The US was recovering from the Civil War and the railroads were connecting cities across the nation. With the latter happening, a new industry came into its infancy-professional baseball. (although leagues have been recorded as early as 1845) Major League teams like the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs can trace their roots to the early 1870’s. Since that time, baseball has been declared ‘America’s Pastime’ by congress, has seen a baseball player sign a 400 million dollar contract and has garnered a following across the globe.
Today, if you count the Major Leagues, Minor Leagues, and independent leagues, there are well over a hundred professional baseball teams scattered across the United States. So, generally, a quality baseball game is not that far away. Considering many smaller cities play home to minor league teams, a fairly affordable outing is well within reach.
Here, the local minor league team resides in Appleton, Wisconsin, a little over half an hour away. The Timber Rattlers may not have the history of the Cubs or Braves, having started in 1958 and using the moniker the Fox Cities Foxes (later and more commonly known as the Appleton Foxes), but sixty years of baseball is still pretty darn good. Alex Rodriguez played as an Appleton Fox and Cal Ripken Sr. Managed the team in 1962.
What makes the Rattlers a great draw is that they’re the in-state affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Brewers’ fans can watch the emerging talent that may one day, if they stay on track and are not traded, find themselves under the roof of Miller Park.
I’m a huge Brewers fan, and baseball fan in general. So, even if I’ve seen plenty of Major League games, my first minor league game in Wisconsin was just last year. It was such fun, I returned last Friday deciding it would make a fun blog.
We arrive at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium at 5:30 pm. The slated game does not start till 7:05, despite that fact there is a steady stream of cars filing into the parking lot. We pay the small fee of $5 to park and follow the lot attendants as they direct me to a spot near the stadium.
As we bound with anticipation, I think of all the events taking place at the field tonight. It’s Pokémon night. Naturally, there will be some fans dressed as their favorite character. There will also be Fireworks after the game. And, if that wasn’t enough, the Rattlers are playing a make-up game at this moment.
I’m not sure how the Midwest League rules work, so I don’t know if I can enter the stadium to see the first game. As we make our way to the gate, a young girl is singing karaoke, while a crowd is gathered to watch her perform. We reach the gate and flash our full sheet tickets, which I purchased on line and printed at home, and have no troubles getting in.
I should mention, I purchased the tickets online earlier in the week. There is a discount when purchasing tickets online. However, after figuring in the surcharge, the tickets were twenty-five cents more than if purchased at the window. There are three options when purchasing online: You can receive the tickets by mail, you can have them waiting at the will call booth or print them at home. There is no electronic delivery, at least from what I found.
We meander towards the team store, enjoy some beer samples from Badger State Brewery and take in the vibrant atmosphere. We find our seats behind the home team dugout(which are valued at $15 a seat) and enjoy the last part of the first game. The game ends disappointingly, due in large part to a base running blunder.
After the first game, we decide to check out the goings on. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the game. There are the club box seats that are perched above every other seat in the stadium. Of course these seats come with perks such as catering and comfort at a cost of $20. There are also ‘all you can eat’ seats for $29 dollars per person. With beer prices starting at $6.25 for a 16oz cup and a small hot dog starting at $3.25(brats and burgers are $6.25) this is not a bad option. You sit at bistro style tables and enjoy the game.
Of course if you just want to enjoy the game and really don’t care where you sit, you can sit on the grass. Giant grassy berms slope down towards the field of play, allowing those who don’t mind to sit there a view for $9. Basically any seat is a good one, and the prices are definitely affordable. prices sometimes vary, so check before the game.
We mosey towards the picnic deck, which turns out to be a blast. Besides the festival foods concessions, there are craft beers on tap and fun games to play. There’s a giant Jenga and connect four set, a Foos ball table and a pool table-great beer related activities. You can sit on barstool style seats and watch the game from this area if you choose. One must be 21 to enter this part of the stadium. On the other side of the stadium there is a kids zone.
We make it back to our seats and enjoy the game. In between innings, there are all sorts of entertainment, from mini truck races on the field to Brat Bazookas. A Birthday girl was allowed to stand on the dugout while the entire stadium sang happy birthday to her.
The pitcher for the Rattlers was outstanding and the offense scored five runs for an easy 5-0 victory.
We cheer as the final out is recorded, soon after the lights go dim and there is a hush among the crowd. Seconds later, fire works burst over the giant scoreboard in left field. Music accompanies the blooms of light and everyone oohs and ahs.
After the show, I leave with an uplifted spirit. The thought that this feeling has been past down through the generations leaves me in awe, you know, that feeling of simply taking a day in the lively buzz of the ball park. It’s simply a feeling that you wish every one could share.