Ease into Summer with a Minor League Baseball Game
To me, a Minor League Baseball game is one of summer’s most relaxing treasures. That’s why on a recent family getaway, my wife and I schlepped our three young kids to a stadium immediately following eight hours at an amusement park to catch a game.
Unsurprisingly, this particular visit did not turn out to be relaxing. We lasted two innings before the justifiable meltdown began, and the kids were all long asleep in our Airbnb a mile from the park by the time we heard the fireworks marking the end of the game.
Despite this misadventure, I stand by my belief that going to a Minor League Baseball game is something that everyone should try to do during the summer — preferably with a friend or two (and if you’re bringing your kids, it helps if they’re well-rested). Whether you like baseball or not, here are six reasons to make a game this summer.
1. It lets you slow down.
The movie “Into Great Silence” is a two-hour, 40-minute, essentially dialogue-less film documenting the lives of the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in the French Alps. There’s no plot: the movie is a series of portraits of the monks praying and working. When I saw the movie in the theater, I spent the first half-hour incredibly antsy, waiting for the “movie” part to start. But then, when I realized this was the movie, I settled into the monastic rhythm; my viewing transformed into a deep prayer experience.
Afterward, I found myself Googling different monasteries I might be able to visit — the movie had uncovered an internal desire in me for slow, quiet space. As the 20th century statesman Dag Hammarskjöld wrote, “We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence.” We don’t often make time to tap into that center in modern life.
Slow is difficult, rare, countercultural, and revitalizing. Go to the park and enter into the rhythm. Let the game unfold in front of you and savor the one popular team sport this side of the planet that doesn’t have a game clock ticking stressfully toward zero. When I can’t fall asleep some nights, I imagine myself sitting in the stands at the Minor League Baseball stadium I grew up going to, and it always calms me down.
2. Conversation is nice (and maybe even ideal) with something going on in the background.
One thing slow action allows for? Good conversation. I always like chatting with people while walking side by side, or watching baseball, as opposed to the pressure of non-stop eye contact. It’s like how the privacy of the confessional in church can create physical and mental space for those who feel uncomfortable looking at the priest. The bit of separation facilitates vulnerability and reduces awkwardness — just what I need after forgetting how to have an in-person conversation with someone over the past two years of isolation.
Also, try talking to someone while watching a basketball or hockey game. The frenzied pace of those sports makes it almost impossible. But I can talk about politics or TV shows or even big life stuff at a baseball game and still follow the action.
3. A sporting event with minimal rooting from the crowd creates a very chill environment.
Most Major League Baseball games involve loud diehard fans who have had too many beers. That’s not always the best setup for the vibe I’m after here, which is 1) chill and 2) for everybody. Most minor league attendees aren’t as invested in who wins, so aside from the handful of obsessives and the players and coaches themselves, everyone’s just there for a good, low-stakes time.
A lightly competitive game featuring impressive-if-not-world-elite physical skill that also doesn’t raise your blood pressure or make anyone stupidly angry at the outcome? Yes, please.
4. Minor League Baseball players could use our support.
The professional athletes I spend most of my sports fandom time following are top-league players who make millions of dollars a year. But that’s just the tiny minority of players in the vast (but shrinking) network of professional baseball in the U.S. Most are minor leaguers who are often making less-than-minimum wage salaries and struggle to find housing during the season.
Some of these players are the stars of the future and have inked large signing bonuses, but most won’t ever see the big leagues. They’re scrapping to make the next level up or, on the other end of their careers, clawing to hold on to the game they love for just a little more time. Away from the distraction of 40,000-person stadiums in major league cities, you can get up close to watch guys playing a game for the sheer delight of it. That’s good for the fan’s soul.
5. In-between inning entertainment is way more creative than what you get at Major League Baseball games.
Part of the “chill vibes, fun for the whole family” spirit of Minor League Baseball is the between-inning entertainment. This is when your deep conversation with your seatmate stops and you focus entirely on the action on the field. If anything, you’re guaranteed a good laugh. Here’s one recent example:
I pumped up the jam… pic.twitter.com/5HPkgPiqeR— Slugger The Sea Dog (@Slugger_SeaDog) May 16, 2022
6. The sport at the minor league level is more experimental all around.
Two words: Savannah Bananas. As this ESPN headline puts it, they are the greatest show in baseball.
If you’re too much of a purist to appreciate the mayhem of hitters on stilts and foul balls caught by fans counting as outs, or if you live far from Savannah, there are plenty of minor league teams experimenting with smaller changes in an attempt to improve the sport at its margins.
The stadium our family went to last month? That league has experimented with stuff like robot umps, larger bases, and a clock limiting the time between pitches that keeps the pleasantly slow pace of the game from turning into a slog.
My biggest complaint about baseball at the major league level is their stubborn refusal to make small tweaks to improve the game. The NBA, by contrast, changes rules every year to improve game play. The baseball minor leagues serve as a laboratory for improvements, and that gives me hope for the future of the sport.
In short, Minor League Baseball is slow, but it’s also funny and entertaining—I’d compare it to being on a mindfulness retreat and then hey, it’s time for a dizzy bat race. All it takes is sitting in the park for a couple of hours to get a peaceful, slow, kinetic, communal experience. That’s a recipe for an ideal summer evening in my book.
Now go buy a pair of eight-dollar tickets and fulfill your holy American summer obligation.