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'Take me out to the ball game'

April 03, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

The crack of the bat. The slap of a hardball into a leather mitt. The roar of the crowd. Baseball season is here again.

Baseball season began this week for the big leagues. Minor league action in the region starts tonight.

There are seven minor league ballparks within roughly a 100-mile radius of Hagerstown. Four major league teams play close enough for a day trip. (View map)

The closest pro baseball team to Hagerstown is, of course, the Hagerstown Suns, the Washington Nationals' Single A affiliate.

Minor leagues run from rookie or short season where, typically, players who were just drafted or just out of high school start, all the way to Triple A, from which many major leaguers are called up, said C.J. Johnson, assistant general manager for the Suns. The Single A level has lower level teams, like the Suns, and advanced level teams like the Frederick Keys. Players progress through the levels as their skill level improves.

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The Suns are starting their season on the road. They will have their home opener Friday, April 11, concluding with fireworks. Opening night will be one of 14 nights this season featuring fireworks.

One of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 National Guard cars will be parked in Municipal Stadium plaza on opening night and on July 12 so fans can pose for pictures with it.

Other promotions for the Suns this season include a bobblehead modeled after Maryland Symphony Orchestra's conductor, Elizabeth Schulze, that will be given to the first 1,000 fans on June 7.

The Suns will be playing on new infield sod and dirt this season. Johnson said he believed this is the first time the infield has been replaced since the stadium opened in 1981.

See the action

You want to take the family out to the ball game?

The Herald-Mail assembled the costs for a day trip for a family of four, with two adults and two children younger than 12, to ballparks in the region.

The costs include cheap seats, four hot dogs, two bottled waters and two medium sodas. When prices were available for kids' sodas and hot dogs, those were used. Shipping and handling charges for tickets were not included.

One note: Ticket prices for major league teams vary from regular games to prime games. Some teams charge more for games on certain dates or against certain teams. In our comparison, regular game tickets were used.

Some teams offer discounts for food or package deals for tickets and food. We did not use these prices.

The driving distance was determined using Rand McNally's online mileage calculator with The Herald-Mail building in downtown Hagerstown as the starting point.

Here is a listing of information about the minor and major league teams in the area.




Major league teams



BALTIMORE ORIOLES



Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Next home game: 7:05 p.m. tonight vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Tickets: $8 to $80; free for ages 2 and younger, but must sit on parent's lap

Contact: 888-848-BIRD (2473); baltimore.orioles.mlb.com

Features: New LED video and scoreboards, including one on the right-field wall, for better video and animation. Known for Boog's BBQ behind the centerfield bleachers. (Boog Powell was all-star Orioles' first baseman in 1960s and 1970s.

Distance: 74 miles (1 hour, 21 minutes)

Family of four: $57.50

WASHINGTON NATIONALS



Nationals Park,Washington, D.C.

Next home game: 6:35 p.m. Friday, April 11. Fireworks follow.

Tickets: $5 to $335 (most expensive are presidential seats during premium game); free for ages 2 and younger, but must sit on parent's lap

Contact: 888-632-NATS (6287); washington.nationals.mlb.com

Features: The brand-new stadium has an almost completely open view of the field from the main concourse so fans at the concession stands can still see the action live. The menu includes a burger topped with crabmeat, vegetarian fare such as chili, and regional specialty foods when certain visiting teams are playing.

Distance: 76 miles (1 hours, 29 minutes)

Family of four: $20 for four grandstand tickets, available day of game. Food prices not available by press time.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES



PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Home opener: 1:35 p.m. Monday, April 7, vs. Chicago Cubs

Tickets: $9 to $210; free for children shorter than 30 inches, but must sit on parent's lap

Contact: 800-BUY-BUCS (289-2827); pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com

Features: Known for cityscape background behind outfield and view of Roberto Clemente bridge behind centerfield. Also known for Primanti Bros. sandwich that contains fries, coleslaw, provolone, tomato and choice of lunchmeat including turkey, ham or roast beef. Kids run bases after Sunday games.

Distance: 177 miles (3 hours, 3 minutes)

Family of four: $51

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES



Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pa.

Next home game: 1:05 p.m. today vs. Washington Nationals

Tickets: $16 to $50; free for ages 2 and younger, but must sit on parent's lap

Contact: 215-463-1000; philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com

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