Well folks, being a college student I must admit that as much as I love the Phillies, going to the ballpark can be downright expensive. For those who lack their own automobile, an R5 trip and subway ride can cost over $10, parking (for those who have cars) is up to $15, tickets in the cheapest seats can cost up to $19 (with processing fees), hot dogs are $3.50 a piece, and for those of us over 21, beer comes in at $7.25 a bottle. As much fun as major league baseball is to watch in person, for those of us in school it can be a serious strain on the wallet.
That is where this post comes in. This week, I was inspired to find every minor league and independent league ballpark within an hour (or so) of Philadelphia when my dad and I were looking for something to do this weekend. After a successful trip tonight to Delaware, I now begin the first of what I hope will be many posts presenting you, the readers, with some alternatives to the big ballpark that still provide major league entertainment.
The first trip on the list was to Wilmington, Delaware, the city the Blue Rocks call home. The Blue Rocks are the single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and are a member of the Carolina League, as made famous by the film Bull Durham (side note: the Durham Bulls are now a AAA team). The Blue Rocks’ home, Frawley Stadium, is directly next to I-95, which makes it a 25 minute straight shot from Philadelphia. In fact, once in the stadium, I-95 can be seen looming behind the left field wall. Within walking distance of the stadium are three restaurants, a local pub, and plenty of parking space, all of which (including ballpark parking) is free. Tickets for the Blue Rocks games are by no means expensive, with the priciest ticket being $10. My dad and I sat eight rows behind home plate in great seats for a grand total of $26, what one would normally pay for one ticket and a parking space in Philadelphia.
In terms of food, the Blue Rocks offered a pretty good selection: pizza, fresh cut sandwiches, ice cream, grill sandwiches and sausages, along with the ballpark favorites such as hot dogs, popcorn, and funnel cake. The hot dogs cost $2 each, while a pretty large sized souvenir soda cup cost $4. What cost $6 in Wilmington would have cost around $8.50 in the majors.
For the over 21 crowd, the ballpark offered a fairly wide range of beers that went anywhere from $5 to $7.50, depending on the beer of choice. What makes the real difference, however, was that those were prices for 24 oz. cans of beer, double the average bottle size in the big leagues. Also, for those who don’t find the taste of fermented wheat, hops, and barley tempting, the park also offered a drink cart that made mixed drinks at about the same price of the beer. While I did not partake in any alcohol, I couldn’t find anyone who seemed to want to complain.
Finally: the game and the atmosphere itself. The Blue Rocks make sure to include a variety of in-game promotions, ranging from the usual “kiss cam” and marriage proposals to on-field dizzy bat races and fly swatting competitions. What made the Blue Rocks such a unique experience was their special mascot Mr. Celery, a foam celery stalk who comes out and dances every time the Blue Rocks score. While it sounds ridiculous, the crowd gets into it and makes Mr. Celery’s appearances a fun time. Despite the Blue Rocks falling to the Frederick Keys by a score of 10-7, everyone in the stadium seemed to have a great time.
All in all, the Wilmington Blue Rocks provide an excellent time at an even more excellent price. All in all, you could spend $20 on a ticket and food and still have a great night. Even if you need to fill up the gas tank for the trip, a carpool down to Wilmington is more than worth the trip (and helps cut the gas cost).
Up next on the trip list? Well, I’m not sure. I’m hoping to get to Lancaster county to see the Lancaster Barnstormers, an independent league team who is just over an hour away from the Philadelphia area. But wherever I go next, I’ll be sure to record my travels in a future edition of Left Field Lite.
-Tom Hagan ’11