Well, I’m not American but I can still give thanks this time of year.
I’m relatively new to the joys of minor league baseball but the fact is that I wouldn’t be here writing for and co-editing Grading on the Curve without a love of minor league ball. Where else can you get right up close and personal with the players, knowing that they hear you when you shout from the stands?
Ok, I’ll admit that I saw more games from the press box (I’m using that term metaphorically) than as a fan. That means that shouting and cheering is generally not the most approved of behavior for a member of the media. On the other side of things there’s no way that I would have gotten media accreditation for a major league team at this point in my writing career and I would have had to fight through the other hordes of writers and broadcasters just to get an interview.
One of the great things about the minor leagues is the intimacy. Players can get to know the fans and media in a way that just doesn’t happen at the major league level. While they may be heroes in the smaller towns that host minor league teams, players understand that they’re grinding things out on buses and with lousy food. They don’t feel like they’ve arrived yet and they’re always working to move that next rung on the ladder. This, in my experience, keeps them humble and approachable. I haven’t once, visiting four different minor league clubhouses, experienced a player who refused to talk to me and several went out of the way just to make sure that I got what I needed.
Reason number two that I love minor league baseball: You can get closer to the game.
This is a no-brainer for me. I spend much of my summers on baseball and softball diamonds as an umpire and, having seen so much (good) ball from directly behind the catcher, I find it difficult to feel like I’m a part of the game sitting in the upper deck of a stadium a hundred feet away. When you’re closer to the action, the crack of the bat doesn’t just alert you to the fact that something’s happening on the field, it rings in your ears and creates the excitement of what is possible.
Reason number three: It’s cheaper.
I’m not rich. I can’t afford to go to too many Blue Jays games and when I do, I can’t afford to do things like eat a lot of food, drink a lot of beer or buy a lot of merchandise. Minor League ball parks make really enjoying the ballpark experience a lot more fan-friendly. When most tickets are priced in the $10-$12 range and food and beer prices a lot more reasonable (but definitely not “cheap”), its’ easier to really go all out and enjoy yourself instead of feeling guilty about how much money you’re spending.
Reason number four: The game isn’t as good.
Yes, I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it. What makes a game entertaining? Lots of hits? Lots of strikeouts? Lots of people doing things they’re not supposed to do? The players just aren’t as good and that’s why it’s the minor leagues. You’re going to see bonehead plays, errors, big swings that get nothing but air. It’s much more fun to watch than guys who are just on the cusp of perfection.
These are some of the reasons that I love minor league baseball so much. What are yours?