As the price to attend a major league ballgame approaches a month’s wages, many baseball fans are finding unexpected joy at minor league baseball stadiums. Not only are the games affordable, but teams from A-League to AAA go out of their way to make fans’ experiences fun, festive, and family-friendly. Some of the between-the-innings fun and games are creative and hilarious.
Like their major league counterparts, not all minor league stadiums are created equally. The trend, however, is to build new ballparks close to downtown in mid-sized cities to help revitalize the downtown area and lure fans interested in an upscale experience at bargain prices.
Here are five of the best minor league baseball stadiums in the U.S.
- Round Rock, Texas
A stone’s throw from Austin, Dell Diamond is the home of the AAA Round Rock Express, the top-level farm team of the Houston Astros. With the Astros as the parent club—a team blessed with a wealth of talent on the brink of the big leagues—fans are treated to witness stars of tomorrow such as pitcher Forrest Whitley and slugging first baseman Yordan Alvarez.
In addition to it being a haven for emerging greatness, Dell Diamond has great concessions, friendly ushers, and a clean, family-friendly atmosphere. Side note: if you drive a Lexus, parking is free.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park
- Charleston, S.C.
Known by locals as “The Joe,” Riley Park is the home of the Class A South Atlantic League New York Yankees. While the ballpark itself is a tad on the aging side, it has the most creative, lively, entertaining scene at any stadium in the country—majors included. The level of merriment is due in part to one of the owners being actor Bill Murray (who often shows up at the game). That’s part of the reason it’s one of the best minor league baseball stadiums out there.
Just a few miles away from the heart of Charleston, S.C., The Joe’s 2019 season promotions include The Dumbest Night of the Year, (an homage to the film “Dumb and Dumber”), the Hershey Heartwarming Tour which offered s’mores samples at the gate, and a seventh-inning stretch where fans created a giant moon landing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon.
Admiral Fetterman Field at Blue Wahoos Stadium
- Pensacola, Florida
Facing Pensacola Bay, the Blue Wahoos stadium owns one of the best views of any ballpark in the minors. Close to both downtown Pensacola and the surrounding beach areas, the Blue Wahoos are the AA franchise of the Minnesota Twins a team that has one of the top 10 farm systems in the majors.
In addition to its natural beauty, the park is very welcoming to first-time visitors, rolling out the red carpet with a special visit from Kazoo, the team’s mascot, and a first-timer certificate. While you’re there and want to do some good carbo-loading, have a couple of crab mac and cheese dogs. It comes with a side of chips.
Dr. Pepper Ballpark
- Frisco, Texas
Widely regarded as one of the minor’s best stadiums, Dr. Pepper Ballpark is the home of the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. While the Rangers don’t have an exciting farm system, the ballpark makes up for it. Not only is it the only park with an indoor lazy river, but the home of the Roughriders has a brilliant HD scoreboard and a state-of-the-art sound system.
Located a few miles north of Dallas, the name Roughriders honors former president Teddy Roosevelt, but his tied to baseball or the local area remains a mystery to all. Of course, the mascot of the former president and friends are very welcoming.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
- Durham, North Carolina
Opened in 1995, the home of the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays has it all — a team linked to one of baseball’s best farm systems, natural beauty and ambiance, and history. The “newer” home of the Bulls is linked by fame to original Durham Athletic Park made famous in the 1988 film, Bull Durham. The current home of the Durham Bulls manages to keep the charm of its predecessor while bringing its own distinctive touches.
The ballpark is in an upscale, revitalized part of Durham with restaurants, shopping and a few well-known breweries for good measure. It is a “don’t miss” event for anyone visiting the North Carolina Triangle area — baseball fan or not.