Jen Nevius contributes the latest installment of "Why I Love Minor League Baseball." You can follow on Twitter at @JenNev8.
Who doesn’t love a cheaper version of Major League Baseball, with great giveaways and a chance to meet the future of the game? I remember my first minor league game. My dad, who coached elementary school softball, was given tickets for a Wilmington Blue Rocks (ed. note: Advanced A class affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) game as a gift from one of his players (and my teammate). I completely fell in love with the game that day, along with the atmosphere and the accessibility of the players. That year I had the opportunity to watch Mike Sweeney go from High-A to the big leagues. I also met him and he is an even greater person than he is a player.
Going to games allowed me to make friends (or more like brothers) for life. I’ve always been shy and the guys I met genuinely seemed to care about me and helped me to open up. Looking back, these friendships definitely helped me in life. I’m an only child and had always wanted an older brother, and each season I always seemed to find one (or a few).
We treated these guys like part of the family. Minor league players make very little money and many had to send money home for tuition loan repayments, wedding plans, or other bills. So we provided them with birthday cupcakes or road trip goodies. When we made road trips, we usually took a player (or more) out to dinner. That’s how we first met World Series champion Chad Durbin. We were taking his teammate Jake Chapman out and Chad tagged along. Then every trip we made that season, we took both out to dinner. I still keep in touch with both and it was nice to see Chad succeed at the highest level.
From that first game, we became fans and then ticket holders. The summer of my junior year of high school, I became an usher at Frawley Stadium and continued through my college years. Being around the game made me realize that I wanted to work in the game as my career.
When I started working for the Blue Rocks, my parents started bringing my little cousin Billy to games. He loved every minute of it and used to get SO into the games. He was non-stop chattering about what was going on in the game and would get so excited that he was usually standing up the whole time. He wore his giveaway t-shirt that hung to his ankles virtually everyday.
I watched many amazing players come and go, but always followed their career after they left Wilmington. It has been great to see guys I’ve followed or become friends with make it to the majors, like Mike MacDougal and Dee Brown. It has been even greater to watch them grow up and become family men and succeed outside of baseball.
While I am trying to make my working in baseball a reality, I try to attend as many minor league games as possible in a 3-hour radius of my home. After attending that first minor league game back in 1995, I have become a minor league baseball junkie.
I love looking back and saying “I saw that guy play in _____, back in ____” when I’m watching a Major League game.