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How to Enjoy a Baseball Game Like an American

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In America, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is probably one of summertime's most-sung songs. Why? Because America’s favorite summer sport is baseball. In fact, baseball is such an American institution that one company coined the tagline, Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.

Okay, so maybe not every American drives a Chevy, but most boys and girls learn to play the sport in school and adults pay good money to watch professionals play it very well. If you are visiting the U.S. (or even if you live there) you really should make an effort to get into the culture and see a game.

Front of Tropicana Field baseball stadium in St. Peterburg, Florida

Tropicana Field in St. Peterburg, Florida, is home to the Tampa Rays baseball team. My father lives in a suburb and is a die-hard Pittsburgh fan, so when his beloved Pirates were in town, we took him to a game as a Father's Day gift.

It quickly became apparent to us that some people have no clue as to what to do at a baseball stadium and some don't understand the game. What a pity. To help you avoid that and maximize your experience, here are my “official preparation instructions” for a day at the park. My tips should help you enjoy an American baseball game like a pro.

Where to find a baseball stadium

On just about any day between April and September, you'll find a game being played somewhere in America. Just jump online and check any United Airlines booking, Delta booking or any other airlines that fly to any host city. Grab a cheap flight and you're off!

Check this list of Major League Baseball stadiums in the United States. Hopefully, you are within driving distance of a game.

Tickets range from $8 (in what we Americans affectionately call the Nose Bleed Section) to over $300 per seat. Those expensive seats will put you right down next to the field, where you can shake hands with the pros, gather a few autographs, and maybe even catch an errant ball.

Trust me: If you can afford to buy a ticket, it's worth it.

Andrew McCutchen greets a fan
Baseball players often chat with people in the front rows.

What to wear to a baseball game

Actually, you don't need to worry about what to wear. As long as you won't get arrested for indecent exposure, you can wear anything that feels comfortable.

If you wear something sporty like a t-shirt, jeans and a nice set of sneakers, you'll fit right in.

I also recommend a cross-body bag to keep all your valuables accessible. You are going to need both hands to carry all your food and drinks to your seat AND to cheer on your team.

Check the weather because you may also want to bring a hat, jacket, or rain gear. A baseball cap will keep the sun out of your eyes, but don't discount the risk of sunburn. You may want something with a wider brim.

If you're especially keen to look like a die-hard fan (or you want the perfect souvenir), head to the team shop. Every stadium has an MLB store that sells hats, clothing and other logoed items for the local team.

Shop selling MLB logoed gear for Tampa Rays.

Traditional baseball stadium snacks

Now, pay careful attention. After finding your level and section and BEFORE actually taking your seat, there are a few things that we need to discuss. I will list them in order, starting with the most important item.

Snacks.

Baseball stadiums snacks are basically the same nationwide, but stadiums also have special items that locals enjoy. Look for someone decked out in the home team colors, carrying noise makers, or sporting a wild hat and facial paint. This person will know what the local favorite ballpark food is. Don’t question, just head on over and grab whatever it is. Maybe get two because it probably is going to taste delicious.

As for traditional baseball stadium snacks, here are the most common ones you will find:

Hot dogs

First off, you must get the ball park specialty … a foot-long hot dog. I'll be the first one to admit that they're not health food, but at least a lot of ball parks now serve kosher hot dogs!

In any event, don’t be shy here. Load up on all the fixings you want: ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, jalapenos, onions, tomato, the works. Maybe even add a “side of cheese” to make it even more delectable.

 The 'Fixings Station' for hot dogs and other stadium snacks
The ‘Fixings Station' lets you load your foot-long hot dog with everything you want. Don't be shy.

Nachos

Nachos and all their cheesy goodness are another stadium standard. They make a great alternative if you're not into hot dogs. Feel free to doctor them up at the fixing station.

Soft pretzels

Soft pretzels are another fan favorite. Pick up some yellow mustard to get the full experience.

Peanuts

“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.” This line in the song just goes to prove how long peanuts have been standard baseball park fare. Throw the shells on the floor. It's tradition.

Cracker Jack

Along with hot dogs, Cracker Jack is yet another American ball park icon. Just as with foot-long hot dogs, you'll find Cracker Jack at just about every American baseball stadium.

This is a highly-addictive concoction of molasses-flavored popcorn and peanuts. As a bonus, it even comes with a prize in every box. You can buy it online here.

Menu at a baseball stadium snack stand

Beer

I'm not joking. This is one place where public drinking is traditional. Even if you don't drink beer, you will want to grab a liquid to wash everything down. Beer, water and soft drinks are always available.

Outback Steakhouse to-go stand in Tropicana Field
Picky eater? Special diet? Stadiums have regular restaurants, and sometimes even gluten free stands. Don't worry about missing any action, because all the food is packaged “To Go.”

Baseball game essentials to watch for

It is very important to locate the toilet nearest to your seat. This will come in especially handy after paying the drink vendors, as you will not want to miss any of the action down on the field. You might even want to do a “practice run” to ensure that you can get to that special location, do your duty, and return within the 4-minute gap between innings.

Pay special attention to the signs located around the stadium, as many of them give very important advice. (If you ignore this tip, then you might be researching all aspects of a facial reconstruction surgery after getting hit by a free-flying bat or a foul ball.)

Warning sign in Tropicana Field, Beware of foul balls or thrown bats.
This is no joke. Balls and bats do end up in the nose bleed section!

Moving to your seat

Armed with these necessities, head to your assigned seat. The first thing you will notice is the warmth and kindness of your fellow fans, who will thoughtfully get up to let you pass. (That is, if you did not wear anything in the colors of the opposing team.)

Sit down, settle in and get your food organized. Seats in most parks have a drink holder, so don't worry about kicking it over. It's traditional to store any excess food under your seat.

To save waiting on a long line later, you might wish to make a quick trip to use the lavatory before the game starts.

It won't take you long to see the food vendors. They are easy to spot because their outfits contrast against the sea of team colors. Get acquainted with their getup; you will need them later in the game.

Take a look around the stadium

A stadium is a sight for sore eyes. The first thing you might notice is the array of monstrous screens in the stadium.

The screens are designed to keep you in touch with the action. They give you the latest statistics of the players and even offer audience participation instructions at certain points during the game. All of these add to the fun and make you feel sorry for those poor folks who can only watch the game on television.

 One baseball player's stat screen

Pre-game ceremonies

Every park has a pre-game ceremony. It always begins with presenting of the flag, after which a guest performer leads everyone in singing the National Anthem.

It is customary to stand up, remove your hat and sing along. Don't worry about how you sound. Sing as badly as you want; you will blend in with the crowd.

Players lined up along the field for the opening ceremony

The next formality is at home plate (that five-sided rubber thing on the field). Here, both teams' managers will meet to exchange player line-ups and rules about the particular ball park.

Next comes the First Pitch, where someone of distinction attempts to throw a ball 66 feet 6 inches – from the pitcher's mound to home plate. It is a miracle when anyone comes close.

Don’t worry about that. The real players always put on a spectacular show.

Baseball. Rules … rules … rules

Basic rules for baseball are easy. One player (the “pitcher”) throws a fist-sized ball, at speeds in excess of 95 MPH, to a teammate (the “catcher”). Meanwhile, a player on the opposing team (the “batter”) attempts to hit said tiny ball with a wooden stick (the bat) so it lands somewhere out of easy reach.

The pitcher's goal is to send the ball over the plate, lower than the batter's shoulders and higher than his knees. That area is known as the “strike zone.”

  • If the batter swings at a ball in the zone and misses it, it's called a “strike.”
  • If he misses it three times, he's “out.”

Sometimes, the pitcher throws the ball outside of the strike zone.

  • If a batter swings and misses a ball outside of the strike zone, it still counts as a strike.
  • If he doesn't swing, it's called a “ball.”
  • When the pitcher throws four “balls,” the batter advances (walks) to first base. That's called a “walk.”

Bottom line: Three strikes and you're out. Four balls and you walk.

What happens after a batter hits the ball?

When the batter makes a hit, he runs to “first base,” the white square on his right. His goal is to reach it before an opponent tags him with the ball or the ball arrives at the base he's running to. If he gets tagged or the ball beats him to the plate, he's “out.”

If he's lucky, he'll be able to run around the entire dirt circle, get past second and third base without getting tagged out, and return “home” to where he started. This is called a “home run.” Scores are tallied by the total number of home runs each team gets during a game.

Not too complicated.

Stealing bases

To keep the game interesting, theft is also a part of the game. Sometimes, a runner manages to run to the next base when the pitcher isn't looking, and Americans enjoy a good “stolen base” or two during a baseball game.

Although we don’t usually condone theft, in baseball it is admired and exciting.

How long does a baseball game last?

Good question. A typical game will last 9 innings, and each inning is made up of both sides getting time at bat. They switch sides when the batting team gets three outs.

There is no time limit to a baseball game. It will end after 9 innings, unless the score is tied. In that case they will keep playing until a team wins an inning. So your normal $16 ticket might buy you 2-3 hours of entertainment … or 2 days' worth.

TIP:  Inclement weather can shorten a game or postpone it altogether. Unless you’ll be in a stadium with a roof, like Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg – be sure to check the weather forecast before you buy your ticket, or bring a raincoat and umbrella.

What to do during the baseball game

Around the third inning, you'll probably be out of food and drink and ready for more. You won't want to miss any of the action, so scout out one of the vendors walking through the stands. Buy a bag of roasted peanuts – because, after all, the song from the 7th inning says, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…” And of course you'll probably want another beer to wash it down….

If you're sitting in the middle of the row, hand signals will get what you want. Wave like a maniac to get noticed by the vendor. Shrug to ask, how much does it cost? He will hold up maybe 4 fingers, meaning $4. Give a ‘thumbs up’ to accept and the vendor will pass your purchase down the row, from one fan to another, until it reaches you.

If you have been a good fan, none of them will take a sip as it passes by. Simply pass your money back down the row to complete the transaction. And hope nobody pilfers a dollar or two because you were a naughty fan.

 Cotton candy vendor in the stands

By the seventh inning, your rear end may be tired. Fortunately, halfway through that inning, they'll have the famous “Seventh Inning Stretch.” This is when some celebrity guest (or it could be a guy in the stands) leads everyone in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

The routine is to stand with all the other fans, lock arms and sway back and forth as he butchers a great ball park song.

More importantly, this is the unspoken last call for beer. Grab your final one and sing along.

Filming the seventh inning singing of 'take me out to the ball game' in Tropicana field

The home run

The single, most-favorite event in baseball is when a batter hits the 95 mph pitch so hard that it clears the fence beyond the outfield.

HOME RUN!

Outfield players watching the ball fly over the field, out of reach.

When this happens, the batter gets to jog, instead of run, around the bases. So do any of the other players that are already on base. Teammates celebrate this monumental effort with high fives as he crosses home plate at the end.

 Andrew

When we went, we were able to see last year’s most valuable player, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, hit a home run and circle the bases.

Although the Pirates lost the game, I wasn't disappointed. They won two games out of a three-game series against the Rays, and I still saw Cutch hit that home run. Sharing a baseball game was the best way for me to spend time with my dad, a tradition American fathers and sons have shared since the 1800s.

Andrew McCutchen arrives at home base after hitting a home run

Final word of advice

On a final note… If you are driving, it will take quite a while to get out of the parking lot due to traffic. Plan for it: You might as well hang around the ball park and watch the post game activities.

Oh … and use the rest room before you leave.

Please share this story with your friends.

Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. Enjoys catching children at play, showing their innocence in every situation … we all can learn that, to be content with what our Father in heaven has provided. Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.

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26 thoughts on “How to Enjoy a Baseball Game Like an American

  1. Hi Dan

    My wife and I are travelling to California in August 2019 for a couple of weeks from the UK. It’ll be our first time to the west coast and we are keen on a going to our first ball game and embrace it.

    Question is, should we see the Giants vs Diamondbacks when we are in SF or Dodgers vs Giants when we are in LA on September 6th, and why?

    Appreciate it 🙂

    1. Hi Rui,

      Thanks for your question.

      This is a hands-down, no brainer easy choice. Giants v Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium is a CLASSIC! Both teams got their start in New York before moving to the west coast. Dodgers Stadium is one of the ballparks that every fan should see a game in along with Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankees Stadium. The giants used to play at a classic ballpark, Candlestick, but that is no longer. They built a new park in San Francisco.

      Let me know what you think after your trip.

      Regards,

      Dan

      1. Thanks Dan – appreciated.

        I’ve been doing my homework on both so looks like Dodgers Stadium it is.

        Any recommendations on where to sit? Also, do home and away fans sit together? Do I have to pick a team? I ask as I’ve looked online for tickets and looks like there’s no separation – which is fine, but curious and not used to it. More used to Rugby and Football (what you call soccer) 🙂

        Fenway Park and Yankee stadium is on the list for when we hit the East coast next 🙂

        1. Hi Rui,

          If your not a fan of either team and just want to enjoy the game, then it really doesn’t mater where you sit. That said, Dodgers fans would sit along the third base dugout as that is where the team sits and it gives them the best chance for an autograph.

          For your experience, I would suggest along the foul lines as close as possible (budget permitting) to the field. It is important to remember, that if you are close to the field, you should pay attention to the game as balls and bats can come into the stands. It is the dream of every person in the ballpark to catch a foul ball and take it home. But a line drive comes extremely fast and can do damage to a fan not paying attention.

          Let me know where you buy your tickets. Also, Friday night games have fireworks afterwards… Just mentioning.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I’m from NZ and coming over in August and really want to make a game. Quick question – I see that it is played over three different slots, which is the best to go to If I can only choose one?

    Thanks!

    1. Hello Alice,

      Thanks for you question. I am not understanding what you mean by “it is played over three different slots”?

      If you are talking about starting times of the games (usually early afternoon, late afternoon, and evening) then I like the evening games as they are much cooler in temperature. But also depends on my time, ticket availability and so on. If it is one of my favorite teams, then let’s just watch them all!! Haha

      If you are talking about a series (same teams playing over 3-4 days) then what I would do is to look at the pitching match-ups for determine which game should be the best on paper. As always, paper does not decide what happens on the field. If you have a target set of games you are looking at, let me know and I’ll help you find the best for you to see.

      If something different is the meaning other than the above, just let me know.

      Regards,

      Dan

  3. Hi Dan, I am taking my husband and daughter to their first every MLB game in July. We are going to the Padres/Cubs game at Wrigley. I have grown up going to games with my dad but this will be a first for both of them. My daughter will be 2 1/2 months old by the time game day rolls around. I am wanting to get there early enough for my husband to watch batting practice and possibly meet Manny Machado (his favorite player at the moment) I know we should get there a few hours early for this but i was wanting to know who i contact about getting something for them that says “My First Game” any suggestions?

    1. Hi Laura,

      Firstly, congrats on breaking in your family into America’s favorite past-time. You are indeed a good wife and mom. Secondly, ask your husband to kindly change his player choice to Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, or any other Cubs star. It will make the game far more enjoyable. Haha.

      Now for a couple of suggestions you didn’t ask about but should have. First, make sure you have a baseball and a sharpie with you. It is great to get down next to the field and gather player autographs before the game starts. Second, don’t be disappointed if the gates are not yet open when you arrive, but just be prepared to wait because the reward is fantastic. Also, do pay attention carefully to the game as you never know when a stray foul ball comes your way and you must protect your baby and husband. 😉

      Finally, getting to your question, the best advice I can give is either but a white logo-ed shirt and have someone put the words on it, or google “my first baseball game shirt” I did and this is a cool site I found. https://www.everythingbaseballcatalog.com/tshirts.html

      Please do let me know how you enjoyed your time… And if the Cubbies win, do let me know the score.

      Enjoy,
      Dan

    1. “Holy Cow” (Harry Caray pun fully intended) yes that is very important. Without sunscreen you can return home as french fried as those side-kicks of a Coney dog.

  4. For those on a budget, or the convenience of location, you can also enjoy baseball at the Minor league levels. There’s always the chance of seeing a major league star playing or seeing an up and comer.

    All the tips in the original article are still valid here also. Stadiums are usually a little less elaborate but still fun. The savings on tickets makes up for it though. Minor league comes in single, double or triple “A”. Triple is the closest to the Majors. There are a lot of these hidden gems spread out so its worth the investigation. Hope this helps.

    1. Thanks, Joe. We’d forgotten about the minors, and it’s such a good tip. We lived in Bradenton, Florida, and enjoyed watching the Pittsburgh Pirates during spring training.

  5. Thanks for pointing out that there’s no time limit for a baseball game, and its length is solely determined by how long the 9 innings take. My son is in a wheelchair, but he loves to watch MLB on TV. I was thinking of finding a ticket package to get for him for his upcoming birthday, and your article will help us have a really great time.

    1. Thanks, Amanda. We love to hear when one of our articles has been helpful. Please extend our best wishes for a happy birthday to your son. Hope you have a great time!

  6. Great read – as a european and a newbie to MLB games I just wonder…

    When is the “right” time to arrive to a game – or might I say how much time before the “ticket game time” would be a good choice?

    Will be going to my first MLB game in Cincinnati next week – did spend a little more on the ticket (behind the ScoutBoxes) with free food 🙂

    1. Hello René,

      What a great question. I try to get there at least an hour before game time. Why? Well several reasons. One is there is a greater opportunity to gather autographs from the players. Second is it is fun watching batting practice before the game begins. But the BIGGEST reason is baseball. Really the ball itself. When there are not as many people, it is far easier to get a ball hit into the stands and then you can take it home with you. Getting a foul ball is the dream of every person attending the game. You’ll see young and old alike bringing ball gloves to the game with a dream attached… Catching either a home run ball or a foul ball. Please let me know how your experience is.

      1. Hi Dan

        As promised I will give you a short recap of my experience at The Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

        Reds vs. Pirates early game on a saturday – I had a ticket to the Club Level including all you can eat pass.

        Was seated just left of the homeplate and had a good chat with a couple at my own age – that was a good addition to the experience as I was traveling alone. Reds won, there was a homerun and a broken bat – very nice game. Got a “First Reds Game” diploma – and I might mention that the staff at the Balla Park was extremely friendly and helpfull – as the learned that this was my first time ever, the went far to help me have the best gameexperience ever.

        After that I went to Lexington for the next 4 days.

        Returning to Cincinnati I realised that I could catch the Reds vs Red Sox – I was in Boston in June and had the tour of Fenway Park (wich was super) but no opportunity to watch a game. So I quickly decided to buy another ticket to the Friday night game with fireworks and all. HAd tickets i the clubsection again, this time in section 405 with at good view towards 1. base. This time I didn’t talk to the guys near me but had the full attention on the game – wich was faster that the first one. Lots of hits and runs – Reds had a good start with at bases loaded HR.

        All in all two good experiences – and will for sure catch a game next time Im over.

        Thank you for the guide, it did really help me feel like a part of the game day.

        1. What a wonderful time you had. I’ll still talk to you… Maybe only for a few days, as you saw two of my favorite three teams. Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Guess I’ll hear that you are heading to Chicago next to catch the Cubbies. I’m really glad you got to enjoy two games. BUT, next time you must get a field level ticket so you can meet and talk to the players.

          Thank you so much for the update. BTW, that HR with bases loaded is called a “Grand Slam”

  7. I really like that you point out to find the closest bathroom to your seat. I agree that it is important to know where this is. I imagine it would be pretty embarrassing running around looking for a bathroom.

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