Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of playing pickup games of baseball. With Louisville Slugger in hand, we’d spend hours playing in the field behind our neighborhood, stopping only when it got too dark to see the ball.
Nashville didn’t (and still doesn’t) have a major league baseball team so our hometown heroes came from a Triple A team called the Sounds. If you were lucky enough to get a free ticket to the Sounds game from your school or sometimes even the grocery store, you thought you’d won the lottery. Sitting right by the fence, spitting sunflower seeds and sipping an Icee, my friends and I were on top of the world.
Thirty years later and I still have a passion for minor league baseball. In fact, proximity to a stadium was one of our considerations when we started looking for a new home. When we scouted the Seattle area in 2012, we started in Tacoma near Cheney Stadium, home of the Rainiers. But the rain, the cold, and the fact that you can’t really swim in the ocean in WA State drove us to look at warmer climates. We picked our home in North Port, FL rather randomly (picture tossing a dart at a map) so imagine how pleased we were to learn that we were only 4 miles from Charlotte Sports Park, home of our now much-beloved Stone Crabs.
Knowing we were going to be home most of the summer, I decided to look into the ticket packages offered by the Stone Crabs. We ended up buying two packages. For a total of $77 each, we got box-seat tickets to 14 games and an invite to the plan-holder picnic in June (free food, yeah!). We’ve also been taking advantage of specials, like the BOGO coupon that came in our newspaper, the $5 ticket offer from Facebook, and of course, $2 Tuesday when reserved-level tickets are only $2. In addition to seeing some great baseball at a great price, we scored a free pink baseball cap, 6 coupons for free ice cream, and a signed ball. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the ball yet but nonetheless, we have one.
All the money we save on tickets could easily be blown on the cost of one soda and a hot dog though, so we’ve come up with a few sneaky snacking alternatives. First, bringing in food is not allowed at Charlotte Sports Park. We know this. But after watching moms plying their kids with fruit snacks and juice boxes, we decided as long as we weren’t coming in with Burger King, a bag of dried apples wasn’t going to be a big deal. To solve the beverage problem, we occasionally buy sodas but only when they are BOGO (making them a more reasonable $1.37 each). The rest of the time we use the 32 oz. plastic Crabs cup we acquired at our first game and refill it with water from the fountain. It’s free and satisfies the ultimate goal of staying hydrated in the sun. For the past couple of games, we’ve grilled a few hot dogs at home and had a modified version of a tailgate party in the parking lot before the game. It gives us that ball park feel while also keeping us from being hungry and spending money unnecessarily.
Minor league baseball is a great community event. You get to meet lots of new people who share your love of the game and you get to sing with them – everything from our National Anthem to Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Happy Birthday. Minor league baseball is also the cheapest way to see the pros play. The Stone Crabs are an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and often host major leaguers returning from the DL. Just the other day, we got to see Alex Cobb pitch, from our seats in the 4th row behind home plate; seats that cost us $5.50 each. For fun, I just looked at Rays tickets in similar seats to see what they cost. $96 each! This week, we may get to see Ben Zobrist on second base with the Crabs – on $2 Tuesday, no less!