I grew up in a baseball-loving family where I was encouraged to try out for Little League even though that made me the only girl on the team. Additionally, my parents both coached girls’ softball, and my little sister was a bit of a softball phenom. I remember many happy evenings spent at local baseball and softball games, as well as at our city’s minor league team’s ballpark, yelling for our favorite players until I was hoarse, as well as scarfing down more hot dogs than one person should ever eat.
Despite how many fond memories I have of the role baseball played in my childhood, as an adult I’ve drifted away from watching or following the sport. But after the extremely fun time that my husband Jon and I, along with my niece and our two youngest daughters had at a Tennessee Smokies game recently, I am ready to sign my daughters up for softball, as well as look into season tickets for the Smokies. We had a really great baseball experience.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Smokies Stadium on game night was how close the ballpark is to our home in Knoxville. It took us only twenty minutes on the interstate to get from the city limits to the Smokies’ parking lot. After we got parked, it was an easy walk to the stadium gates where, once we got inside, we discovered that it was Star Wars Night. This meant that Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia were there in full movie regalia, ready to meet and greet fans, including the three little girls whom Jon and I had with us. Star Wars Night also meant that each of the girls got a light saber toy, along with the other kids who were among the first 1,000 at the game. After meeting some of their favorite movie characters and being given a fun toy, the girls declared that the night was already a big success.
But the fun was actually just getting started; it was time to find our seats and watch the game. A very friendly usher directed us to our seats, which were at the top of the stadium. I was a little concerned when I saw how far away we were from the field that we would have trouble watching the game. However, there was no need to worry about that; the stadium is designed really well, meaning that even those of us in the nosebleed seats were able to see everything going on on the field.
After we were seated, my husband Jon helped the girls understand the basics of what they were seeing down on the field. Once they learned which players were on our home team, the girls became a mini pep squad right in the middle of the bleachers. Every time a Smokies player took the mound the girls would begin enthusiastically cheering him on. My concern that perhaps a five-year-old and two eight-year-olds would become bored at a baseball game quickly dissipated as the girls sat at rapt attention, carefully observing the play down below.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a baseball game without some food that isn’t necessarily good for you. I came to the game hungry, knowing I would want to eat something(s), and I was not disappointed. The Smokies’ stadium has taken dining at a ball game to a new level, with multiple food stands offering a wide variety of items and dishes. Still, even with all the other options, Jon and I decided that it just wouldn’t be a baseball game without hot dogs, with some chili cheese fries to go with them. After we finished our dogs and fries, we decided on a very Smoky Mountain dessert to follow up. Yep, that’s right, we had very tasty funnel cakes to top off our meal. Everything was delish.
The Smokies bill themselves as having the friendliest ballpark in the league, and in my experience, that title is well-deserved. From the ticket taker at the front gate to the Star Wars characters to the ushers and the food stand vendors, everyone we met was unfailingly polite and warm.
After a couple of innings of watching the game from our seats, our 5-year-old was getting a bit squirmy so I left the two eight-year-olds in the stands with Jon while I took my youngest down to the very appealing children’s play area nestled in one corner of the stadium. I wasn’t the only parent to have this idea, meaning the play area had a bit of a wait for each individual play structure (which included an inflatable bouncy house). However, my daughter was happy to wait in line for a few minutes to try out all the different things on the playground. After she had bounced, climbed and slid for a little while, she was suitably worn out and ready to head back to our seats.
When we returned from the play area I found the other two little girls still totally engrossed in the game, helped along by Jon’s informative commentary. And then before we knew it, it was all over. My concern that a baseball game would be too long for younger kids proved to be totally unfounded; the girls would have stayed for additional innings if that were an option. Our evening with the Tennessee Smokies proved to be an unqualified success and a whole lot of fun.
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