In the mid 1970s, minor league baseball came back to my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and suddenly this southern industrial town came alive (at least to me). The Class AA Lookouts added a new dimension of fun to steamy summer nights and whenever we could scrounge up money and a ride we'd go to Engel Stadium. Late in games, we would make our way behind the visitor dugout to hassle Birmingham Barons manager Eddie Brinkman. Why? No reason, other than he was a former big leaguer and that was good enough for us. There was occasionally a rare treat of riding a hundred or so miles to Atlanta to see Hank Aaron and the Braves, but going a hundred miles there was like going to the moon.
Distances have blurred in the nearly 40 years since those wonderful days of youth. In North Dakota, we might drive 100 miles for lunch, so a 200-mile trip from Bismarck to Fargo with the family for the RedHawks' home opener on Memorial Day weekend was no big deal.
One thing that hasn't changed for me is the love of the game played well. There were a few uncharacteristic errors (two on one play), but good plays were made and the RedHawks won with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, just how games are supposed to end. The biggest difference I've seen in the players at AA Chattanooga and independent Fargo is basically age. Those in Fargo are somewhat older and not attached to any major league affiliate. I do believe skill level of the RedHawks players is every bit as good as those 19- and 20-year-olds heading up the chain. Maybe the RedHawks are a half step slower or the fastball does has that extra hop. It's still good baseball in a great park.
There are no bad seats in Newman Outdoor Field. My family of five had seats up behind the home dugout for $55. For another $50, I filled the car with gas and fed the family ($1 hot dog night). That much money would get me a so-so seat in Target Field.
So you can keep your expensive tickets, parking hassles, traffic nightmares and outrageous prices. I'll take my affordable, good baseball in a great little park. You should too. Baseball fans won't be disappointed.