Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Open for business at the ballpark

As restrictions loosen, Minor League teams get creative
From movie nights to character cruises to team store debuts, Minor League teams are finding ways to bring fans to the ballpark.
@BensBiz
May 21, 2020

All 50 states are in the process of reopening their economies while easing lockdown restrictions. What this means varies from state to state and sometimes even town to town. Minor League Baseball teams, like businesses everywhere, are cautiously determining how to proceed. While there are no plans in place to

All 50 states are in the process of reopening their economies while easing lockdown restrictions. What this means varies from state to state and sometimes even town to town. Minor League Baseball teams, like businesses everywhere, are cautiously determining how to proceed. While there are no plans in place to start the season, teams across the country are staging -- or will soon stage -- events at or around their ballparks. What follows are some examples. Certainly, there will soon be more to come.

On April 18, the Omaha Storm Chasers became the first team to stage a coronavirus-era fireworks show. It was a success, and a second show took place on May 9. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are following suit on Saturday with what they're calling a "Drive-In Fireworks Show." The cost is $10 per vehicle and tickets must be purchased in advance. Fans must remain in their cars and no restrooms or concessions will be available. The IronPigs, following the Storm Chasers' lead, have partnered with a local FM station to provide the soundtrack to the fireworks display.

The fireworks show won't be the IronPigs' first parking lot-based event. On May 9, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate hosted a "Character Cruise-Thru," during which fans drove through the Coca-Cola Park parking lot while waving hello to a variety of superheroes, princesses and team mascots. A second Character Cruise-Thru is scheduled for May 30 and will include rare offseason appearances by both Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Meanwhile, the Storm Chasers soon will be allowing fans on to the Werner Park playing field. From June 2-4, fans can book the field for $100 an hour. Restrictions apply, of course. No more than 10 people are allowed on the field at one time and everyone must bring their own equipment.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels were scheduled to play their first noon game of the season on Wednesday. Instead, they turned that noon game into a "NOon Game" promotion. The Twins' Class A affiliate allowed upwards of 150 fans into Veterans Memorial Stadium for a socially distanced afternoon at the ballpark. A classic Kernels game was shown on the videoboard and food and drinks were available for purchase.

The Kernels' team store reopened for business on Monday and is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Perhaps the most notable team store opening occurred in Kannapolis, Norht Carolina. The Cannon City Supply Company, located at the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers' home of Atrium Health Park, is now operational. Atrium Health Park is one of four Minor League ballparks set to debut in 2020. The others are located in Madison, Alabama; Wichita, Kansas; and Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Atrium Health Park is one of Minor League Baseball's newest stadiums. Jackie Robinson Ballpark, home of the Daytona Tortugas, is one of the oldest. The Tortugas have found a creative use for their venerable facility, so named because Jackie Robinson spent 1946 Spring Training there as a newly signed member of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. On Friday, the Reds' Class A Advanced affiliate is screening the Robinson biopic 42 at the ballpark. Attendees will watch the film from the playing field, which has been divided into a series of socially distanced 10-foot by 10-foot family spaces (10-foot by 20-foot "mega" spaces also are available). Gates open at 7 p.m. and the movie begins at 7:42. The ballpark's concession stands will be open and stocked, of course, with plenty of popcorn.

The Tortugas are allowing people on the field to watch a movie. The Rocky Mountain Vibes have taken things a step further. On Wednesday, the Brewers' Rookie Advanced affiliate announced a Drive-In Movie Night screening of Back to the Future that will take place inside UCHealth Ballpark. The Vibes had 140 on-field parking spaces available, which sold out in a matter of hours. As with the fireworks shows in Omaha and Lehigh Valley, audio will be provided by a local FM station. Vendors -- wearing masks and gloves -- will roam the "aisles" selling food and beverages.

An arguably even more creative use of the field can be found at Pensacola's Blue Wahoos Stadium, as the Twins' Double-A affiliate has opened Bubba Watson's Diamond Disc Golf Challenge, a nine-hole course designed by the two-time Masters champion (and Blue Wahoos co-owner). A round costs $5 and a set of three new discs are available for $25. Stay tuned for an MiLB.com story on the Blue Wahoos' disc golf endeavor, appearing next week.

The Blue Wahoos were the first team to offer in-stadium dining and they're offering yet another first: in-stadium trivia. The team's "Wizarding Wahoos" Harry Potter promotion, originally scheduled for May 30, is taking place tonight in the form of a ballpark trivia competition.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com. Read his work here, and follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz