It’s early September. The air is starting to cool down, the leaves are just showing hints of color, and the Major League Baseball season is winding to a close. For many people, the opportunity to go to an MLB game is dwindling, and for teens, it has always been difficult. We can’t always afford the high ticket prices, and the often long trips into cities to reach the stadiums are taxing for new drivers.
For die-hard fans, this may be a harsh reality for some time. But for the more casual viewers like myself, there is an alternative: Minor League Baseball. For those willing to sacrifice a minuscule amount of talent, one can see a game for less than half the price.
More than that, however, these games provide an entirely different experience from the Majors, and one that is definitely worth trying.
Minor League Baseball vs Major League Baseball
I’ll be using my local AAA Minor team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and comparing them to their Major League affiliate, the Phillies.
First, let’s talk numbers. To sit in the cheapest seating for one upcoming game at the Phillies Field, Citizens Bank Park, costs $18, but these seats are high up on the rooftop bleachers, far away from the action. If you want to get closer, the prices steadily rise, but the average Field Level seating can cost anywhere from 38 to 53 dollars a head. And supposing you wanted to sit in the Diamond Club, the highest level of seating available, you would be unloading $130 per seat.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the equivalents at IronPigs’ stadium, Coca Cola Park. The cheapest seating available at any Iron Pigs game is $9, but unlike its Phillies counterpart, these seats are not really seats at all. Instead, they give you access to the Capital Blue Lawn, a large slope of grass located in left center field. Guests are encouraged to bring a beach towel to the game.
For those of you who prefer more conventional seating, Field Level seats here cost $12 a head, a mere fraction of the Major League price. And if you want that Diamond Club style experience here, including a full-service bar, access to a climate-controlled clubhouse, and a better view of the game, club seating is only $17.
The Minor League Baseball Experience
The real thing that keeps IronPigs fans coming back is not just the prices, but also the experience. I spoke with Joe Fitzhenry, the Pigs’ Media Relations Assistant, on this topic. When asked what the park has to offer teens, he replied, “The whole experience of coming out, and [that] you’re so close to the action… You’re gonna have the promotions, if you’re lucky enough you might get a chance to partake in some of the promotions.”
The promotions he refers to are of course the many activities that the park does. The IronPigs host dog days, educational events, firework shows every weekend, giveaways, contests, and even a mascot footrace after the sixth inning. More than that though, the park strives to make a lasting positive impression on all who enter.
“When a fan leaves the ballpark, you want them to give a positive review,” Fitzhenry says. “You want people to say, ‘You should go to an IronPigs Game. It’s a great time.’”
But it’s not just about baseball he tells me.
“It’s a unique experience. Everyone’s gonna want something different. Are you coming as a baseball fan, do you want to come for the food? Do you want to sit in pigpen, where you’re right in front of the bullpen and right on top of the players? There’s something for everyone.”
And for those more serious fans out there, the difference in talent at the AAA, is barely noticeable. “It’s neat to see someone who started at the bottom of the Phillies system in Williamsport, to go to Lakewood and Clearwater and Reading, and we see them at the penultimate stop of their development. They’re one step away from the Majors.”
As shown on their “Pigs to the Bigs” display, many IronPigs players have made that step up to the majors, even though the park has only been in operation since 2008.
My final question for Mr. Fitzhenry was, “what sets the Iron Pigs apart from not only the Major Leagues, but also from other Minor League teams? He answered, “It’s the unique experience, and that there’s something for everyone at Coca Cola Park.”
There are over 200 Minor League Teams in various sub-leagues scattered across the country. A quick Google Search should find the one nearest you. I hope that you will consider a Minor League Baseball game as a financial alternative, as well as a new experience. For anyone just looking to try something new, Minor League Games really do hit home.