There is nothing quite like singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with your child at his first seventh inning stretch. That was one of the highlights of our recent trip to see the Kansas City T-Bones play at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas.The T-bones are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Kansas is home to two of the league’s teams, the T-Bones and the Wingnuts who play at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita. The T-Bones have been in Kansas City for nine years. It is minor league play, but major league family fun.My boys had never been to a professional baseball game before. This was just their speed. It was big enough to be exciting, but not so large to be overwhelming. I think the minor leagues try harder to make sure your whole experience is entertaining. The ball play level is somewhere between Class A and AA. That means, they make mistakes, but you still get to see some great plays. Some players have no prior professional experience. Some are major league veterans.Entertainment at the games is certainly not limited to the field. It is like a big show between every inning. Fans have the chance to participate in contests. You may be asked do the wave or dance for the camera. You watch other fans do things like ride kiddie tractors, throw food, milk pretend “cows” or eat frozen custard in an effort to win prizes. My personal favorite event was the eye-ball toss, sponsored by a local optometrist, where the T-bones staff threw foam rubber eye shaped balls into the stands. A double play won our section $10 coupons for free games at the nearby Dave & Busters, and when the opposing team’s designated “strike out” player did not actually strike out, the section next to us was awarded free Chick-fil-A sandwiches anyway. What I liked best about going to the T-Bones game was that fun atmosphere. You can tell they don’t take themselves too seriously. They just want you to have a good time.The T-Bones experience made me think this must have been what going to a baseball game was like back when it was truly the great American pastime. The price of the ticket does not break the budget. So, you can actually afford those peanuts and cracker jacks. There does not seem to be a bad seat in the house. The stadium is smaller than a major league stadium. When the opposing team’s coach was thrown out of the game, we got to see the screaming and yelling up close. Parking is free, which means a T-Bones evening of live entertainment can cost you less than going out to the movies.The Legends shopping center provides nearby dining, shopping and entertainment for before or after the game. You could also make a weekend of it and stay at the nearby Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park.Then, of course, there is the opportunity to see your child enjoy a seventh inning stretch. That piece of the American experience just cannot be replicated. My six-year-old had learned the song in kindergarten. It was fun to take him out to the ballgame and show him what it was all about.
Karen Ridder is a freelance writer living in Topeka. A former News Producer for KSNW-TV in Wichita, her work can also been seen in print publications including: Topeka Magazine, TK Magazine and the Topeka Capital-Journal. She has written for several national blogs and was recently recognized as one of the 2011 winners in the Annual Kansas Factual Story Contest. Karen has lived in Kansas for 15 years and married a native Wichitan. Together they are raising two little sunflower boys and a dog named George.