As I write spring training for the boys of summer is under way. The talk is about the major leaguers. Who can throw fast? Who will make the team? Who may have a good year? Who will be traded? Or, maybe who won’t?
But I like minor league games. The guys trying to make it to “The Show” try a little harder. They’re not yet prima donnas. With an average salary of nearly $4 million plus $100 per day for meals, big leaguers expect to be pampered, and they are. They become celebrities. Minor leaguers fare less well. A Triple-A player may make $2,500 per month with $25 for meals, and he may not be paid during the off season. A salary jump to $4 million is a powerful incentive.
When the old St. Petersburg Pelicans played, from my window I could see the scoreboard and the field except for the pitcher’s mound and home plate. What happened there I could only guess. If it looked like an interesting score I would slip into the stands for the last few innings. When the Ybor City Rays play ball, maybe the Pelicans will return.
Minor league teams really work to make the games fun. I attended one game in a northern city where local haircutters were offering 50¢ cuts. At another hot dogs were almost free. At one I saw early teens racing by running inside giant clear plastic balls. It’s no surprise that baseball cards, kid’s back packs, and bobble heads are given out, but one team gave away toilet seat cushions. It was a follow up to the plungers they had given away the year before. What do you suppose they’ll have this year? On “Prostate Cancer Awareness Night,” one team gave 1,000 men big foam fingers. Thanks a lot! Another had a motorcycle rider jump through a ring of fire. A squirrel rode a zip line at one game.
On “Redneck Night” one club gave away mason jars along with prizes for the best mullet and the dirtiest truck. Redneck sushi, rice and spam, was served at the concession stand. For “Field of Dreams Night” the Portland Red Sox had their team wearing throwback jerseys and enter through a makeshift cornfield. Between innings fans were permitted to rest their heads on the bases–to dream I guess.
Our local minor league teams will have promotions. The Dunedin Blue Jays will give away hock- ey pucks on Canada Day, and a dual bobble honoring a father and son who both played for the team. Suppose it will have two heads a bobbing? Beer, bacon, and fireworks night has appeal. The Clearwater Threshers will be big on dogs: $2 hot dogs one night, $6 dog tickets another to kick off the dog days of summer. Is Fido a fan? Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times says Spectrum Stadium has the best Philly Cheesesteak sandwich! On opening night with the Threshers the Blue Jays will give away magnets. What an attraction!
Rays tickets start at $20 and go up to $250. Imagine what that means for a dad who wants to take his wife and two kids to a ball game. With eats and parking he can easily drop $125.
But minor league tickets cost less. Clearwater Threshers tix start at $6. Dad can take the family and get by for lots less. If you’re a senior you’ll get all 10 Wednesday night games for $25, plus free parking, a sun shade, and a seat cushion.
So don’t forget the big league stars, but for an inexpensive evening where having fun is the order of the night, try a minor league game. Our two Pinellas County teams, The Blue Jays and the Threshers, open their seasons on Apr. 5. Who knows? If a magnet isn’t enough maybe they’ll surprise you with a toilet seat cushion.
Struck out by David H. Smith, Ph.D., retired professor