The Other Opening Day

April 8, 2008

A week ago I went to Opening Day for the other Red Sox team. That’s correct, the Pawtucket Red Sox.

The day was Thursday, April 3 and it was about 40 degrees and windy. In the stands I saw children whining because of the cold and relationships crumbling because a good-sized sampling of men had decided a chilly Spring day at a baseball game was romantic.

It wasn’t on the level of a lobster dinner, a diamond ring, a bottle of wine or even a leftover Russell Stover’s chocolate with a thumbnail in the bottom.

Baseball can be romantic and romanticized (see my latest Bowl of Cheese podcast reading of Casey at the Bat), but early-season games are not in that class.

The games that take place at the start of the season are sloppy events that feature amateurish play, questionable conditions, infrastructure glitches and final scores that often resemble grade-school soccer results rather than playoff hockey tallies.

At this particular Opening Day in Pawtucket, RI, We saw the hometown team beat the Indianapolis Indians 3-0. There were seven pitchers who took part in the shut-out and each team contributed to the total of three errors on the night.

On the whole the game and the experience was similar to what people will see today at Fenway Park except for a few exceptions. Here’s my list of how minor league baseball stacks up against major league baseball and why it pays to buy season tickets for the former instead of mortgaging your house to say you were in the stands when Papi hit a homer to win the Series or some such rot.

In the minors you seldom pay for parking.
For a major league game you routinely pay $40 or more to leave your car for four hours.

Minor league games take the requisite two hours and 37 minutes to play.
The big league now is approaching 210 minutes per game on average.

A hot dog at McCoy costs a couple bucks. And you can get a beer for $5.
Fenway vendors require a credit check before you can gobble a frank and guzzle a beer.

Sightlines in Pawtucket are clear, which allows you to see the game in all its glory.
The poles, sideways orientation and tiny seats require you to be a yoga expert just to watch a game at Fenway. Luckily, people are constantly wandering in front of you so what you don’t miss because of your spot in the stadium is blocked by fat people carrying beer.

People actually stand up and sing the national anthem and God Bless America when they’re played at the minor league park.
Fans use these times to make cell phone calls, shout for vendors or talk loudly with companions when this music is played at Fenway.

A random sampling of fans from both parks revealed that the best place to watch the PawSox play is in Pawtucket at the stadium.
Fans in Boston said that the best place to see the MLB game is – in order – at home with a mini cooler next to the couch, at a bar that has big-screen TVs all over the place, in the luxury box at the ballpark, and finally while standing in line at the concessions. Trying to watch the game from the stands is insane unless you have seats on the wall.

Which leads to my last point…price.

The most expensive box seat to see the Pawtucket Red Sox is $10.
The most expensive box seat at Fenway is the cost of a new scooter and a beach house on Cape Cod for a week in August.

I hope the Red Sox win their home opener, but I’ll be about 45 minutes south at the time the first pitch is thrown. I’ll likely be settling into my spacious $10 seat, three rows from the field about halfway down the third-base line at the same time jets fly over Fenway.

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s anything minor about the superior entertainment value offered by the Pawtucket Red Sox. And I wish some big league teams…including the Red Sox…would step to the plate to offer a similar product to their fans.

Play ball!