Take Me Out To The Ball Game…
Two years, countless diapers, and nearly 365 games of regular season baseball has elapsed since Spring Training 2014. That’s two full seasons of warm summer nights, Cracker Jacks, and hot dogs for those of you trying to keep up on the math. So what has changed? Oh not much, just the arrival of our youngest daughter, Evelyn. The warmest, proudest moment of my life; nothing could have prepared me for the major curve ball she would throw in the attempt to attend Spring Training baseball games for the next four seasons and counting. This is my “hit it here” guide to child essentials while attending Spring Training with a baby. It gets real, dads. So grab your pen and paper and get ready to take some notes. Let us go back in time to March 2014.
My wife Michelle and I had just been married in the fall of 2013. Life was good. We were enjoying the honeymoon phase with frequent trips, and planned date nights – all the things you can do before you have a toddler to chase. We visited Arizona in the spring of 2014 to attend our friend’s wedding and while in town we were able to take in a Spring Training game, kid-free. It was amazing. We walked around the Peoria Sports Complex without a care in sight. Our biggest concern was finding a cold beer to drink and a shady spot to sit to watch the game. The feel of the big leagues in a small town stadium was priceless. It was just her and me, and with that freedom came the ability to concentrate on baseball. What a thought – attend a game and actually watch it. The must haves for this date night at the ball park were no more than our sporting spirit and money to spend. The food lived up to our expectation of greasy ball park dogs and Cracker Jacks. The atmosphere was enjoyable. The players at finger tip length and the game more engaging than ever. All you need with this kid free night is your love for America’s pastime. Let’s recap: 2014 Spring Training, no kid(s), great food, bottomless beer (at a price of course), entertaining game to watch, great atmosphere, care-free time as newlyweds.
Fast forward to 2016… my family and I have relocated to the Phoenix area from Seattle just in time for Spring Training. That’s two tweens, 12, 9, and baby, Evie, at 15 months old. Lucky us, our baseball loving friends came into town as they travel to kick off the new baseball season. I was so excited and constantly making plans with my Seattleites to spend days at the ball park. How often did I actually follow through with those plans?… ZERO TIMES. I did however have the chance to take in a few Spring Training games with the family. Game one, ALONE! Yes dads, you heard that correctly – I took 3 children to a Spring Training game by myself. What in the world was I thinking? I guess I thought it was going to be just like 2014 – wrong!
Parking at the stadium gets an A+ for easy access. Golf carts pick up the overwhelmed dad holding a baby, diaper bag, and two long faced hungry tweenagers. In my mind I’m thinking the day would go just as smooth as the cart ride. I scanned our tickets and entered the baseball game (also see circus). First things first dads – find the seats or find a beer, because this might be your only chance for both. One step through the gate and already I hear “I’m hungry.” I can’t deny that the smell of popcorn and hot dogs makes me fairly hungry too. Before I even saw the field at Peoria Sports Complex that took me back to childhood-less aspirations of 2014, I was standing at a hot dog stand with three kids. $35.00 dollars later and still no beer in hand. I’ll give this a B. Finally after stomachs were full and energy had elevated a bit, we were off to find our seats. We sat along the third baseline with a very nice view and plenty of room, granted I would not sit down for one entire inning … thanks to the toddler. Seating gets a B+ for effort. The older two children sat very intently and enjoyed the game while I went scrambling around our section chasing after a 15 month old, trying to prevent her from falling down stairways, lose her in crowds, let her get sun burned, and all the while praying for no meltdowns ( I don’t want to be that guy with that kid). Basically, I was trying to keep her alive. It worked, but at the expense of watching about 3 minutes of the game. There is no play area for toddlers. I get it this isn’t theactual park; they do a good job making the atmosphere enjoyable for the fans.
By the 5th inning the older kids were ready to explore the stadium, which in kids’ language means “take me to the gift shop and buy me something.” We make our way to the pro shop, and yes dads, I folded. I spent $35 on a stuffed monkey and $22 on a mini bat. When I walked out I could not believe I had spent nearly $60 on things I thought I could find at a garage sale for a dollar. But the kids were happy and like the cashier said, “you probably have spent $60 on far worse before.” True. The gift shop experience gets a C. Limited variety and overpriced. At this point it was the 7th inning, and for a dad with 3 kids by himself, it was really the bottom of the 9th. We exited and I never looked back. I couldn’t tell you what the score was or any stats; all I knew was I didn’t get to try a nice draft IPA and I hadn’t sat down in 3 hours. The kids had some decent memories. I was plain exhausted.
A Swing And A Miss…
Tips on surviving a baseball game solo with the kids:
- Never attend a game alone with kids (thanks wife). Baseball is a team sport for a reason!
- Have plenty of baby essentials in your diaper bag: foods, drinks, toys, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, etc. But no need to go overboard! The truth is … if your toddler is walking, you’re just SOL.
- Sit in the grass (if you can, though at regular season games this may not be possible). This way the tween can run after the baby in 5 min shifts and you can catch your breath.
- Avoid the gift shop and substitute with ice cream. Trust me $10 for ice cream sounds way better than $60 for garage sale junk.
- No matter how difficult it can be, stay positive. The kids are taking in the memories and that’s really what matters most.
Let us know what you thought of this North Phoenix dad’s tips on flying solo at the baseball game with the kids in the comments below. Are there any tips or tricks you want to share? We hope you enjoyed this lighthearted post from a different point of view. PLAY BALL!