Take your kids out to the ball game this spring
It’s finally here. Wednesday marks the start of that glorious season when the boys of summer play for our springtime pleasure. The Grapefruit League runs for a month, giving us a chance to see the current and future stars up close before the real baseball season kicks off April 4 with a match up between the World Series champion New York Yankees and the Red Sox in Boston.You can drive down to see the Tampa Bay Rays play in Port Charlotte (and then head a little farther south for a fun day trip), or stay closer to home and see the Yankees in Tampa, the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin or the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.
If you’re taking the kids — and you really should — be sure to make your game plan in advance. Here are some tips for how to make Take Me Out to the Ball Game your kids’ favorite song:Go early: The fun part of spring training is watching the players work out. If you get to the park early, you can stake out a position next to the dugout to get autographs as the players leave the field after practice.
Take your own ball, photos and a Sharpie: You could buy these things at the park but frankly, there is a bit of a markup. It’s like buying the ponchos at Disney. Don’t do it. Take your own so that the players will have something to sign and you won’t be out of extra money. With some tickets topping out over $30, saving a buck or two helps.
Be alert: In the springtime because the parks are generally smaller and more intimate, you need to be aware of where the ball is at all times. And take a glove just in case you can nab the ultimate souvenir for your kids. And it's good for defense in case a ball flies your way.
Try to make a trip to all the bay area parks: Call ahead to see if there are tickets — of course weekend games sell out fast — but this is the advantage of having three teams right in our back yards -- we have a choice and a month-long chance to visit all three.
Have a Plan B: Sure, you want to see Double C make an ESPN-worthy grab in the outfield or Evan hit it out of the park. But sometimes, smaller children might have another plan. Be prepared to walk around the park — a lot. One of the best ideas ever for a ballpark is to include a playground just for these kinds of emergencies. The Phillies spring home, Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, has a playground that will keep the little “fans” happy . And on Thursday, the Phillies will host the Yankees, setting up a rematch of last year's World Series.
Take the kids, have fun and by the end of spring, they will be begging to go to more games during the regular season. And then, you may want to do this. And remember follow all the baseball action right here from the folks who cover the majors.
-- Sherry Robinson
[Getty Images: That's Carl "Double C" Crawford, above, making the catch that saved the All Star Game for the American League in 2009 and got him the MVP award. Times files: Evan Longoria hits a home run in 2008.]