Take the Kids to the Ballgame

Growing up in Boston, it was literally in my DNA to root for the Red Sox. When I first met my husband, and found out that he was also a Sox fan, I knew we were meant for each other. We’ve been going to Fenway Park for years, and when we made it our mission to see each and every ballpark in the country, the idea for summer road trips (and this blog) was born. Bringing our children along for the games has certainly given us a new perspective... But in many ways, the experience has become even more enjoyable.

I wrote about kid-friendly aspects of ballparks for Kidventurous a couple of years ago. But since then, we’ve discovered several new perks to bringing the kids along to watch America's Pastime.

Before you go, sign up for the Kids’ Club
Most Major League Baseball teams have clubs that the kids can join. It’s beneficial to sign up before you hit the road, as they will often send promotional items and coupons to your home. There is often a nominal cost to join, but most teams send vouchers for home game tickets, so it’s totally worth it. One of our favorites is the Kansas City Royals’ Sluggerrr’s Blue Crew. The $30 kit came with a jersey, cap, membership badge and lanyard, face paint, and the best part: vouchers for two home game tickets.

  Our children joined the Sluggerrr's Blue Crew in Kansas City. 

Our children joined the Sluggerrr's Blue Crew in Kansas City. 

Promotion days
Companies often sponsor promotion days and offer freebies to fans who arrive early to the game, or for children up to a certain age. Recent promotions have included free clutches for moms on Mother’s Day at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks; pet bowls at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals; and beach towels at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. The complete list of promotions can be found on each team’s website, so check it out before buying your tickets to maximize your game day experience.  If you do go on a promotion day, be sure to get to the park within the opening hour, because some promotions are limited.

Guest services
Head to Guest Services (usually air-conditioned) offices right on the main concourse for free certificates commemorating your child’s first game at the park – a great memento. The staff will also offer you advice and guides on kid-friendly areas of the stadium, and where and when to find the team mascot for a photo opportunity. Guest services will usually have a station to stamp your MLB Pass-Port. I only recently found out about this program, so we’ll have to go back to most of the 22 parks we’ve already visited to collect the stamps.

Keeping the kids entertained
Most parks now have areas to keep the little ones entertained between innings. Very often, there are jungle gyms and playgrounds, sponsored by local companies. Great American Park in Cincinnati has a playground on a turf field. Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, has a whole center where kids can practice in a batting cage, ride on a carousel, complete in a mini golf course, and run the bases of a mock field. Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, has a carousel behind the first base area, and Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins, has their famous pool in the outfield. Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, has an air conditioned room with spaces for toddlers crawl on foam mats and play with foam blocks. On a recent visit, they had a balloon maker and a storyteller, plus a visit from the famous Wally. These spaces are usually included in your ticket price, but there may be additional cost for things like a ferris wheel or carousel.

  The famous hot dog race amongst ketchup, mustard, and onion at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

The famous hot dog race amongst ketchup, mustard, and onion at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Running the bases
Many parks will allow children to run the actual bases on the field after home Sunday day games, and will even allow adults to accompany little ones who can’t walk on their own (my husband used that perk to his advantage on more than one occasion!) Most stadiums have the process down to a science and the lines (which form very quickly, usually in the 6th or 7th inning) move along pretty fast, but be sure to ask the staff about when and where you should line up.

  Our daughter running to home plate at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida.

Our daughter running to home plate at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida.

Food
Sure... The staples are still at every ballpark. But some parks are becoming more healthy- and wallet-conscience. Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals in St. Louis, has two farmer’s markets where you can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. They even have gluten-free options.  Many ballparks also have ticket and food packages. Most parks also allow you to bring in unopened non-alcoholic drinks and unopened snacks.

Keeping cool
Ballparks want to make sure you stay healthy. Any ballpark will give you complimentary water, and most have coolers stationed throughout the park to keep fans hydrated. You can also go to concession stands and ask for free ice water. Another way to beat the heat, is to find the misting fans located around the park to cool you off – and you’ll find just as many adults as there are children crowded around them!

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the game!