On Sunday April 6, 2014 my wife Tara and I attended a game between the New Britain Rock Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins and the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, at the New Britain Stadium in Connecticut. According to the Fan Cost Index, the cost of a package including 4 adult average-price tickets, 2 small draft beers, 4 small soft drinks, 4 regular-size hot dogs, parking for 1 car, 2 game programs and 2 caps at Major League Parks range from $150 to $340. The highest cost teams are the Red Sox $340, the Yankees $325, and the Cubs $305. The lowest cost teams are the Padres $155 and the Diamondbacks $150. A similar package would cost approximately $100 at the New Britain Stadium. However, they also have special packages available such as 4 hot dogs, 4 waters, 4 pop corns, 4 tickets, and parking for $48.
Double-A players are considered two steps away from the Major Leagues. Above Double-A is Triple-A and then the big-time. I talked to the Richmond hitting coach, Ken Joyce, and got the following information about his players. The average age of a player is 23 and the average salary of a player is between $2800 and $3500 a month. He also commented that at least 10 of his players were real Major League prospects. Speaking about players who made it the majors from the Rock Cats we have a very impressive list including Torii Hunter, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, and Michael Cuddyer. The new Yankee sensation Yangervis Solarte played for the Rock Cats in 2010 and 2011.
I had never been to New Britain Stadium so did not know what to expect. Parking the car was very easy. Upon entering the parking lot you were directed to your parking spot by several employees. The cost of parking was $5. As we walked through the stadium we passed what is called “The Fun Zone”. This is a playground with all the equipment geared to baseball. The cost for a child is $5 for the entire day. There is no bad seat in the stadium. The average attendance for a game is 3750. The stadium has over 6146 seats so we had a lot of choices for seats. The baseball field is symmetric with a distance of 330 feet to the foul poles and 400 feet to straight away centerfield. Between innings children are picked out from the stands to participate in such games as a scooter race and a bobble-head contest. Blooper the mascot is available for pictures. The scoreboard showed a picture of each player with his position when they came to bat. The velocity of each pitch was displayed. The food was inexpensive. For example, you could get a hot dog and fries for $4.75. There are two picnic areas and groups are encouraged to attend. In fact, next to the Fun Zone a birthday party was in progress. What better place for a birthday party than at a ballgame? The restrooms were very clean and well-maintained.
The quality of play was very professional. Granted there was no Jeter or Cabrera but it looked like a Major League game. One thing I noticed was the velocity of the pitches stayed below 90 mph. One difference between Double-A and the Major Leagues is there are only 3 umpires instead of 4. The 2 umpires in the field were constantly shifting their positions based on the location of the base-runners.
Granted, I cannot speak for every minor league stadium but I would give a very high rating for the New Britain Rock Cats. For a family with children (especially younger children) taking them to see the New Britain Rock Cats would be a very economical way to expose them to professional baseball. The true baseball fan will find it interesting to predict which of these minor league players actually make it to the majors. Who knows you might be watching the next Morneau or Mauer. In conclusion, the entire family will have a great time and see real professional baseball for an economic price.