A few weeks ago, not long after I bought a ticket for Game 2 of the NLDS between the Nationals and the Giants (that eighteen inning affair that should go down in legend and be sung about in mead halls for centuries), I mused on Twitter that I was tempted to buy a 13-ticket plan for the Harrisburg Senators next year.
I had a six-ticket plan for this year. I ended up going to fewer baseball games this year than I did last year; only one York Revolution game instead of the nine I attended last year (a lack of interest, frankly, even though the Revs were very good this year), seven Senators games instead of eight (though 2013’s numbers were inflated by two post-season games), two Nationals games instead of one (though that second, NLDS Game 2, might as well have counted as two).
One of the Senators’ social media people replied to my tweet and said that a 13-ticket plan was a great idea. And it is a great idea. I’ll be the first person to admit that. I’m going to go to baseball games next summer anyway, so why not be proactive and set up a schedule now? But there were one or two things I wanted to think about. Is the slate of games on a 13-game package worthwhile? Where do I see myself next year? That sort of thing.
Minor league baseball isn’t for everyone; the proprietor of a Cubs website I read regularly disparages minor league baseball, except for its ability to produce talent for the Cubs, and its fans at pretty much every opportunity he gets because the only thing that matters to him is major league success, and anything that isn’t major league success isn’t important. I understand where he’s coming from, though I disagree with the attitude vehemently. Most Americans don’t live in one of the 27 cities with a Major League team. That Cubs writer misses that; as a native Chicagoan, he’s only known major league baseball. Live, in-person baseball for most Americans means small stadiums filled with players on small contracts and big dreams. And a lot of those players aren’t ever going to make it to “the show.” They’ll hit their ceiling in High-A or AA. They’ll learn they might have been the best player a small college in Minnesota has ever seen, but under the lights in a small concrete stadium in Kinston, North Carolina they’ll discover that they can’t lay off that curve ball off the plate in the dirt or they can’t get a good read off the bat of a ball hit into the gap.
I like minor league baseball. Okay, the between-innings stuff is goofy and, in my opinion, takes away from what’s important — the baseball — but minor league baseball, as an idea, is fun and exciting and, in a way, what I remember from when I was little. I did not, technically, go to minor league baseball games when I was a kid. My dad would take me and my siblings to see the Harrisonburg Turks, a team in the Valley League, a collegiate summer league. But when you’re seven or eight, you don’t know the difference. It’s a baseball game, in a stadium, the players are wearing uniforms, there are umpires, and they all take it seriously. In the Valley League — and the minors, too — players have dreams. When I was eight years old, the players were older than me. Now, when I go to a Senators game, all the players are much younger than I am. (I remember looking at a Senators program this year and, when I saw that one of the Senators’ players was from the Raleigh area I realized that he could have shopped my EB Games store a decade ago, when he was maybe thirteen.) They have dreams of big stadiums, filled with fifty thousand people, and the big plays that people will remember forever. Those are good dreams.
This week I pulled the trigger. I bought the 13-ticket plan — every Sunday of the Senators’ season, plus Opening Day and Memorial Day — for a seat in the grandstand not far from the media booth — and a few rows higher up than I had last year on my six-game plan. My schedule looks like this:
- April 9 6:30pm — Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- April 12 1:30pm — Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- April 26 1:30pm — Reading Fightin’ Phils (Philadelphia Phillies)
- May 10 1:30pm — Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- May 24 6:30pm — New Britain Rock Cats (Colorado Rockies)
- May 25 1:30pm — New Britain Rock Cats (Colorado Rockies)
- June 14 1:30pm — Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees)
- June 28 1:30pm — Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- July 12 1:30pm — Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers)
- July 26 1:30pm — Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)
- August 16 1:30pm — Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)
- August 23 1:30pm — Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox)
- September 6 1:30pm — Akron Rubberducks (Cleveland Indians)
As you can see, there’s a lot of Altoona on that schedule. Fortunately, tickets can be exchanged for other games, and it’s possible — no, likely — that I’ll exchange a few of these.
Opening Day, for instance. That’s a day that my publications go to press. It’s very unlikely that I would be able to leave work early enough to get to Harrisburg for the game, so I’m already thinking about exchanging that for a mid-week game where I could leave the office early or simply take the day off. A late May mid-week series against the Binghampton Mets might work, or a mid-June mid-week series against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Plus, my favorite place to sit in Metro Bank Park is not the grandstand. It’s the bleachers. Section 303, row 8 or 9. That’s a great place to take in a game. There’s a great angle on the action, and you’re high enough up that the grandstand itself doesn’t obstruct the view of homeplate. Chances are I’ll trade a ticket or three for a bleacher seat in section 303.
Thankfully, when I’m planning on going to Nats Park next year (the Cubs are in DC the first weekend in June) doesn’t coincide with my Senators ticket plan.
The ticket plan wasn’t expensive, either. Just a shade over a hundred dollars, which works out to about eight dollars per game.
I realize the World Series hasn’t even started yet, and here I am making my baseball plans for next year. It’s the Cubs fan in me; you learn “There’s always next year” as a mantra, almost a prayer, when you’re a Cubs fan. The post-season is something that happens to other teams.
My thoughts on this post-season?
Frankly, the Royals look like the Team of Destiny to me. Things were shaky in that Wild Card game, they haven’t exactly been dominant, and yet they cut through the Angels and the Orioles like a buzzsaw.
On the National League side, I can’t say I pulled for either team in the NLCS. The Cardinals I simply cannot root for under any circumstances, and the Giants knocked out the Nationals in the NLDS. Yet, the enemy of my enemy may be my situational ally, and so in this instance I had a tolerance, albeit a mild one, for the Giants.
As for the World Series itself, I’m indifferent. I’ll pull for the Royals, because of the whole “Team of Destiny” thing, but I don’t know if I’ll watch it. At least this year’s match-up doesn’t fill me with a visceral hatred like last year’s Cardinals/Red Sox series where I was rooting, frankly, for the Baseball Gods to make the sun go nova and spare us all. But the Baseball Gods are cruel and indifferent bastards. Joe Shlabotnik, I believed in you!
What about 2015?
The Nationals aren’t going to run away with the National League East as they did this year, where they were the only team to finish with a winning record. The NL East is going to be tough next season. Atlanta is getting its top pitchers back from Tommy John surgery. The Mets and the Marlins should have talent coming up through the pipeline; they could both challenge for the division. The Phillies are going to be woeful, but that’s to be expected. It’s going to be a rough division, and probably tight until the very end.
The Cubs are, in my opinion, on the cusp of being scary good. 2015 could very well be for the Cubs what 2012 was for the Nationals.
Pitchers and catchers report in four months. The leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, winter is almost here. Inevitably, however, spring training follows winter, summer follows spring training, and summer means baseball.
I can hardly wait!