The Ultimate MiLB Ballpark Experience (8/6/10)

Coming into the first week of August, we still hadn’t hit our first Reading Phillies game of the season.  But early in the week, my wife sent me an email at work about a promotion scheduled for Friday, August 6th.  We couldn’t pass it up.

The Promotion:  R-Phils Kids Club Night at the Ballpark.

Translation — camping in the outfield!  We have “camped” in KOA camping cabins, but Tim had never camped in an actual tent.

Sign us up!

We figured it would a late night, so we showed up a little late for the game.  As we entered the ballpark, Tim asked me to take some pictures of these “trophies” and other artifacts from R-Phils of the past:

1 - R-Phils old stuff.JPGI had some comp’d tickets from a rain out at the end of the 2009 season.  Our seats were in row 20 of red section 7.  Here was our view:

2 - firstenergy stadium red 7 row n seat 14 panorama.jpgShortly after we arrived, we were happy to see Hillbilly Hoff making a blue light special announcement from the top of the dugout:

3 - Hill Billy Hoff.JPGTim spent some time taking pictures.  His camera skills have improved a lot since last season:

4 - MiLB Picts by Tim.JPGI asked Tim where he wanted to camp.  He zoomed in on the Erie Seawolves’ centerfielder…

5 - camping spot.JPG…”Right where that ‘baser’ is standing.”  (BTW, Tim likes to call fielders “basers.”)

I was quite interested to see that former New York Mets outfielder, Timo Perez…

6 - Timo Perez Minor Leaguer.JPG…was playing for the R-Phils.  He ended up going 0-3 with three fly outs…on each of those three swings shown above.

The nights Roast Beef RBI guy was DH Tagg Bozied… 

7 - Tagg No Roast Beef Bozied.JPG…he failed to collect any RBIs and, therefore, we failed to win any roast beef.

Tim enjoyed his first MiLB ice cream helmet of the season:

8 - MiLB Ice Cream Face.JPGLater in the game, we relocated to the homerun trough in LF…

9 - racing in HR trough.JPG…where Tim spinted the length of the trough over and over and over and over and over.  And then a couple more times.

In the 8th and 9th innings, we found ourselves back in the infield.  Here was our quite excellent view…

10 - the blue seats.JPG…as the Seawolves beat the R-Phils.

After the game, they had a tennis ball throwing contest for charity…

11 - tennis ball throw.JPG…people bought the balls (which had numbers written on them) and then tried to throw their balls into various hoops and a basket in the back of a moving truck.

Next, it was time for some fireworks…

IMG_8938.JPG…which Tim absolutely loved.

After the fireworks, it was time to get ready for some camping!  We grabbed our tent and sleeping bags from our car and reported back to the main entrance.  Tim was psyched!

12 - let us in its camping time.JPG

We brought our gloves and we were ready to go crazy playing around in the outfield.  Camping, free reign in the outfield of a professional baseball stadium…what more could you ask for!?

Tim didn’t want to risk missing out on our spot in CF, so we sprinted out to the OF…

13 - camp site.JPG…we made it!  Sweet.  We were in the outfield…the beautiful, beautiful outfield.

And check this out, we literally put our tent up on top of the centerfielder’s spike marks:

14 - CF footprints.JPGI set up our tent…

15 - tent up time for some catch.JPG

…and it was “game on!”

Here was the veiw from the warning track in straight away CF…

16 - firstenergy stadium CF warning track panorama.jpg…with our tent right in the middle.

On the big screen behind Tim… 

17 - throwing like crazy.JPG…they showed a double feature.  First, it was the short movie “The Phanatic Goes to Hollywood.”  I don’t think anyone watched it because we were all busy playing catch and running around in the OF grass.  It was quite sight, fathers and son (and a few daughters) were spread out all over the place having a great time playing catch.

It was such an odd experience being out there in the OF with all of these other fathers and sons playing catch with tents all around us.  It was almost surreal…almost like we were in a movie or something.  In short, it was awesome.

You had to buy tickets to attend the sleep over.  They were $10/each, but kids 4 and under were free (they are free for R-Phils games as well).  So it was $10 total for me and Tim and our tickets came with a midnight meal.

We headed past the infield…

18 - infield view.JPG…and into the grandstand concourse to pick up our “dinner”…

19 - hot dogs and lemonade.JPG…ah, yeah, nothing beats some hot dogs and lemonade while laying on your sleeping bag in CF:

20 - food in the OF.JPGAfter eating, it was right back to playing catch and running around…

21 - more catching throwing and running.JPG…it was pretty funny playing with Tim.  It was almost midnight and he was a combination of ecstatic and exhausted.  But there was no slowing down in sight.

Play, play, play…

22 - more throwing.JPG

Check out how Tim was stumbling around with tiredness as he just kept playing…

By the way, my voice sounds weird in that clip because I was eating sunflower seeds while we were playing catch. Tim just kept playing and fake falling and rolling for ballls…

The entire OF was open for tents, but everyone (but us) was set up in LF or right behind 2B.  We were the lone strays out in CF, and RF was completely tent free.  Just wide open play space for all of the kids and adult-kids.

We headed over to RF and Tim practiced his accuracy by throwing balls off of the “25” and “53” in the lottery billboards…

23 - target practice.JPGHere was the view from the RF foul line…

23a - firstenergy stadium RF warning track panorama.jpg…I think the sprinklers really added to the surreal feel of the whole night.

Around midnight, people started settling in around their tents for the feature presentation.  I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the two of us on the field, so I gave it my best shot…

24 - exhausted smile around midnight.JPG…Tim was so tired that this was the best smile he could manage in our three picture attempts.

From our tent, we could see the Reading Pagoda lit up off in the distance:

25 - pagoda lights.JPGAnd then it was time for the feature presentation — “Rookie of the Year”:

26 - movie time in CF.JPGPretty much everyone set up on their sleeping bags outside of their tents…

IMG_9023.JPG…although he looks like he is sleeping, Tim is actually watching the movie in that shot.  One really cool thing about the night (among the many cool things about the night) was that, as we laid next to each other watching the beginning of “Rookie of the Year,” Tim told me that he wished Kellan could have come with us.  I told him Kellan is too young to camp, but we can bring him next year.

After slowing down from all of the action, Tim was a goner.  He only made it about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes into the movie before he fell sleep.

I transferred him into our tent and then took a picture of the scene, now quieted down considerably for the movie: 

27 - our tent.JPGThe little guy was fast sleep…

28 - lights out.JPG….as I finished watching the movie.

Our little A-frame style tent felt so small.  Usually, you pull a little rope from each side and stake them in the ground to spread the tent out a bit.  But there were no stakes allowed in the OF!

I noticed that most people had much newer and cooler looking tents than my probably 15-20 year old tent…

29 - much better tents.JPG…I guess we’ll have to upgrade.

After the movie, people went to bed.  They turned off all of the stadium lights, but left the big screen lit up like a big night light.

I figured this was as unique of a ballpark experience as I was ever going to experience so I best make the most of it.  After all of the lights were out but our night light, and no one else was stirring, I took a final walk around the OF.

I think this is probably the most unique ballpark picture I’ll ever take:

30 - firstenergy stadium LCF warning track lights out panorama panorama.jpg

The infield and grandstand were peacefully resting up for another big day of baseball on Saturday…

31 - dark infield.JPG…here is essentially a reverse angle of the last picture that shows our night light…

32 - our nightlight.JPGFrom a deep sleep, we were awoken at 7 a.m. the next morning to the sound of the stadium PA annoucer thanking us for attending the night in the ball park.

Tim was still really tired and it took him a few minutes to finally make it out of the tent…

33 - sleepy center fielder.JPG…by then, most of the other campers were already gone!  I think they must have woken up early.  That or they are speed packers who didn’t want to maximize there experience.

Not us, we’re ballpark lingerers and experience-soaker-uppers.  So, it was time for a morning picture…

34 - after a great night.JPG…and some running in the OF…

35 - maximizing our time with more running in the OF.JPGBy the time we were all packed up…

36 - thanks RPhils.JPG…there were only two other tents left.  And, I recognized all of the remaining adults as employees in the R-Phils front office (I know them from playing softball against them).

So, we were the last remaining members of the “public.”

Oh, well.  So be it.

It was time for some more catch…

37 - wait lets throw some more.JPG…I mean, when were we going to have another opportunity to wake up in CF and play catch?  Not any time soon!  So we had to play some catch.  And we did.

Finally, we decided we better head out.  We stopped for another picture by the infield on our way to the gate behind 3B that leads to the concourse:

38 - morning infield.JPGAfter walking through the grandstand concourse, we decided we should poke our heads out one last time…

39 - good bye  FirstEnergy field.JPG…and wave a proper good-bye to our campsite.

This was one of the coolest nights.  Thank, R-Phils.  Sign us up for next year.



  1. Txbaseballfan

    What a great experience! I think the Frisco Roughriders (the AA affiliate of the Rangers) either had or are having something like this also. I’m definitely going to be checking into that now. Those are some awesome photos and videos! Just think how cool it will be when you have both of your boys out there! I’m jealous of the memories man, truly awesome.


  2. gatheringbaseballs

    Awesome. Sounds like you guys had a load of fun. My local atlantic team the Lancaster Barnstormers also do something like this. I’ll be there either this Sunday or next for the first time this year. My blog will have pics. I usually attend a game or two here each season) maybe I’ll treat you 2 or 3) to one of these in Lancaster next year, tell me if your interested!


  3. teemo

    Todd & Tim (PA) – What an awesome night you had. What a great idea to give a unique experience. Way better than a simple Kid’s Run the Bases day.
    Saw the pictures and can’t wait to see the post on the trip to Progressive Field. Congratulations – Todd & Teemo (HI)

  4. cookandsonbats

    Yeah, definitely check it out. It was truly awesome having free reign of the outfield. The grass was beautiful. We had a blast playing around out there. Yep, when Kellan gets big enough, he’ll definitely have to camp in the outfield with us.

    Have fun at the Barnstormers campout. I’ve heard great things about the Barnstormers. I’m sure we’ll hit one of their games some day.

    TODD & TIM (HI)-
    Run the bases is awesome. But this was truly amazing. Now, how cool would it be if it was in the OF at Safeco Field!? That would be unbelievable!


    hi Todd and Tim – I am so glad you had this experience! My guys sleep over in Pawtucket every spring. They love it and it is great dad/son time! So cute that Tim wanted Kellan there. Soon enough they will be fighting for space in the tent!

    Heidi Q.

  6. cookandsonbats

    Man, I wish we could hit up one of those camp outs. It’ll surely be a great time and I definitely want to get down to a Barnstormers game some day. But I think we already have MLB game plans on both of those days. Maybe we can camp out in Lancaster in 2012!

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