How to make the most out of attending a baseball game?
May 16, 2024 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I am mentoring a 15 year old and we were given tickets to see a professional league baseball game next week. Although we are both excited about doing something new and different, neither of us is particularly interested in sports or knowledgeable about baseball. What can we do to keep this outing as interesting and exciting as possible?

I grew up without baseball, never watched a game and am in general not much into sports. I watched the movie Moneyball last week in preparation of going to the ballgame and found it mostly confusing with many terms and scoring I did not understand. My mentee is also not much into sports and never saw a ballgame. Is there a podcast or similar we can listen to together on our one hour drive to the ballgame to understand the basics? Maybe an interactive quiz or card game I can ask my mentee to read out/do during the drive that will teach us how things work? Any fun activities to do while we are at the game to keep us engaged? Any tips on how to make the most out of this new experience for both of us with our non-sports backgrounds?
posted by eurandom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total)
Best answer: The most important things to do at a baseball game are hot dogs and ice cream out of a mini-helmet
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 2:51 PM on May 16 [32 favorites]

During the game, definitely score the game! The stadium should have scorecards available. This makes you pay attention to the way each play turns out and get a feel for the rhythm of the game. I am also not a big sports person, but my wife comes from a Cubs family and I find it pretty fun to score a game live!

The stuff they are talking about in Moneyball is far removed from like...actual play-by-play stuff, it only is meaningful when looking over the course of the season. There's a reason professional baseball existed for a century without it.
posted by Maecenas at 2:52 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]

If you are looking for another movie to watch before you go, I'd suggest Field of Dreams.
I'd listen to the radio pre-game show on your way in.
Plan to eat peanuts, hot dogs, or what ever food/beverages that you'd enjoy that they have. (This is the "best part" for me, the game is what you watch while you are eating.)

Attending a baseball game is a meditation / experience to me, rather than attending a high-level sports competition. Kind of like going to the beach and watching the waves. There is an ebb and flow, some treats, and it ends up being pretty fun, but a long day for the effort.

Perhaps not great for conversation, but may increase the fun of it, if you had a hand-held radio that you could listen to the radio broadcast while you were in the stadium, you will get a lot more explanation of what is going on. (It is possible it is available streaming too, but I'm not sure.) There isn't really any "play by play" announcing live at the game.
posted by bruinfan at 3:08 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you decide at any point to not care too much about the game itself (like if it's still confusing, which is totally fine!), just enjoy the crowd experience. Besides the hot dogs and everything, cheer when the crowd cheers, boo when they boo. You'll get caught up in the crowd part, even without understanding what it's all about, and can enjoy that part of it.

Being part of a sports crowd without understanding the sport is often its own kind of fun memory.
posted by Meldanthral at 3:14 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]

You say it's a professional league, but you don't say at what level or in what country. I'm assuming it's in the United States.

If it's a minor league game, there will be all sorts of fun things going on in the stadium around the game. Ours has a monkey cowboy rodeo, bark in the park, diamond dig, fireworks, etc. There will be plenty for you and your mentee to see, watch and do. If they have a kids run the bases option, it might be fun for your mentee to do that.

If it's a major league game, there will be less of a "circus" atmosphere, but more people to watch. I always suggest that people who are new to watching baseball in person pick one position, like second base, and watch what the player there does -- do they move to one side or the other, or forward and back -- and try to figure out why. While I like scoring games, it would be an overwhelming thing for someone who doesn't understand the game at all to do.
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:17 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Here is Baseball for Beginners (courtesy of PBS/Ken Burns) which does a quick overview of the team composition, rules, and terminology.

In general, though, games are fun for the atmosphere (lots of trash talking between fans, goofy stuff like mascot races or pie eating in between innings, videos and graphics on the Jumbotron, players having designated songs that play when they walk up to bat, which are also sometimes goofy) and overpriced yet irresistable snacks. Decide which team you are going to root for and follow along with their fans. Splurge on the snacks. Have fun!
posted by TwoStride at 3:20 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]

I am going to be a devil's advocate here and counterpoint both of the above with one suggestion and one hot take:
- Do not keep score. If you're new to the game, it's far too much to process while also trying to watch and understand the game, which is after all why you're there.
- Do not watch Field of Dreams, as it is not even remotely a baseball movie except that it uses baseball as a framing device. It is also an absolutely terrible mov(gets dragged offstage quickly before saying more)

If this is your first baseball game, and you're not really into the game or to sports, I would suggest doing a little bit of reading up on the teams you're going to see before you go. Read about how they're doing this season (the season's just getting interesting, it's just over a month old so guys are just starting to get into their rhythms), read about any interesting storylines or players, and read about their recent pasts to see what the fans are expecting of the team(s) this season.

There are still good blogs about baseball teams - just search for "SB Nation (team you're going to see)" and that'll bring up a team blog for that team. Those blogs are written by fans and are a great resource for team news that isn't just press-release level stuff.

As far as podcasts, I'm not sure of any sort of intro-to-baseball ones, but a baseball podcast I love is the Poscast, with Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur. It's about 50% baseball and 50% silliness, Posnanski's a writer of many things besides baseball and Schur is the writer/creator of the Office and Parks and Rec, among other things, so they're hilarious and they take sports exactly as seriously as it needs to be taken, while also knowing a ton about it.

Before every season, they do a season preview that they guarantee is 98% accurate (SPOILER ALERT: it is not). It's definitely a fun listen. Here's this season's. It'll give you a good flavor for some of the fun storylines across the league.

Mostly, just go and enjoy the experience! There's no better way to spend a spring or summer day/evening than at a baseball game. Even if you go and decide it's not for you long-term, hopefully you'll enjoy it the one time you go.
posted by pdb at 3:25 PM on May 16 [17 favorites]

Assuming this is an MLB game, my local stadium has a booth where they will print out My First Game certificates which is a nice souvenir.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:26 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]

Keeping score is a great option! As for something to read/listen to on the way, I loved The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, a book about some podcasters getting the chance to run a minor league team and trying all kinds of weird stuff.

If this is Major League Baseball (or the affiliated minor leagues), you might be pleased to know that the pitch clock introduced at the beginning of last year has dramatically reduced the amount of time in a game where nothing is happening.
posted by Polycarp at 3:28 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

posted by kapers at 3:35 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: just consider it an outdoor adventure appreciating the spectacle of the game, crowd, and environment.

don't just sit in your seats the whole time -walk around the stadium. go to the highest nosebleed seat. people watch.

scoring can be fun, but it does require A Lot of attention if you don't really know the rules or how to read the scoreboard quickly.

hats, sunscreen, shades.

don't feel bad about leaving early if ya feel like it - a game can really stretch.

IMPORTANT!!! - if you sit low-ish on the first or third base lines, you need to watch every pitch and dodge any fouls that come rocketing by.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:55 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn’t worry about keeping score, that’s a whole thing. You’d need to pay extra close attention to the action. Do it next time if you and your mentee enjoy the game.

Assuming you’re going to an MLB game I suggest checking out the subreddit for the home team. Most of them will have a guide to the stadium so you can read up on the bag / food / drink policy. You might be able to bring in unopened water bottles and maybe a few snacks.

If your tickets are digital make sure you have the Ballpark app installed. It’s a good idea to get the app anyway since it’ll have concourse maps, food finder, etc.

Definitely suggest getting a “first game” certificate. Most stadiums do this and most likely it’ll be at guest services.

Sunscreen / sunglasses / hats if you’re going to a day game and it might be worth buying a shirt or something with the team logo.

Make friends! If you’re not sure what’s going on during the game, ask the people around you. Baseball fans are good people and most will welcome a conversation. If you need to get to or leave from your seats, try and wait until the current at-bat is done. It’s considered bad etiquette otherwise (but people will do it anyway).
posted by Diskeater at 4:13 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

Baseball is a tighter game than it used to be, but it's still long stretches of sitting outside on a (hopefully) pleasant summer night eating snacks and enjoying each other's company waiting for something to happen on the field. I would bone up on the basics and at least look at local coverage of the team to get some idea of what the current dramatics are, but an intimate knowledge of the game is not required. It's more fun if you can get invested--pick an arbitrary favorite player or two to root for, for instance--but honestly it can just be a nice mellow time even if the action on the field is a little obscure to you.
posted by praemunire at 4:21 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]

I suggest you both pick a different team to root for—you’ll be totally engrossed in whether “your” team is winning. Even if you’re not completely following. Read a bit about that team’s season if you want to get crazy. Make some low-stakes bets.
posted by kapers at 4:31 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

All you really need to know is in the lyrics to "Take Me out to the Ballgame". Buy some peanuts and crackerjack and root root root for the home team. Get lost in it. If you have questions about the game, ask the fans around you. Tell them it's your first game. They'll love teaching you if you want to learn.
posted by soy_renfield at 4:38 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Please don't keep score, the score-keeping system is arcane hieroglyphics and you will not enjoy learning it if you don't already like baseball.
2. In the first two or three innings, you'll see everyone on both teams get at least one at-bat. While each player is batting, the jumbotron shows his name, photo, and usually a couple of fun facts. Take note of every player that strikes your fancy. For me this is usually if they have a cute smile or a cool name or were born in a place I like. Now every time that guy bats again you can root for him to get a home run.
3. Many people enjoy baseball because they get to hang out outside and drink beer for three hours. That unfortunately won't help the 15 year old but it's something to keep in mind.
4. If the fans sitting near you seem at all friendly, they might be happy to explain stuff (like not necessarily all the rules of the game but like, "why is everyone booing that guy").

Baseball is kind of a perplexing sport if you didn't grow up with it. I'm a baseball fan and I don't grasp all the subtleties of pitch selection or the weird rules about tagging. Don't worry too much about cramming for it.
posted by theodolite at 4:45 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]

I attended a baseball game under similar circumstances as a kid and liked learning about the players ahead of time. It helped me have a sense of what to expect from each and thus share some of the surprise/disappointment/satisfaction others were experiencing without having to constantly pester anyone. Understanding where the game fit in the series(?) would have also been nice, I think: I later tagged along to a football game as well and didn't understand that everyone was so horrified by the quarterback getting injured because it was supposed to be an easy little early-season game and they just landed badly, probably changing the team's overall outcome dramatically. I don't remember anything like that coming up with the baseball game but if it had, I wouldn't have understood that either.
posted by teremala at 5:22 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sports-indifferent but my family loves a baseball game, so I go from time to time. I am Team Crowd-Watching Is Where The Fun Is. So my tips:

1. Comfortable shoes. There may be more walking than you'd expect.

2. Dress for comfort, including more temperature variation than you might think would occur.

3. Binoculars. Good for watching the crowd, and the players on the sidelines. Even players can get bored during games and when they do, they get silly. And even if they're not goofing off, there's always something going on on the sidelines.

4. Definitely don't feel like you have to be glued to your seat. If it's a major league venue, there will be TVs at various points in the stadium, so you can wander around and still keep an eye on the game if you want to. If you're bored, go exploring.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:27 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]

DO NOT KEEP SCORE YOUR FIRST GAME. (Or honestly ever if you don't want to! I've never kept score a day in my life and never will.) You'll be making this so much more homework-y than it needs to be. (Also, do not watch Field of Dreams because it's not REALLY about baseball other than metaphorically.) If you really want a good baseball movie, watch League of Their Own but honestly, it's not that complicated. You don't need to do much research here: Cheer for the home team. Eat a hot dog/nachos/ice cream in a helmet. Just chill out and watch the game; ask nice-seeming people around you if you have questions, most baseball fans love to talk and teach. (I once sat next to a British family at a game and got to explain the whole thing to them, it was fun!) Part of the fun of going to a baseball game is sitting there and chatting with your companions.

It might be useful to go to the home team's Subreddit and telling them you're going to your first game and asking what to look out for; honestly I imagine if you update this question to say which game you're going to, people might be able to help.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:10 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]

Go play catch together, hit some balls and run the bases.
Watch “the sandlot” 🥲
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:16 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As far as basics go, I've taken you at your word. Apologies if this is too basic!

Pitchers try to eliminate batters by getting three "strikes." A swing and a miss is a strike. Not swinging at a ball in the strike zone (nominally over the plate and between shoulders and knees) is also a strike. If a pitcher throws outside the strike zone its called, somewhat confusingly, "a ball." If the pitcher throws four "balls" before the batter hits it or strikes out, the batter gets to go to first base automatically -- a "walk."

A "foul" is a hit that's outside of the lines that run through home plate and first base and home plate and third. A batter's first two fouls are considered strikes, but they can hit unlimited fouls without it affecting their "count" (their number of balls and strikes) but if a foul ball is caught before it hits the ground, theyre out.

After the batter hits the ball, if it's thrown to first base before they arrive, they're out. The first baseman doesn’t have to touch them with the ball. If a baserunner doesn't have another runner behind them (they've already passed first base and are trying to advance or they're stealing a base*) the baseman or catcher has to touch them with the ball to get them out. If there IS another baserunner immediately behind them, then the baseman only has to touch the base with the ball in their hand. That's a "force", since you can't have two runners on one base.

If a ball is hit high in the air (a fly) or straight (a line drive) and is caught before it hits the ground, the batter is out. If a runner who was already on base tried to advance before the ball was caught, they have to return to the base they were on ("tagging up)") before the ball gets thrown there, or they're out. If they still have time, they can run after the ball is caught.

*Stealing a base" is running when the batter hasn't hit the ball. For instance, a fast runner on first might go as soon as the pitcher releases the ball, and hope to beat the catcher's throw to second.

I'm open to correction, it's been a good while since I watched regularly (how did I manage to couple up with a man who wasn't a fan?? and I won't pay for sports packages on tv) and longer still since I played. I think this should give you a rough idea of what's going on without getting too deep in the weeds.

The very first and most important rule (besides the sunscreen mentioned above) is have fun!
posted by kate4914 at 6:48 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I’m a non sports person who feels like it’s easier to watch baseball than a lot of other sports. I enjoy being outside, eating snacks, cheering and singing with other people, walking around the stadium and looking at stuff.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to pay rapt attention to the whole game.

And the baseball movie you should watch is Rookie of the Year.
posted by jeoc at 7:12 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to add a couple of things, second or third a lot of what's said here, with some commentary on someone who brought up two young boys on baseball -- one who loves it, one who tolerates it. Oh, and I'll recommend a book at the end.

- Get there early if you can. If you're early enough, you may get to see the visiting team taking batting practice. If you're in outfield-area seats, a baseball may come your way! And if not it's just fun to see the coaches and grounds crew and everyone doing their thing to get the teams and the park ready.
- Get some food and get to your seats comfortably before first pitch. You'll see lots of the fun ancillary stuff, like the ceremonial first pitch -- it's almost always laughable -- and the national anthem (if you're in the US). You can eat and get settled before the action.
- At a major league park, there will be scoreboards, and lots of them. Some of them will display different info, so you'll have a sense of where to look for the basics (balls, strikes, outs, score) and extras (pitch speed, etc)
- Listen to the player introductions and have some fun with it, make up nicknames for them, check their names when they come up on the scoreboard, and yeah, pick a team and a couple of players and root for them.
- After you're done with your food, yes, definitely, get up and walk around! You can always walk the level of the stadium that's between the good seats and stop here and there and see the game from a different angle. If it's a minor league, or it's poorly attended, chat up an usher, tell 'em it's your first game, and maybe they'll let you go sit in the good seats.
- At some parks -- Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in Baltimore, is one of them - you can just walk over to the rail and stand above and overlooking the bullpen area, where the relief pitchers (they usually come in by the 5th or 6th inning) warm up. You'll be close enough to hear some chatter and hear the ball smack into the catcher's mitt. It's a blast.
- If you're in Minnesota or Arizona, those are the two major league parks where you can actually go and visit the organist, who plays ditties and songs and sound effects between batters. Ask an usher or guest services. It's really neat and few people know about it.
- Halfway through the seventh inning, after the visitors have batted, they do what's called the "seventh inning stretch." At most parks they lead you in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and usually another upbeat singalong.
- At minor league parks, after the game, there's often an event such as letting the kids onto the field to run the bases. Keep an eye and ear out for that.
- Finally, if you have time and you and/or the kid is a good reader, a few years ago a baseball writer named Rob Neyer wrote a book called "Power Ball." It's an inning by inning breakdown of a single game, with strategy amd history and yes, stats, but it's very readable. You could read it before or after you go and get a little more insight on the subtleties of the game.
posted by martin q blank at 7:55 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]

It's a good chance to teach the kid that the last two words of the Pledge of Allegiance are "Play Ball!"
posted by SPrintF at 8:16 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some great advice. Thank you for all the suggestions and insights up till now!

I am already looking forward to enjoying the snacks, picking our favorite players, exploring the stadium and soaking up the atmosphere with my mentee. I think we will skip the scoring for our first game - although it sounds like fun, it also sounds quite difficult if you have no idea what is going on and seems like it would require you to pay attention to the game the whole time.

A number of you asked for more specifics on the game I am attending. It is a MLB game in the US and specifically a Phillies game playing against the Texas Rangers at the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park.

As an aside, I am mentoring this youth through Big Brother Big Sisters and got tickets through that fantastic organization. They are always looking for more mentors, also referred to as Bigs, if you would like to get involved.

More advice and insights always welcome!
posted by eurandom at 3:44 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

Since you don't usually go to sporting events, I want to warn you to be sure to adhere to the bag policy for the park; they are getting more and more strict. I have gone from being able to go to a game via public transit right from work and bring a whole backpack with a computer in it, pre-Covid, to now being limited to a clutch or CLEAR tote bag only.

Here's the Phillies' bag policy (scroll down a bit). It would really suck to arrive and not be able to get in, especially if you aren't driving and can't just leave some things in the car.
posted by misskaz at 4:44 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh hey the Phillies are my team!

The Phillies have been on a tear the last couple of years. They made it to the World Series a few years ago and the post season last year. They currently have the best record in baseball. Their games are very well attended so expect around 35,000 people for a mid-week game.

CBP is a beautiful stadium with great sightlines. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The Phillies are currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of the park so there’s a decent amount of stadium-specific merch if that’s something you care about. I don’t know where your seats are but try and make your way up to the 400-level for some fantastic skyline views.

There’s a section of the ballpark named Ashburn Alley that is located behind center field. It’s styled like the Jersey Shore boardwalk. It does get quite crowded during the game but it’s worth checking out. The Phillies Wall of Fame is there as well as the bullpen. That’s where the pitchers for both teams will be warming up. There’s also giant replicas of the World Series trophies that make for a great photo op.

The team is very hot right now and a lot of fun to watch. Bryce Harper is the big star player. JT Realmuto is one of the best catchers in baseball and Kyle Schwarber is known for hitting “Schwarbombs”. Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh are called the “daycare” because they are younger players that joke around a lot. The crowd will sing along to Stott’s walkup music. Stick around for a few minutes if the Phillies win. You’ll see a video of legendary announcer Harry Kalas singing High Hopes.

The Phillies subreddit is a great resource. Here’s a section on their wiki about CBP.

Please feel free to message if you have any specific questions. CBP is pretty much my second home during baseball season. Enjoy the game and GO PHILS!
posted by Diskeater at 6:23 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

Definitely walk around. The slower pace of play and regular inning breaks gives you lots of opportunities to do this. Plus, most MLB games are nowhere near capacity so if you want to watch the game from the upper deck for the first half and the outfield for the second half, go for it.

I have not been to Citizen Bank park but all modern stadiums especially for baseball have lots of amenities (and distractions) for the casual attendee during the game. Endeavor to walk completely around the stadium. It is a great way to scope out the snack choices (there will be different options in different places around the stadium).
posted by mmascolino at 6:47 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

The pitcher does not always want to throw a strike.
You want the batter to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone.

The catcher and pitcher work as a partnership.
The catcher will call for a specific pitch. Either high or low or inside ( close to the batter) or away ( from the batter)
He also signals the pitcher what kind of pitch fastball, curve , slider.
The catcher acts as the brains of the operation. he will know the batters strengths and weaknesses and exploit them.

At this level the ball can be thrown very fast, but movement of the ball is key.
Some pitchers, a rarity, can throw a knuckleball.. which is very slow but unpredictable in flight making it hard to hit or resulting in weak ground balls , easily fielded.
The defence ( fielders ) will also set up according to the situation.
They may have a very large shift.

From the stands it's difficult to follow the interplay between catcher and pitcher.

Enjoy your selves . Don't worry about details . Have a hot dog relax.
posted by yyz at 7:00 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh gosh, don't even try to score the game.Without really, really, really knowing baseball you won't be able to do it. Anyway, I know baseball inside and out, and it takes a special someone to not find scoring... tedious.

Baseball is a fundamentally boring game with moments of excitement. Well, seconds of excitement. So don't worry, you won't miss anything. Go to your seats, enjoy the view, watch the game. When you get bored after an inning or two, walk around! Lots of food options, little games to play. Major league stadiums are very big and cool and there's lots to see, even just looking at the park from different perspectives.
posted by RajahKing at 7:08 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

If you're planning to get some snacks or drinks, take some cash and wait for one of the folks to walk around the seats hawking their wares. It's part of the game to send your money down the row and wait for your food/drinks to come back.
posted by hydra77 at 7:27 AM on May 17

Yeah, I've watched plenty of baseball, but scoring is too arcane for even me, and doesn't really tell me anything at the end. I'd skip that. Also, root against the Rangers :)
posted by Windopaene at 8:00 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Just FYI in response to @hydra77's comment - MLB parks have largely gone cashless since COVID, so I would not chance that, as fun a tradition as what they describe was. I can't speak to CBP in particular, as I haven't been there since pre-COVID, but the few parks I've been to since 2021 have been cashless.

And yes, if I could sum up all the advice in this thread, it would be: don't overthink, or try to get it "right". Just enjoy the experience. Walk around, check out the park, soak in the day.
posted by pdb at 8:48 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

(CBP is cashless at the vendors - they have "reverse ATMs" available. I believe the people that walk around selling stuff in the stands take cash or cards but they don't hit every section. The higher up you sit, the less likely you'll see them.)
posted by Diskeater at 9:27 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

the original version of take me out to the ballgame is about a female afficionada
posted by brujita at 1:06 PM on May 17

Most of the baseball games I've been to were because I was a summer intern or intern host at a tech company, so I've generally seen baseball games in big groups of people, most of whom didn't know very much about baseball. It's honestly a really lovely experience - just sitting around outdoors for a couple hours on a warm night, drinking an overpriced beer and eating a huge soft pretzel is pretty nice to me.
posted by potrzebie at 2:43 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just wanted to thank everyone for all the great comments here that helped me prepare for this game. We attended the game earlier this week and enjoyed it. We watched some of the game, but also explored the stadium and experienced some of the things mentioned such as the food and the atmosphere. I was looking forward to the “take me out to the ballgame” singing after the 7th inning but did not see that taking place - not sure if we missed it or if it just did not take place. Overall, an enjoyable evening for both of us even though we are not baseball lovers.
posted by eurandom at 7:21 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

« Older Charming seaside towns in Northern Spain with a...   |   Best products and processes for painting interior... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments