Baseball on a Budget: 6 Ways the Affordable Minors Bring Major Fun

Children wait for baseball players to enter the field at a baseball game.
Children wait for baseball players to enter the field at the Clearwater Threshers baseball game at Spectrum Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks apparently aren’t cheap these days.

The average cost for a group of four people to attend a Major League Baseball game in 2022 is nearly $257, according to Team Marketing Report. With the average ticket price being around $36, that means a group of four is spending more than $100 on parking and concessions!

The good news, though, is that baseball lovers have an alternative. There are 120 minor league teams stretched across the United States, with a couple even based in the Dominican Republic and Canada.

That’s quadruple the number of teams in Major League Baseball — from Tacoma to Toledo, Albuquerque to Amarillo, Syracuse to San Jose and hundreds of cities in between. So not only do you have more access to professional baseball, but you can also attend a game for a lot less cash.

If you love baseball and you haven’t checked out a minor league baseball game, you’re missing out. Here’s what you’ll experience.

6 Reasons to Attend Minor League Baseball

Clearwater Threshers players stretch before taking on the Jupiter Hammerheads during a minor league baseball game at Spectrum Field. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

1. Closer to the Action for Much Cheaper

Ticket prices are much lower at minor league games — understandably so. While you won’t see big stars like Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuña Jr., the up-and-coming stars of the future will be there.

Seeing these young, hungry minor league baseball players up close for the same price as the nosebleed seats at an MLB stadium is a rewarding experience.

How much cheaper is it to attend a minor league game?

The most recent Minor League Baseball Fan-Cost Survey found the average cost for a family of four just under $70. That average price covers the cost of two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks and parking.

Compare that to the current average cost of a Major League Baseball game for a family of four ($257) and that’s a $187 savings. Another way to put it — you could attend nearly four minor league games for the price of one major league game!

Minor league baseball
From left, Charlotte Stilwell and Tom Carlock attend a Clearwater Threshers baseball game. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

2. Eat Like a … King?

While the classic hot dogs and beers will run you about the same at any ballpark, minor league stadiums do have some of the most unique food items on their menus.

Minor League Baseball has even been known to have a food fight contest to showcase all the culinary delights served at ballparks across the country.

Some of the minor league menu highlights include the Memphis Redbirds’ BBQ nachos, the Frisco Roughriders’ loaded brisket baked potato, the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ doughnut dog (yes, a hot dog inside two glazed doughnuts), and the Aberdeen Ironbirds’ steamed crabs.

Finally, let’s not forget about the Hickory Crawdads’ CLAWlossal – a foot-long chili cheese dog, pub chips, a half-pound burger, a pulled pork sandwich, a corn dog, five onion rings, two jalapeño poppers and two pickle spears — all for the not-so-budget-friendly $40, or $25 if you take the challenge to eat the whole shebang in an inning or less. Your reward? A CLAWlossal T-shirt, your photo on the CLAWlossal Wall of Fame and your money back.

People attend a Clearwater Threshers baseball game at Spectrum Field. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

3. Enjoy the Uniqueness of Minor League Ballparks

One of the cool things about a minor league baseball game is how many interesting ballparks they take place in.

Take in a view of downtown Nashville with a giant guitar-shaped scoreboard in right field at First Horizon Park where the Nashville Sounds play. Enjoy views of the Pensacola Bay at the Pensacola Blue Wahoos Stadium, named “ballpark of the year” by the Southern League.

There’s Victory Field, one of the largest, premiere parks in the minor leagues, in Indianapolis — home of the Indianapolis Indians. And MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi — where the Biloxi Shuckers play — with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and just a short walk from Beau Rivage casino that overlooks the outfield.

4. Take Advantage of Amazing Promotions

Like fireworks? Many teams, like the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and the Chattanooga Lookouts, operate multiple fireworks shows throughout the season — some even have fireworks weekly.

But minor league teams don’t stop at just fireworks. There’s a whole pile of creative promotional nights scheduled for 2022

In May 2022, the Frisco RoughRiders hosted a “It’s Gotta Be May Night,” featuring Chris Kirkpatrick from N’Sync (apparently JT had other plans) and a celebration of pop culture in the 1990s.

In April, the St. Paul Saints welcomed Leslie David Baker (Stanley from The Office) to celebrate National Pretzel Day.

The Buffalo Bisons host an annual Star Wars Night with fans wearing Star Wars-related costumes and the players dressed out in Emperor Palpatine-themed jerseys that are auctioned off after the game.

And because the minor leagues love food promotions, many teams have recently started temporarily rebranding their names into regional foods. Examples include the Fresno Tacos, the Augusta Pimento Cheese, the Akron JoJos (potato wedges), the Manchester Chicken Tenders and the Peoria Pork Tenderloins.

From left, Blake Newell, 11, and Avery Newell, 5, get their baseball signed by Clearwater Threshers player Damek Tomscha. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

5. Get Easier Access to Players

While the autograph lines before the game are long and congested down the outfield line at MLB stadiums, they’re much less so at a minor league baseball game. Not only that, but minor league players tend to be much more willing to spend a few minutes signing autographs.

If you get to the field early enough for batting practice, many of the players in the outfield “shagging balls” are usually more than willing to throw a ball or two to fans in the stands.

Since only a small percentage of minor league players eventually make it to major league teams, you probably won’t see a future hall-of-famer. But you never know.

Many minor league teams also schedule appearances with former famous players or celebrities.

A final tip: Sometimes, Major League Baseball teams send players to a minor league affiliate when they are coming back from injury. Atlanta Braves’ young superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. played several games with the team’s AAA affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers, while returning from a knee injury in early 2022.

If you keep up with baseball news, you could snag tickets for a superstar player’s rehabilitation start in the minors.

Delilah Brahm,4, throws the ball to her father, Kevin Brahm, on Spectrum Field before the Clearwater Threshers vs. Charlotte Knights minor league baseball game. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

6. Take the Kids Out to the Old Ballgame

Even kids who love baseball may find it difficult to sit around for the whole game, especially during the breaks between innings.

That’s why many minor league baseball stadiums have a kids’ center, where the youngest members of your family can take a break from the action without forcing you to leave the game early.

Each kids center varies, so check with your local team to find out if it has a place your little one will love.

Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, includes a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a 300-foot-long zipline. Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas, has a lazy river in right field. Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva, Illinois, has a bounce house, skeeball and slides. And First Horizon Park in Nashville, Tennessee, features a miniature golf course past right field.

Most minor league league teams offer discounted tickets for kids, while some even allow kids in free on scheduled dates. Many also offer post-game activities for kids, like the opportunity to run the bases.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.