It’s summer. The area shores are packed, our towns seem deserted, and you need some family entertainment. Steer the kids away from Xbox and On-Demand, and towards America’s favorite pastime: baseball.
While the 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies sell out tickets on their way to another successful season, our region has attractive and affordable alternatives. In recent years minor league teams have made some major discoveries about appealing to the needs and interests of families.
With four local semi-pro ballparks, choices abound to enjoy summer nights under the stars — at a discount and with lots of perks beyond the game itself.
Catch A Rising Star in Reading
The Reading Phillies have been the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies for 44 years, and their home field, FirstEnergy Stadium, has long been a popular destination. The second-best place in the country to see a baseball game (according to Minor League News), the Reading Phils have a loyal following. Just a few years back, they celebrated their 10 millionth fan to attend a game.
“The Reading Phillies have done an admirable job of adding modern amenities to the FirstEnergy Stadium without compromising the ambiance that’s made the park so popular,” says Jack Wintermute, a West Chester resident who has traveled to every minor league ballpark in the United States and Canada. So he should know!
The long-term partnership of the Reading and the Philadelphia Phillies has meant that countless stars got their start at this minor league team. Reading has boasted lineups with current Phillies stars Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, as well as ex-manager Larry Bowa and all-star Pat Burrell.
This top on-field talent is supplemented by engaging promotions like Kids Club, pre-game happy hours, fireworks, 4 for $49 Family Nights, and pre- and post-game concerts showcasing local musicians. Something for most everyone.
Blue Rocks’ Kid Friendly Fun
Voted best place to take the kids by a local readers’ choice poll, a Wilmington Blue Rocks game offers everything they can for families on their night out. “The Blue Rocks strive to ensure fans are enjoying a thoroughly entertaining show, in addition to the baseball game,” says Dave Arthur, Director of Marketing.
As the single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, the Blue Rocks have hosted players of top-notch talent, like current Met Carlos Beltran and 2009 Cy Young award-winner Zack Greinke.
With home games along the Wilmington waterfront in Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, any night of the week there’s a reason to go out to the ball game. With $1 Mondays, Wawa Wednesdays, Families Eat Free Thursdays and Firework Fridays, you’re sure to get more than your money’s worth.
And the Blue Rocks’ promotional team aims to make each outing memorable. You’ll see three mascots (including Mr. Celery), special acts like the Purple Party Dude, and the beloved Team Ghost Riders (monkeys dressed as cowboys ride dogs around the field). Now that’s an unforgettable family experience!
Baseball’s Back in Lancaster
After the departure of the Lancaster Red Roses in 1961, baseball returned to Lancaster when the Barnstormers arrived in gorgeous 6,000-seat Clipper Magazine Stadium in 2005. An independent minor league team, the Barnstormers create a special variety of ballpark excitement not found in major league mega-stadiums.
As the 2006 Atlantic League Champions and currently in first place of their Freedom Division, the Barnstormers trot out local players on their roster — Evan Englebrook of Mechanicsburg, Ben Copeland of Bradford, plus Aaron Herr and Matt Watson, both of Lancaster — to keep loyal fans returning.
“A facility is the most integral part of a minor league team’s success,” says John Danos, Barnstormers’ president. Their ballpark proves the point, boasting Amelia’s Picnic Pavilion (with Lancaster County food), an arcade with games from the 1930s to of-the-moment video options, plus an artificial pond in the outfield stands, named Home Run Harbor, with bumper boats sporting water cannons and a waterfall. No wonder this was named the Best Ballpark Innovation in 2008!
Triple A in Allentown
To our north, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, named to pay homage to pig iron’s significance to the area’s steel heritage, are bringing big league talent to the Allentown area.
As the Phillies’ AAA minor league team, their on-field performance and special party packages for big groups (think party porch, picnic patio and suites) make it no surprise that the 2010 Iron Pigs had the largest average attendance per home game in the entire minor leagues.
“It’s a great way to see a ballgame without breaking the bank,” observes Colin Brett, longtime fan from Easton. “Tickets can be bought for as little as $9, and each ticket comes with a $2 concession stand coupon.”
Fans agree that the organization works hard to ensure fans enjoy themselves. Promotions range from bobblehead night, special community fundraising nights, to an overnight camp out on the field for local Boy and Girl Scout troops. And each Friday home game is topped off with fireworks! A perfect ending.
If you’re looking for an exciting night out that will bring the family together, try the unique package deals plus countless amenities and enjoy far more than just the old ball game. There’s still time to head out to one of these intimate ballparks and discover your own field of dreams. -CL-
Friday, Aug. 19: Reading Phillies “4 for $49 Family Night” with fireworks, post-game concert. 610-370-BALL
Sunday, Aug. 21: Wilmington Blue Rocks “Family Fun Sundays.” 302-888-BLUE; firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, Sept. 2: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs “Friday Night Fireworks.” 610-841-PIGS
Friday, Sept. 9: Lancaster Barnstormers “Faith & Family Night” Battle of the Bands pregame show. 717-509-HITS; LancasterBarnstormers.com
Check MinorLeagueBaseball.com for more details.