Thursday, July 2, 2009

Special treatment at sporting events

Sporting events are great ways to spend staycation time. And if you plan ahead, you might be able to make a trip to the ballpark extra special.

You can contact a team’s front office or community-relations department and ask for VIP treatment. No, they won’t send a limo to pick you up or roll out a red carpet, but you can get special treatment. This is especially true in the minor leagues, whether its baseball, hockey, football or basketball. Minor league teams are very eager to please.

So take advantage of that. Before you go to a game, contact the team’s front office or community-relations department. Tell them you’re coming out to a game and you want to know how you can make it more special. If you’re bringing kids to the game, definitely tell the team that.

You and your family could be part of a promotion or skit. The team might allow your kids to get on the field for part of batting practice or give them a chance to run the bases between innings or after the game. (I’ve covered minor-league baseball, so I’ve seen this firsthand). Maybe you can get your kids a chance to sit in the dugout for a few minutes before the game. Maybe they can meet a few of the players, get autographs and take pictures with them. Whether a pro athlete is destined for the Hall of Fame or the end of the bench, meeting him or her is a thrill for kids.

A team might not be able to set something up for that night, so again, planning ahead is valuable. But it’s hard to imagine many teams saying, “Sorry, we can’t do anything for you.” That would be like saying, “Why don’t you just go find somewhere else to spend your money.”

That’s why it never hurts to ask.

One last thing, as we finish discussing how someone else can make a sporting event more special. You can do it, too, especially if you have young kids. If you’re going to a minor-league game, make it a major-league event by immersing yourself in it. Stop by the team shop and can get a team shirt and a team hat. If your kids want to make signs for the game, encourage them (and help with spelling). Take pictures during the game of the kids in their seats, with their sports garb on, and as they eat treats from the concession stand.

It will make a great souvenir. My wife made a scrapbook page of my trip to the RoughRiders game with my oldest son, and the best picture is a close-up of him licking a plastic spoon with the last drops of ice cream on it and chocolate all over his face. Great, messy fun.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

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