fried clams, a Nathan's hot dog and soft-serve pistachio ice cream. Yum!

Great article / great time If you've never been there's no better way to spend a summer evening than at your minor league baseball stadium. It's definitely cheaper than going to the movies and hell of a lot more interactive an fun. It's pure americana from the 80's pop music between innings to the kitschy giveaways. Here in the Bay Area we have the single-A San Jose Giants. You can sit right behind the dugout for about $15 and won''t find a better tri-tip sandwich anywhere. Play ball!!