Remember when your Dad took you to the ballpark for the first time? How in awe you were at the size of the stadium, the smell of the hot dogs, and the volume of the crowd? How you had to adjust to not hearing an announcer tell you what was happening? Seeing your favorite team pull off a dramatic victory and never again falling out of love with baseball?Citizens Bank Park

Baseball is no less exciting for kids today than it was when I was a lad; in fact, even in these days of 24 hour news cycles and five hour cross country flights it may be even more exciting. The ballparks are prettier, the food tastier, and the crowds louder. And today parents still share with their kids something that few experiences could match during their own childhood.

Gathering the family for a night of baseball requires more planning than it used to, however. In the past you could spend a couple of seconds persuading the kid, drive up to the ballpark, buy tickets right there at the box office and enjoy a hot dog…and it didn’t break your wallet (or at least people reminisce that it didn’t; even in my youth I remember people complaining about the price of baseball).

Today, with baseball a full blown entertainment industry, you’re better off taking some time planning ahead.

First, baseball is much more expensive than it used to be, of course. But this doesn’t have to hold you back. Many teams offer discounts and deals on tickets; if you sign up for the team’s ticket alert newsletter, they’ll send you whatever deals are available on a regular basis. (I highly recommend the newsletter.) If public transportation is available to get you to the ballpark, so much the better to have the option over traffic and expensive parking—many times kids ride more cheaply or even free, so you can have a look on the transit website. Most ballparks will allow you to bring food and drinks into the ballpark (within reason), so you can certainly save a few dollars buying peanuts, drinks or even sandwiches outside of the ballpark. Just following these three tips alone can save you a large amount of money!

Before selecting a game for the kids, look around on the team’s website for promotions. Every team has giveaway nights; on their website hover over the “Schedule” section and you’ll see a link for “Promotions and Giveaways”. Most teams give away bobbleheads, T-shirts, lunch boxes, whatever…and most every team has special nights for the kids too, especially if the team isn’t doing great in the standings. Maybe the kid would love a concert or fireworks show after the game—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about fireworks shows after ballgames, it’s that I’ve never been disappointed by one! Or the kids might like to run the bases after the game…this is a popular promotion in many cities, and it’s great to see a parent rounding third carrying an infant.

You’ll also want to arrive at the ballpark early; many of the ballparks today have earned the nickname “mallparks” because of all of the opportunities to spend money. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing—many of them have playgrounds, interactive games, baseball-themed video game kiosks, enough to keep the kid occupied even if the game doesn’t. (Comerica Park in Detroit actually has a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round with tigers instead of carousel horses!) You’ll need time to check out all of this with the kids—and by the way, some teams have discounted concessions for early arriving fans.

With all of the food options today, the kids are probably going to want something—so you may want to have a look at the team website beforehand just to see what is available. Some teams, like the Mets and Phillies, have discounted concession stands for the young ones, with smaller hot dogs and drinks at smaller prices. These stands sometimes even have the classic kids’ favorite, the PB&J.

Finally, don’t forget to point out the between innings promotions going on, like team mascots racing around the bases—a promotion popularized with Milwaukee’s sausages and now performed in Pittsburgh with pierogies, in Atlanta with tools, and in Washington with presidents! Or ballgirls firing hot dogs and T-shirts into the crowd, or voting for your team’s players for the All-Star Game.

Not to mention the game itself (remember the game?), and if that was enough to keep this ADD kid’s attention years ago, it should do just fine with yours today. Teach them how to keep score, explain the sacrifice bunt, cheer with them at the perfectly executed double play. It will work for you, too, by the way. There was never a bigger smile on my father’s face than when his kids would be screaming their heads off with delight at an Orioles comeback victory. The rest is just gravy.

After the assault on the senses a night of baseball brings on, the kids are likely to be starry-eyed and exhausted afterward. With memories embedded for a lifetime.

Or maybe the next day they’ll tell you that what they enjoyed the most was the train ride.

Kurt Smith is the author of Ballpark E-Guides, your complete PDF-format guides to anything you need to know about going to any of 14 major league ballparks. Ballpark E-Guides contain loads of insider info about getting tickets, finding a great seat, getting there and eating at the ballpark, with “Tightwad Tips” to help you save money on all of it. All for just $5.00…check out Ballpark E-Guides here!