Yesterday I went to my first professional baseball game in years with my 11-year old son Lukas. We went to see the Salem (Va.) Red Sox, a Class A team. The experience reminded me why minor league baseball is one of the best bangs for your buck around.
I was little worried we were going to get rained out because as we left for the stadium, it began to rain. “It figures”, I thought. The last time I had tried to go to a game with one of my boys, it had been postponed. This was about a year ago when I was visiting my oldest son in Los Angeles.
We got tickets to see the Angels, and one of their pitchers was killed in a car accident the night before, right after he had turned in a stellar peformance. The Angels were in mourning, and postponed the game. I was visiting from Europe and was sorely disappointed, but I team had made the right decision.
Once Lukas and got to the park in Salem , it was still drizzling. However, it seemed like it was letting up. I parked (which was free — a real plus!) and tried to find Will Call where our ticket packets were. I had joined the Silver Sluggers program (something which chagrins me, i.e. I am now just old enough to be eligible for) and I had enrolled Lukas in Kids Club (which he is barely eligible for).
My package includes about over 10 home games, a free T-shirt, a $5 coupon for the souvenir shop, a 10% discount there, and a good seat at home plate on the third base line. My son’s package includes a season pass to all the games, a free T-shirt, a free baseball after so many games, autograph sessions, and free entrance to Kids Zone, some entainment center for the youngsters.
Will Call was a little hard to find, and I learned that unlike other windows like it I had to stand in the ticket line. I didn’t mind, though. While waiting, a man about my age came up to me and said, “Where’d you get that hat? Loser!” I looked at his umbrella, and it was a Baltimore Orioles souvenir. I was wearing an Orioles cap.
I told him, “That makes two of us”. Then he said, “Get a new manager. Better yet, get a new owner!”. We Orioles fans stick together in our misery and cynicism.
On the way in, we collected two free carry bags in honor of breast cancer awareness. The Red Sox were honoring that movement this weekend. The bags were pink, with a Salem Red Sox and Kroger ad on them. I wanted to take them home to my daughters.
Once inside the stadium, I made a beeline for the souvenir shop to use my coupon. I was looking for a Salem Red Sox baseball cap. I wanted to add one to my baseball cap collection. I settled for an authentic cap with their logo and “Salem, Virginia” on the side. It was pricey, but the coupon made my decision for me.
We then went to collect our other “prizes”. Lukas got his T-shirt, but they were out of my size, so I thought I’d come back. I also asked how at the customer service desk how we were supposed to sit together since I had an assigned seat and he had an generic season pass.
They made a call and a rep showed up. He told me that I could upgrade my son’s seat for 50 cents. He couldn’t take care of it because he had a lot of other things going on, so he said,”You are welome to sit next to him as long as no one else claims the seat he is in.”
So after a little looking for our section, we sat down. The view from Salem Memorial Stadium is spectacular. The mountains are one of the reasons I moved back to this area, and the some of the ones in the Roanoke Valley stretched from the edge of right field bleachers all the way to center field, until they are obstructed by some trees.
It was turning into a nice spring evening, and the whole effect was just what I was looking for. At a baseball game, you can just relax, take in the ambience of the ballpark, watch the game, gab and eat. My son did a lot of the latter. It was “Kids Eat Free Day”, so he got a Pepsi, a bag of chips and a hot dog.
The game wasn’t much. The home team didn’t score, and I even missed the major hit, a 3-run home run by the opposing team. I was trying to open a potato chip bag for Lukas at the time. Eleven-year old appetites trump the game at hand sometimes. He missed it, too.
It didn’t matter. We had a great time anyway. Every half inning there was some kind of attraction, something going on. We saw kids inflatable races, a kid trying use a cardboard box to catch a high-flying rubber chicken shot from an air gun by a costumed chicken, and free t-shirts shot into the crowd by an air gun shaped as a hot dog. We also watched fans participate in a karaoke context, and a young man try to guess which baseball cap on the scoreboard contained a telephone company logo. (It was an electronic shell game.).
Minor league baseball is a treat. I don’t know where else a person can get so much entertainment for so little money. Kudos to the Salem Red Sox. They have a major league operation, even though they’re just an A-league club.