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Independent and Minor League Baseball: A Homerun for Individuals with Disabilities

Hunter Kelch and friend at Athletic Park in Wausau WI

Eddie and I at the Wisconsin Woodchucks game

Last night, my mom took my friend, Eddie, and I to Athletic Park in Wausau to watch the Wisconsin Woodchucks play.  The Wisconsin Woodchucks and Athletic Park have always been good to me as a wheelchair user. Additionally, I was so happy to share in Eddie’s excitement, as this was his very first Woodchucks game.

We always sit in the bar rail seats, as this is one of the most wheelchair friendly spots with the best view of the field. Additionally, they have a server for this section, which makes things easier on my mom or other companion. Last night, we had warm weather and sunny skies as the Fond Du Lac Dock Spiders beat the Wisconsin Woodchucks.

 Physical barriers can prevent wheelchair users from enjoying baseball. However, financial barriers can be more troublesome.  Many individuals with disabilities live on a fixed income.  26% of individuals with disabilities in the United States lives in poverty.  To put it in perspective, that is about 75 million individuals with disabilities who live in poverty.  Major League baseball is out of reach for these individuals, including myself.  There was a time as a kid, when I was able to watch the Milwaukee Brewers play in person.  Those days seem to be over for now.

The Wisconsin Woodchucks allow me to continue to live out my passion for attending baseball games.  Last night it was my mom’s treat.  She also lives on a very tight budget.  However, she was able to treat all three of us for under $80, including food.  The premium bar rail seats are $13 a piece, totaling $39 for the 3 of us.

The food prices at Athletic Park are also reasonable for a tighter budget. Last night between the 3 of us we ordered: a foot long chili dog, a veggie burger, an order of nachos (my stomach hated me last night), 2 bags of chips, a chocolate chip cookie, 2 bottles of soda, a bottled water and a 24 oz premium beer.  Our bill total was $33.50 without tip.  At major league ball parks, two hot dogs and 2 sodas could run close to $20, so this was a steal…pun intended!

Tickets for independent and minor league baseball games range between $7-$25.  On the other hand, tickets for MLB games average $31 and range from $18-$54 (or more) a piece.  At MLB games, parking comes at a cost. Accessible parking at Miller Park in Milwaukee runs about $10.  Parking at most independent and minor league baseball parks are free.  The food/beverage prices at major league ball parks as shown above are very expensive.

When you break it down, the cost of tickets alone for a MLB game is more than the total experience at an independent or minor league baseball game.  Independent and minor league baseball games provide a fun and affordable baseball experience for many.

As a kid, I loved Miller Park and watching the Brewers in person.  However, today I actually prefer the Wisconsin Woodchucks. I can explain the reason why with this one recent experience.  My mom purchased a special package deal from the Wisconsin Woodchucks, a 5 game package with an all-you-can-eat-and-drink feature.

Wisconsin Woodchuck pitcher

Pitching a strike!

We discovered at the first game, that the food needed to be purchased at a specific vending area.  Of course, it was quite a ways away.  I would have had to maneuver my chair through the crowd, leaving a trail of bruised and broken toes.  My mom did not mind the long walk and extra steps for her Fitbit challenge, but she did not like me sitting by myself for so long.

After her first round trip to the designated vending area, she sent an email to Bailey, the Woodchucks employee she had purchased the tickets through.  My mom explained the situation and requested that individuals with disabilities have the use of the bar rail servers for the promotion.  Not only did Bailey approve the request, she found us at the game that very night to tell us!  This consideration of accessibility and the warm hospitality is the reason I prefer independent and minor league baseball over MLB.

Hunter Kelch and his friend, Eddie posing with Woody Woodchuck

Woody Woodchuck!

Speaking of maneuvering through crowds, another benefit of independent and minor league baseball parks is the smaller (and sometimes more considerate) crowds.  Even on the busiest of nights, I usually have no issues getting to and from my seat.  The bar rail seating is ideal for meeting new people.  Last night as we rolled past a man who was seated next us, he waved and said “Hi Neighbor!”  I am also guaranteed a high five from Woody Woodchuck!

Sun Setting over Athletic Park

Sun setting over Athletic Park

If you are an individual with a disability and love baseball, contact your local independent or minor league baseball team.  Inquire about the accessibility of the ball park and discuss any accommodations you may need.  Usually there are a variety of options and prices you can work with.  Ask about the food prices, so you can budget ahead of time. Additionally, inquire about the accessibility of the restrooms.

Many independent and minor league baseball teams have special promotions.  Last night there was a special visit from Rally, a hilarious mascot.  I especially loved the whipped cream cake in the face routine.  Other nights I have attended, there was a cool fireworks show at the end of the game.  There are also food and beverage promotions throughout the game.

Hunter Kelch at Wisconsin Woodchucks

I love the Woodchucks!

Baseball is an American pastime, which should be enjoyed by all. Independent and minor league baseball games hit a homerun for many individuals with disabilities.

Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’


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