Monday, July 20, 2009


While everyone associated with minor league baseball--affiliated or non-affiliated, staffer or fan--has known it all along, it is nice to see broader recognition that this is one of the best summer values around. Heaven knows, we need bargains in these times of all sorts of financial perils around us.

Credit Sports Illustrated magazine for this latest recognition by ranking minor league baseball as No. 7 on its list of the "25 Best Summer Sports Bargains."

Then, examine the list more closely and minor league baseball jumps up, essentially to No. 1. There cannot even be much argument that minor league baseball is the absolute top attraction for families coast to coast.

SI has $1 Fridays at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ ranked first, but this is hardy family entertainment and it is in only one location, not the more than 200 communities with professional minor league baseball. Other single location events follow Monmouth Park in positions two and three, and No. 4 is Cape Cod League baseball, which is a great treat but takes place only in this Massachusetts resort area.

The Newport Polo Club in Portsmouth, RI gets fifth place billing, followed by the semi-pro North American Football League which is not going to have 200 organized sites.

That brings us to No. 7, which is Minor League Baseball.

A great reputation is a wonderful thing, and that is what got the Cape Cod League its billing and placed the longtime Independent Baseball favorite Saint Paul (MN) Saints at No. 14 as well as being the only individual team from Abner Doubleday's grand sport on the list.

This is meant as praise for the Cape and the Saints. Both have earned their spurs, the Cape because that is where many of this country's top collegiate players have been spending their summers honing their skills for decades. Each individual team on the Cape has an imposing list of players who have gone on to major league stardom.

The Saints came out of the chute with zest back in 1993, the first season of modern day Independent Baseball. They grabbed attention with former major leaguers hoping to prolong their career, and with the involvement of actor Bill Murray and Mike Veeck, who started creating the zaniness fans love. Both remain involved today, with Veeck heading up the staff that still does the type of stunts the Sports Illustrateds of the world and the everyday fan loves.

"...the between-innings stunts make the ticket costs (as low as $5 a pop) one of the best deals of the summer," the magazine praised. "A pig delivers baseballs to the umpire between innings, and upcoming promotion nights include Twitter-my-face (this Thursday) and pocket-protector giveaway night (Friday) which features The Nerd Pride Parade."

So load up the kids, the neighbors or whomever you like to be with and take advantage of some days and nights of minor league baseball. There is a team not far from home. Relaxing and smiling at inexpensive prices are not bad, either.

Bob Wirz

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