I have never heard a man laying on his death bed with seconds to live mumbling how he just didn't spend enough time in the office. What's wrong with us Dad's? Why do we keep telling ourselves that this year is going to be different? This year I will lose 20 pounds. This year I will read my Bible cover to cover. This year I will be a better father! Well, this year I will be a better father.

When you close your eyes and vision that perfect childhood memory, what do you see? For me, it was the smell of Wrigley Field (for better or worse). It was the sound of the organ, the roar of the crowd, and the electric energy that follows the game that I loved best...Baseball! I wanted those same memories for my kids. We live just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina which puts us right in the middle of some of the best minor league baseball in the country. I figure I have a good 12 years left with my kids in the house and time is flying by. I cancelled a few meetings and took them to our local ballpark.

I have 3 kids ages 6, 12, & 14. They are great kids and I love every minute that I get to spend with them. I want to start creating a legacy of memories that continue for many generations. Baseball will live long past me and will continue to provide those memories in my absence. The purpose of this blog is to not only document the moments I get to spend with my kids, but analyze every minor league ballpark in the United States. My kids will be doing the analysis as well as many of the blog posts. What ballparks are family friendly? What parks give your family the most for their money? What do the players have to say about their team and the park they play in? Who has the coolest uniforms? Right from the mouth (or fingers) of babes. That's 240 teams in 12 years, an average of 20 games per year. We might not reach our goal...but man is it going to be fun trying!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Carolina Mudcats


     If you are passing through Raleigh, North Carolina and have a few hours to spare, I have a must do suggestion.  Head east of town, go past a few tobacco fields, a couple heads of cattle, and toothless guy named Jim and you will find a hidden jewel in Zebulon, NC.  This ballpark represents everything that is wholesome about the game of baseball.  It is a good local crowd that is literally hovering over one of the most interactive ballpark experiences in the game today.  You can't miss the park as you are driving down the road.  Look for the water tower baseball and you know you are close to some baseball magic.

Parking - 9
     I like it when a ballpark keeps it simple.  The Mudcats have one parking lot that you will find the moment you enter the park.  With the gravel and dirt lot please don't wash your car ahead of time.  It really isn't a big deal because your total drive will be less than 100 yards in any direction.  You are greeted by friendly staff the moment you pull in.  Make sure to bring $5 in cash to take care of the parking fee.  This is not much to pay to be so close to the entrance of the park.  You can either enter directly from the parking lot on the right field entrance or you can walk up the hill to main entrance behind home plate.  I am a home plate guy so that is the direction we headed.  All three of my kids agreed on the Family Friendly Score (FFS) of a 9 due to the price and location to the field.
Out Of Park Experience - 5
     I tried very hard to look for any "experience" I could find.  The best I could do was an adventurous journey into a local gas station bathroom before the game.  This is a small town that does not provide anything outside of the park to do.  If you asked toothless Jim, he would probably tell you he was heading to the ballpark.  What the town lacks is compensated by what Five County Stadium provides.  Let me preface by saying that the FFS score is not the fault of the Mudcats.  It simply represents what is available to do during a day to the ballgame.  The kids gave the OPE a 5.  It makes it a half day trip to the park rather than a full day, and for most families that is just right.  
Ticket Price - 10
   I was shocked when I paid for my tickets.  This was not a "big city" shock, but more of a Mayberry...Andy Griffith shock.  I arranged to have my youngest son's machine pitch team be a part of their Field of Dreams program.  What we got for the price was simply jaw dropping!  We paid $13 for each ticket which included a meal.  For each child, I paid $18 per ticket which included a great seat, a hot dog meal with drink, a ticket to the speed pitch game, a logo ball for autographs, and the opportunity to meet the team before the game.  They were allowed to go on the field before the game and run out to each position with the Mudcats.  I can't show in pictures the level excitement in each child's smile.  This is a memory that will continue with them for the rest of their lives.  I was also impressed with the level of interaction that the Mudcats Team had with each child.  They went out of their way to high five and talk with each kid.  This is the reason why I love minor league baseball and the Mudcats set the standard that all teams should follow.  They scored a perfect 10 on the FFS.
Team Store - 9
     As you pass through the main gates and look to the right, you will see the Mudcat's Team Store.  It is clean and well organized with plenty of staff to take care of everything.  I didn't have my usual New Era goosebumps since I was already wearing my hat from last year.  As I was passing by a clearance bucket below the hat wall, I noticed some fitted hats for only $15.  There it was at the bottom of the bucket.  A brand new 7 5/8 fitted New Era!  Like Harry Potter's wand choosing the young sorcerer, this hat chose me to wield its future magic. After spending an additional $5 for a mini wooden bat, we were on our way to check out the rest of the Five County Stadium.  With those prices and that great find, we scored the team store an easy 9 on the FFS. 
Team Hat / Logo - 9
     Pylodictis olivaris does not have as cool of a ring to it as a Mudcat and probably not the most sexy of corporate logos to hang your hat on.  With that said, I must say that Carolina does a good job at pulling it off.  Their logo is quite contagious and with the red and black color scheme, I would call it one of the coolest brands in the league.  You know how I love hats, so when you combine the $15 deal with this cool hat...pure magic!  Sorry kids but this is my call.  I give the Mudcats an FFS of a 9.
Ball Park Bling - 7
     This is a park that you don't need a lot to do.  You are so close to everything and the Mudcats do a great job of getting you involved not only between inning but during them as well.  It is a small park that really only has the room for a speed pitch inflatable on the 3rd base side of the stadium.  When considering the interaction my kids had before the game and the entertainment during, they did a pretty good job.  My youngest boy rated the Bling at a firm 7.
Seating - 9
     Five County Stadium has a cool vertical presence about it.  You feel like you are hovering over the action.  My youngest said it the best, "These are good ball catching seats!"  We sat in two different sections for this game.  Arlis loves sitting in section 210.  Not only is it great foul ball territory, but it is a really cool place to watch the game.  To avoid the sun, we also sat in section 402.  There were not many people over here so the kids got to run around and have a good time.  The older kids enjoyed sitting down by the wall in section 301.  It is a great autograph area for both teams coming into and out of the park.  With each child having their favorite seat to sit in, it was pretty easy to give the seating a Five County Stadium a 9 on the FFS.
Food - 7
 Click the Pic to see Cattails!
Click the Pic to see Cattails!
     It is my opinion, and I probably have no way of proving it, but the Mudcats have the most food options per square stadium foot than any park in the United States.  Every opening in the wall is a place to buy food, and that does not count the multiple stands available at each seating section.  You can buy everything from local beer to a plate of BBQ nachos.  For all of my Midwestern teammates out there...BBQ in North Carolina is considered pork.  If you are doing anything else, you are just grillen' out.  The food is priced comparably to any other park unless you come on a dollar hot dog and drink night.  The best deal was the hot dog, drink, and chips that we got with the Field of Dreams package.  Five County Stadium is also home to Cattails Restaurant.  I have heard great things about their food and prices, but have not had the pleasure of eating there yet.  I would like to try and get there later this year for a "date night" with my wife.  With all of the options combined with the price, we score the food as a 7 on the FFS.  This number is subject to change after a Cattails visit.
Bathrooms - 7
     A bathroom is a bathroom is what I am told.  To me it easy for one to be sold.  You have their attention for a minute or two, to show them a deal or maybe a few.  I am glad that they're clean and the plumbing works great.  A fine sanctuary to remove what you've just ate.  An experience I argue should be had by all, in a seat, at the food cart, and even the bathroom wall.  I cannot admit that in there I found heaven.  We all can agree that the bathrooms were a 7.
Hype Man - 9
     The job of hype man has been split in a few direction at Five County Stadium.  The voice of the Mudcats is a gentleman that does a great job getting the fans going.  If someone can help me with his name that would be great.  I searched their website, but they don't do a good job of marketing what he does.  I have been there on a night with only a few fans and have seen the same performance as if the place was sold out.  Muddy is the face of the Mudcats.  My son loves Muddy and goes out of his way for a high five.  It is for Muddy alone that both of my boys score the Hype Man as a 9.  Sometimes we are even graced by the presence of his best friend Mini Muddy.  He is great with a four wheeler and a water gun and always keeps his fans on there toes.  He is a must meet when you head to the park.
Kid's Thoughts - 8.1
     I have said in past blogs that Minor League Baseball has been losing its identity over the years.  This game was created for the family to not only enjoy playing but watching as well.  The Carolina Mudcats have restored my faith in purity of the game.  They provide you with a family experience that keeps you entertained from batting practice to the last pitch.  My 7 year old is usually a 4 or 5 inning soldier, but at the Mudcats game he went the distance.  I cannot encourage you enough that when you are traveling through Raleigh take a half day and come experience this for yourselves.  It doesn't matter if you are a first time participant or an extreme baseball fan.  Five County Stadium will take you back to a time when everything was good and life went at a much slower pace.  Until next time...see you in the batter's box!

   Family Friendly Score
 Category Score
 Parking    9
 Out of Park EXP    5
 Ticket Price   10
 Team Store    9
 Team Hat/Logo    9
 Ballpark Bling    7
 Seating    9
 Food    7
 Bathrooms    7
 Hype Man    9
 Total:   8.1

1 comment:

  1. thank you for posting with this. it is very helpful for all those that need to go to the game. including me. by the way i really like your blog