The beautiful thing about spring training ballparks is lawn seating. There may be a spring training facility that doesn’t have this wonderful open seating format, but I’ve yet to see one. The beauty of these lawn seats is not the lush green grass replicating the very field on which our heroes play ball. It’s not the ability to lay back, lounging in comfort. It’s not even the price. At about $5-7 a ticket, you can’t go wrong, and you’ll still have some cash to waste on needless things like giant cotton candy, an endless supply of beer, peanuts, cracker jacks*, and regional-specific ballpark fare like tacos or fry bread.** No, the beauty of lawn seating may include many of the aforementioned features and perks, but those are not the true reason said seating is great. Lawn seats are great for babies.
*After questioning whether Cracker Jacks, so entwined with baseball history that they’re include in song lyrics, were even sold at ball games anymore, I did a quick Google search. The time-honored baseball snack is in fact still sold at games, and according to a 2009 New York Times article, Cracker Jacks sales are thriving at baseball games.
**Spring training in the southwest, in Arizona to be specific, sees a wide variety of Southwestern foods. From tacos, to enchiladas, to Native American fry bread, a trip to the ball park can net you an education in culturally diverse foods.
Back to the lawn seats. By this point, you must be wondering what this has to do with the Padres. Fair enough. On Sunday, my wife and I took our ten month-old son to the Padres vs. Diamondbacks game in Peoria. We chose lawn seating specifically because of our son. Trying to hold him in the cramped stadium seats while people walked back and forth with sky-high piles of nachos and ice cream cones teetering on the brink of disaster was not an appealing thought. So we chose the lawn seats where he could roll around in the grass, on our blanket, or other people’s blankets for all he cared. The lawn seating makes an age-old tradition more feasible, and more reasonable with young children.
A father wishing nothing more than to take his son to a game, for his son to embrace the history, the beauty, the intricacies, and the subtle joys of baseball is a desire as old as the game itself. Since people realized observing organized games of baseball could be a welcome relief from the toils of long work weeks and demanding jobs, fathers have brought their sons to games. Since baseball became a profession, dads, in all their rushed anticipation of bonding moments and lifelong memories, have brought their kids to games at a young age. Too young perhaps, but that’s alright with most.
My son had a blast at the game, and my wife and I did too for that matter. It was a much better experience than my short-sighted decision to bring my son to a game in Phoenix when he was just three months old. While even that first game provided me memories I will never forget, my son could hardly stand being there. It was mid-August, it was hot, and it was loud. He did not enjoy any of those things.* This experience, a Sunday afternoon spring training game in the gorgeous Arizona weather, was much better. He laughed, he rolled around, he played with other kids, and he had no idea there was a baseball game going on.
*I’m sure my son did not have a problem with the month of August necessarily, but I have my suspicions. He’s very smart, and it’s possible he understood August was the dog days month to end all dog days., the month following the All-Star and trade deadline excitement of July, but preceding the pennant race fury of September. Some part of me thinks he comprehended this.
There was actually a game being played. The Padres lost 8-7 I’m told. But my son didn’t care. All he knew was that his mom and dad were playing with him under the afternoon sun on perfectly manicured grass. All he understood were the smiles, baby talk, and pinches bestowed upon him by friends and strangers alike. He was at a baseball game, but as another family with a baby so astutely put it, he could have been at a neighborhood park. But I knew. I knew it was a baseball game. I may not have been able to watch it, but I knew at the ripe old age of ten months, my son was at his second ball game. I knew this was all part of the journey that will eventually brain wash him into sharing the same passion of the game I do.
The action on the field didn’t matter, but I will argue it was a different, a better experience than an afternoon at the park. The sounds of the game were all around. The smells of the game were never far away. And the feeling was there. Thousands of people, sporadic cheers, a deep-voiced PA Announcer, hundreds of food stands and restaurants, and those lawn seats made the atmosphere more than a day at the neighborhood park could ever duplicate.
No, we didn’t see the game, but those lawn seats kept us happy. They gave us a chance to be outside at a game while still playing with our son. It’s an experience usually reserved for spring training, but the Padres offer it all season long. With their park at the park seating, families can enjoy the game exactly as I’ve described throughout all of the regular season. These lawn seats make baseball and babies go together.