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Fans recall first Minor League experiences

Ben's Biz shares reader-submitted tales of ballpark memories
July 31, 2023

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

This is an excerpt from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, bringing Minor League Baseball business and culture news to your inbox each and every Thursday. Check out the full newsletter HERE. Subscribe HERE.

In each of the past three newsletters, I asked you, the presumably loyal reader, to share memories of your first Minor League Baseball game. The responses trickled in at first, then the pace gradually quickened until I belatedly realized that the trickle had turned into a deluge. By that point I was soaking wet and, per usual, I couldn’t find my galoshes.

What follows are three of the many replies (I’ll share additional replies over the coming weeks and months as well). Thanks to all respondents, whoever you are and wherever you may be.

We begin with an in-depth and touching multi-generational missive from Karen Meyer, who also sent along photos. Her first game was at Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark on Aug. 20, 2006, in which the hometown RoughRiders took on the Springfield Cardinals.

A neighbor from my hometown was the high school coach for Eric Hurley, a pitcher who was drafted by the Texas Rangers. We went to the game hoping to see him pitch and say hello. My dad had been following Eric's progress through the Minor Leagues so we took him and my mom to the game.

My dad was a big baseball fan and was involved in Little League baseball for as long as I can remember. He coached my brothers' teams, volunteered as treasurer of the organization for about 30 years, mowed the lawns at the fields and used his carpentry skills to build whatever was needed at the ballparks until Parkinson's Disease slowly robbed him of these abilities.

My husband and young son also attended the RoughRiders game that night. It was a risky outing because our 4-year-old-son had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and was sometimes difficult to manage in loud public settings. He had sensory processing issues that affected his ability to cope with loud sounds and he also had a severe language and communication impairment.

The game we attended started out with "The Colonel," who rode his horse named Thunder around the warning track of the outfield. He came by to talk to my dad sitting in his wheelchair and tried to interact with our very distracted son.

Years later in 2014, my nephew was drafted by the Seattle Mariners but sadly my dad passed away in 2009 and was unable to see his grandson pitch his way up to the Double-A level with the Arkansas Travelers. Our son is now 21 years old and carrying on my dad's love for baseball. He is an avid fan of the Texas Rangers and Frisco RoughRiders and he plays baseball for the local Frisco Miracle League. We took him to so many Frisco RoughRiders games that I decided I might as well just get a job there and I have been an usher since 2018.

This year the Frisco Roughriders players wear their red throwback jerseys on Sundays and they have a horse named Diva who runs along the warning track with her rider. It definitely sends me back to memories of that summer evening in 2006 at our first Minor League Baseball game. ­Karen Meyer

Scott Hanz went to his first game on June 19, 1981, seeing the San Antonio Dodgers play the Amarillo Gold Sox at San Antonio’s V.J. Keefe Memorial Stadium. He notes that his great-uncle, who accompanied him, attended Minor League games at five different San Antonio ballparks over the course of his lifetime (League Park, Tech Field, Mission Stadium, V.J. Keefe Stadium and Nelson Wolff Stadium).

San Antonio won 1-0. It was a quick, well-played game. Rich Rodas pitched for San Antonio and Andy Hawkins for Amarillo.

The plate umpire was Pam Postema. My uncle alerted me to that on our way to the game, saying that she could be a big league ump. Based on the game I saw, I agreed. I remember the P.A. announcer opened a beer can over the mic just before first pitch. He apparently did that for each game. He would announce each Dodger player emphatically, including their nickname, if they had one. They even had an organist squeezed into the small perch area between the upper and lower levels of the park.

V.J. Keefe was small and upgraded to Minor League standards of the time. It was originally a park for a local NAIA school, St. Mary's University. Since Roy Hofheinz wouldn't allow old Mission Stadium to be used, Keefe had to be upgraded to get pro ball back in 1968.

It was fun and I still have the program, but it's very brittle. – Scott Hanz

Finally (for now), Joe Van Gallen recounts his 1994 visit to see the only Garden State entity to ever play in the New York-Penn League.

My first minor league game was a visit to Skylands Park in 1994 to see the Class-A Short Season New Jersey Cardinals take on the Hudson Valley Renegades. I remember the team was new; so new, in fact, that much of their merchandise still had ‘Glen Falls’ written on it. At the time I had no idea they were not actually 'new' but rather a relocated Glen Falls, NY team. It was very confusing to my 13-year-old brain.

Anyway, I never saw a game. We sat through a two-hour rain delay complete with no actual rain, a very angry crowd, and a very drunk man who ran around the stadium leading the frustrated crowd through the National Anthem in hopes they'd start the game. I remember the tarp was off, the field looked fine to me, but I guess there were still some issues somewhere, because I went home without a game. Who knew a kid with access to both Mets and Yankees games would still be disappointed for not seeing a 'lowly' Class-A Short Season team?

I did eventually get to see the Cardinals play in Skylands Park the next season. After that, I saw probably a half-dozen games of theirs, and a few of the New Jersey Jackals before Florida called to me. Anyway, I love Minor League Baseball. – Joe Van Gallen

Stay tuned for more first game memories in future newsletters, and stay tuned next week for a practically overwhelming cavalcade of newsworthy MiLB items. Also, please note once again that I will be on the road at the start of August:

Get in touch anytime for any reason at all [email protected].

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.