What if you could make your kids' wildest sports dreams come true? What if they could sit up close, meet the players or even take the field? Dream no more, tiny baseball, basketball, soccer and tennis fans. This summer, minor league baseball teams the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island (SI) Yankees, the New York Liberty of the WNBA, the US Open tennis tournament, Major League Baseball's Mets and Yankees, and the Red Bulls of Major League Soccer are inviting kids to take the field (or court). Here are the details.
"I Want to Sit Up Front!"
The best seats in the house have been known to cost an arm and a leg. Not so with these NYC sports attractions, which bring kids as close as they can get without joining the players' union. Both minor league baseball teams are offering field-level seats at nosebleed prices. The most expensive seat at the Cyclones' MCU Park is $17, and at SI Yankees' Richmond County Bank Ballpark, it's $18.
"I Want to Meet the Players!"
Do your little fans daydream about going for burgers with David Wright? Living that out might be a stretch, but they can still hang with pro athletes this summer. Hoops fans, for example, can actually watch from the team bench as the talented ladies of the New York Liberty practice; some group packages include a pre-game warm-up with the players or autograph sessions or discussions. If they're sitting in the right spot, fans can also high-five players as they enter and leave the court, and youth teams can even play on the Prudential Center hardwood at halftime. Of course, these experiences must be arranged ahead of time, so contact the team for details.
The Cyclones' and SI Yankees' future big leaguers also love fan interaction: the minor league players, many of whom are competing as professionals for the first time, are eager to fulfill autograph requests from their fans.
"I Want to Go on the Field!"
Kids can even step onto the same courts and fields as their favorite players. In addition to the warm-up sessions, the Liberty welcomes kids to take part in entertainment stunts like "Dress and Dribble," where youngsters put on full-size uniforms and dribble across the sprawling Prudential Center court (the Liberty are playing in New Jersey this season while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovation). If the little ones would rather get a little dirty, or pretend they just hit the game-winning home run, they can run the bases after Cyclones games on Sundays and after all SI Yankees games. The Mets also schedule special "Mr. Met Dash" dates when kids can run the bases after the last out is recorded, and before a game in September, they'll allow members of their kids' fan club to stand on the warning track during the national anthem.
The Red Bulls, too, offer opportunities for youngsters to step onto the pitch where the professionals play: youth teams can play on the Red Bull Arena field, escort players onto the field and carry flags and banners onto the grass. The Yankees sometimes allow season ticket holders' children onto the diamond; while the deadline has passed to get your kids onto the Yankee Stadium bases this year, keep an eye out for information about next season.
Or maybe your kids want to join the team for real someday. This summer, they can pick up pointers, too. For example, children glean valuable knowledge from women's basketball, where passing, picks and crisply run plays are essential. And at the US Open's August 24 Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, children can improve their tennis skills on a smaller-than-regulation court with child-size rackets and a ball with less bounce than normal.
"I Want to Do Something Else!"
Winning teams are ready for anything—even fidgety children. Kids are fond of mascots, and the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones boast two apiece. The SI Yanks also set off fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights, and on July 4, fans had amazing seats for the Macy's fireworks over the Hudson River. Other ballpark amenities include a bouncy castle and Skee-Ball.
The Mets' ballpark, Citi Field, is outfitted with several kid-specific attractions including "Kiddie Field," a miniature version of the stadium where youngsters can swing for the (shorter) fences with a Wiffle bat. Of course, there's also Mr. Met—the first live-action mascot in Major League Baseball.
In addition to tennis, the Arthur Ashe Kids' Day event combines music, autographs and interactive games. Previous years have brought celebrities like the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and Carly Rae Jepsen to Queens to hang out with players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic.
"I Want Good Value!"
Okay, maybe that's not your kid talking. Nevertheless, tickets for these events start at $10 or less. Outstanding deals abound for the minor league baseball teams: some packages include free food, baseball caps and more. The Yankees, meanwhile, offer half-price tickets on select dates and in certain seating locations for children 14 and younger. They also give discounts to Little League players, campers, school groups and scouts. Visit yankees.com for more info.
"I Want to Go to the Game!"
Now that you know the family sports options available this summer, there's just one thing left to do—shut down the computer and get the kids outside!