Finding the right mix to create an excellent game day experience in minor league baseball can be challenging. Try too hard and it becomes gimmicky, with the game relegated to secondary status amid all the promotions and contests. Try too little and the night at the park can drag on with little to see or do during the inning breaks.
In just their second season the Ottawa Fat Cats have found a combination that works for them and, most importantly, their fans.
The Fat Cats — who play in the senior amateur Intercounty Baseball League — routinely draw more than 2,000 fans through the doors at Ottawa Baseball Stadium on Coventry Road and judging by the smiles on the faces at the park on Saturday night, most leave happy.
On the field the IBL provides a charmingly imperfect style of baseball. The players aren’t as polished as the major league prospects who used to dot the lineup of the triple-A Ottawa Lynx in the 1990s and 2000s, but on any given day fans will still witness the full spectrum of baseball. There’s still clutch hitting, solid pitching and some great glove-flashing defence — case in point Kevin Deitrich’s diving catch in centre field on Saturday night.
Of course there’s also plenty of errors, wild pitches and other mistakes mixed in, which keeps fans, and sometimes even the players, guessing.
The Fat Cats know that developing a family friendly atmosphere is key to their success and looked through that lens while developing their game day package. Competitions like Stadium Idol and parent-child spelling bees keep fans entertained and children involved whenever there’s a break on the diamond. Take Me Out to the Ball Game gets fans
of all ages out of their seats at any park.
Of course the stadium staples — hotdogs, beer and 50/50 tickets are all available. Indeed, the Fat Cats provide an impressive assortment of brews for a minor-league team.
The tickets are priced in such a way to make it easy to bring a family, or go for a night out with friends. Children under six are free as are military members and veterans. Adult tickets are $12 and students and seniors are $8 and children under 12 are $6, with discounts available for online purchases.
When attending a game, arrive 20 minutes early to catch the dedicated grounds crew get the field in tip-top shape for the game. The stadium was built for triple-A ball and although it’s not as polished as it was during the early days of the Lynx, it field is still maintained in excellent condition.
The 10,000-seat venue does seem cavernous at times for amateur ball, but the rush-seating model the Fat Cats use gives fans the luxury of spreading themselves through throughout the park.
The Fat Cats still have nine home games left this IBL season, including a pair this weekend against London and a three-game set over Canada Day weekend against Barrie.
Anyone craving peanuts and crackerjacks? Thanks for the post, Peter!