Minor League Baseball Games

The other night I had the opportunity to go to Cheney Stadium to see a Tacoma Rainiers baseball game.  The Rainiers are the Triple A minor league farm club for the Seattle Mariners.

I was the guest of Paul Casey, one of the owners of the club, and a good friend.  What a treat.

There is something about going to a game that is not in the major leagues.

Everyone seems more relaxed.  You see more parents with children in hand.  You are much closer to the field.  Everything seems more up close and personal.

When was the last time you had an usher reach out and shake your hand to welcome you your seat and to the game?  When was the last time that someone let you into a special section of the ballpark without asking to see your credentials.

Admittedly I was walking around with one of the owners of the team, but I could tell that every handshake, every welcome was totally genuine.

You also did not feel crowded.  There were 6,000 people in attendance, not 20, 30 or 40,000.  When was the last time at a professional sports event that you went into the men’s bathroom and had no trouble finding a stall open and available?

The other thing that was so noticeable was what went on in between innings.  That was almost more important than what happened on the field.  The club obviously put a lot of effort into making sure that there was some sort of entertainment every time there was a natural break in the game.

the young man who took the microphone had tons of energy.  He was matched by a crew of young women that were part of the choreographed “let’s have some fun” team.  And the team mascot, Rhubarb the Reindeer, was deeply involved in all the frivolity.

One time it would be some great sing along music, accompanied by young women throwing rolled up tee shirts to the excited crowd.  Another time it would be some sort of game that captured everyone’s attention.

What was striking to me was the utter silliness of it all.  Everyone welcomed it, and you could not help but break into a smile.

That night the Rainiers were playing the Sacramento River Cats, another team in the Pacific Coast League.   The two teams have the worst records in their division.  Nobody seemed to care.

In fact, another shocker to me was that there was no one in the stands rooting for the other team.  Everyone that was there was a hometown supporter.  That frankly felt kind of nice.

However, at one point, one individual a few rows back from where we were sitting heckled one of the Tacoma Rainier players as he took his practice swings in the on deck circle.  He said some things that were cruel, disrespectful, and just plain nasty.  You hear this in the major league parks quite a bit, but what was so different in this minor league park was the reaction of the rest of the fans.

No one supported the heckler’s comments.  In fact, most people turned to look at him with a glare.  The message to him was clear.  That is not how we act here in this ballpark.  You are out of line.  Keep your thoughts to yourself.  He did not heckle again.  The response from the rest of the fans was wonderful to see and be a part of.

I forgot to mention that we parked about 30 steps from the entrance to the stadium.  The ease of access in and out of the facility was noted.

Did I mention that the cost of tickets makes it a much more affordable experience.

Another fascinating thing to watch were some of the possible rule changes in major league baseball that are being tested and tried out in the minor leagues.  For example, to speed up the game, the pitcher is only allowed 14 seconds between pitches, unless there is a man on base, in which case he is allowed 19 seconds.  There are time clocks placed in several locations around the field to keep track.  If the pitcher takes more than 14 seconds to throw the next pitch, the batter is awarded a ball in his pitch count.

Another possible change is that the home plate umpire no longer calls balls and strikes.  They are called by a computer, and relayed to the umpire who then signals whether the pitch was a ball or a strike.

The Rainiers lost the game big time by a 10 to 1 score.  But, we, like many others in attendance, did not really care too much.  We so enjoyed the experience.

I plan to hopefully experience the same wonderful, minor league vibes in a couple of months when I start going to the games of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the minor league team for the Seattle’s national hockey league team, the Seattle Kraken.  I have purchased season tickets, for all the same reasons that I have outlined above.

There is something special about going to a minor league game.


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