By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
I’ve always enjoyed going to baseball games. I loved it when my dad took me to games, when I went to games with my friends and when I covered baseball games as a member of the media. But my affection for going to baseball games has taken on a completely different meaning over the last decade.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of taking your own child to a game. My wife, Sheryl, and I have had the great joy of bringing our kids to many games over the years. From watching them put those jerseys on, to hopping in the car, to the excitement they have when they see the stadium, to chowing down that hot dog during the game, going to a ballgame is a great way to enjoy some family time.
Bradley is the bigger fan right now. He’s 10 years old, plays little league baseball and loves to keep score at games, but he also likes to spend our money at the team store. Jared is 6, likes to meet Mr. Met and loves it when the apple goes up at Citi Field. But he just can’t sit in his seat for nine innings.
I can’t blame him. Baseball can get a little boring at times, and I even have to get up from time to time and take a walk.
Truth be told, I’m a Yankees fan, but my wife and kids are Mets fans. That’s a story for another blog, but it goes without saying that we have made many more trips to Citi Field than to Yankee Stadium, and there are a few reasons for that. Three out of four people in the house are Mets fans, Flushing is closer, there are no tolls away from Long Island, and Citi Field offers a lot more than just a baseball game to a family of four.
But next season, it’s a good bet that we’ll be visiting the Bronx more often because Yankee Stadium is undergoing a series of enhancements that includes a children’s zone.
Now I know the sports purists will say that it’s nonsense that the Yankees are doing this. In fact, there have been plenty of traditional baseball fans who have also snickered at the other planned stadium improvements, such as social gathering spots, new food and drink areas, interactive exhibits and, yes, a private space for nursing moms. I get the fact that there are many fans that maintain going to a baseball game is just going to a baseball game.
That might be the case if you’re a mature fan going to the game with other adults, teenagers having a blast watching their favorite teams or anyone who simply wants to just go watch the game. The reality is that anyone who falls into that category can still do that. The Yankees are not taking that away from you. What they are doing is making it easier for a family to have as stress-free a day or night at the ballpark as possible.
When my family and I go to a Mets game, we get there early so the kids can take some swings at Kiddie Field and the batting cage, go to the dunk tank and play a baseball video game. Then we go to the seats, watch a little batting practice, have lunch or dinner, and watch the game. But during the game, if the kids need to get up for a bit, we’ll take a walk back to the Fan Fest or up to the Coca-Cola corner, where there are some interactive games. Then it’s back to the seats.
At Yankee Stadium, there have been no alternative entertainment options for kids. How many times can I show them Thurman Munson’s locker at the museum?
I’ve only taken my younger son, Jared, to one Yankee game, but now I’ll take him more often because there will be other things, aside from the game, that he will enjoy. The Kids Clubhouse is a great idea because there will be baseball-themed things to do there. Yes, we’re at a baseball game, but the playground will also be a tool for kids to fall in love with the sport.
Kids aren’t the only ones who need a diversion at games. Go to any Mets or Yankees game and you see plenty of adults taking a walk while the game is going on. The great thing about both ballparks is that you can still watch the game while moving around. But Citi Field has always had the edge, in my opinion, because of that vast space behind the outfield.
Now Yankee Stadium will have the same features with the expanded Batter’s Eye Deck, bullpen landings, sports lounge and party decks. I completely understand that there are plenty of fans that couldn’t care less about this and will simply continue to go to the Bronx to watch baseball, and they should continue to do that. But it boggles my mind that so many people have had negative things to say about what the Yankees are doing.
Are the Yankees doing this because they have seats to sell? Yes, no question.
Are they catering to families to get more people in the ballpark to sell more food, drink and souvenirs? Affirmative.
This should have been part of the original plan for the new stadium when it opened in 2009. Seven years later, the Yankees have realized that they needed to do more to attract families to the Bronx, and they’ve come up with some terrific stuff here. They are also lowering the seating capacity, which will create more of a demand for tickets if the Yankees start winning again. They also will be offering more affordable tickets and will soon introduce variable and dynamic ticket pricing.
A baseball team makes both bad moves and good moves when it comes to putting together a roster. The Yankees have been on both ends of the spectrum in recent years, and that has contributed to many empty seats in the ballpark. There’s no doubt in my mind that Yankees’ attendance will improve in 2017, when the new features are scheduled to open. A better team will help that happen, but the stadium enhancements are going to attract more families to the Bronx.
The playground and other improvements might seem silly to some people, but what’s the harm in making it easier for a family to have some fun on a Wednesday night in May? If I’m there with a friend, I’m watching the game and having conversation. If I’m there with my family, which will be a more frequent occurrence next season, it will be a day or night of baseball and a little bit of fun for the kids.
I’m sure the commissioner will like having more young fans coming to Yankees games because they’ll be the ones buying tickets for their children years from now.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.