Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Take Me Out To The Ball Game....

Take me out to the park....

Everyone knows that New York has two major league parks. Yankee Stadium, home of the Yankees, and Citi Field, home of the Mets. They do not need me singing their praises (OK, maybe Citi Field does. I am a Yankee fan but Citi Field is a great place to see a game). But NYC has two other ball parks that not only offer good baseball but a classic New York experience to boot. And it will cost you a fraction of what a day at one of the major league parks will cost. There are a lot of great minor league ballparks in this country, but you would be hard pressed to find any that offer up the experiences surrounding, and getting to, the ballparks  here in New York.

A trip to Coney Island has been a classic family outing for a long time. After falling on hard times Coney Island has seen a major clean up and resurgence (yes, some would say it is getting a little to clean). You can start with the beach, hanging in the sand and playing in the water. For lunch you have the world famous Nathan's and other boardwalk staples. Then you can hit the amusement parks in the afternoon for rides and games. Every summer we make at least one trip as a family to Coney Island. But as the sun sets, there is no need to go home. Instead, you can head to the ballpark.

From the day the Dodgers left in 1957 to move to LA, Brooklyn had been waiting for baseball to return to the borough. It returned in 2001 with the Cyclones inaugural season. The ballpark has been packed ever since. The Cyclones are one of the big success stories in the Minor Leagues. As you sit in the stands, eating your Nathan's hot dog (of course), you can feel the Brooklyn pride in the air.

The Brooklyn Cyclones are the Single A affiliate of the Mets. They play in MCU Park. The park is located at the western edge of the boardwalk in Coney Island. From the stadium you can see all the attractions you just spent the day enjoying. The amusement parks and rides, including the legendary parachute jump, The Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone are all on view, lighting up as the sky grows dark.  You also have a view of the boardwalk, the beach and the water. Exhausted from your day, you can sit back, relax and enjoyed America's pastime.

Sand and surf. Hot dogs and roller coasters. Baseball. This is summertime in America, Brooklyn style.

The Staten Island Yankees are the Single A affiliate of the Yankees. They play in Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island. The ball park is right next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The Cyclones are their arch rivals and the difference in the experiences is greater than you would expect.

The Cyclones draw a full house every night. They have a huge base in Brooklyn and beyond to draw from. They have the legacy of Brooklyn Baseball. They have Coney Island as a draw. Ask people in New York if they have been to an SI Yanks or Cyclones game and I would guess that out of every ten people that have, eight of them went to a Cyclones game.

The Staten Island Yankees have a much harder time drawing a crowd, despite being an affiliate of the Yankees. Outside of games against the Cyclones, or a Yankee player playing a rehab game there, the park is rarely full. I am going to make the case for why you need to get to a Staten Island Yankees game. I have three main reasons, and the third reason to go is actually what I believe is the main reason keeps people from going.

Reason 1 - It is a great deal. Most minor league games are great deals, and the SI Yanks are no exception. The tickets are cheap and they run a number of promotions. I was there last week with the family. We do an annual outing with another family and have a great time. Because we always have at least ten people we can get a package deal. Here is the deal we had last week.

We paid $22 a person per ticket. We each received a ticket, a free SI Yanks hat and a wrist band that entitled us to use the three all you can eat areas. Unlimited burgers, dogs, chicken sandwiches, chips, water and sodas. Pretty sweet. On top of all this there was a fireworks show at the end of the game and the kids got to go down on to the field and run the bases. For $22. Beat that.

Reason 2 - The view. As good as the view is at a Cyclones game, nothing can beat the view from the SI Yanks ballpark. The stadium is right on the water, next to the ferry terminal, and the view is New York Harbor. As you lean back in your seat you see the water, the boats, the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. You watch they sky change color as the sun sets. You see the orange Staten Island Ferries travel back and forth. You see giant container ships heading out to sea. I have even seen fireboats turned into floating fountains as they tested out and cleared all their hoses and spouts.

Reason 3 - Getting there. I believe the main reason people avoid going to see the SI Yanks from Manhattan is because they have to take the Staten Island Ferry. They will take an hour subway ride or drive to Coney Island, but there is a mental block about a 25 minute Ferry ride. And this is a shame because the reason people put off going to a game is, in fact, one of the highlights of going to a game.

It is incredibly easy to get to the Ferry terminal from just about anywhere in Manhattan. And, unlike most things in New York, the Staten Island Ferry is free! Once you are on board, here is what happens. You pull out into New York Harbor and are greeted with an amazing view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Then, as you pass Governor's Island, lower Manhattan comes into view. As Lower Manhattan grows smaller, you pass by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. You can see the Verrazano bridge in the distance as you pull into Staten Island. It is wonderful. When you return, the reverse happens, and at night the city is lit up, welcoming you back. And I have to admit, after years of having something missing from the view, it inspiring to the the Freedom Tower going up, filling the void, reminding us how resilient New York City is and that it never stands still.

So there you have it. Minor League Baseball. Small town entertainment in the big city. This is what summer is all about. Don't miss it.

Brooklyn Cyclones - www.brooklyncyclones.com

Staten Island Yankees - www.siyanks.com


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