Play ball—during the game
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
It’s hard to imagine having attended a White Sox game last season and not watching every minute. Yet that’s exactly what we did. Because even during a world championship season, a baseball game can get long for kids.
The White Sox management understands this, which is why last year they opened the 15,000-square-foot Pontiac Fundamentals at U.S. Cellular Field, where kids can take a break from watching the game—by playing it.
This is more than just a play area. This is actually a place where kids can learn about the game, improve their swing and get some coaching on pitching techniques. (OK, they can also learn about softball.)
My 13-year-old son, a real player, was poised at our seats with his glove, waiting for a ball. No way did he want to leave the game to check out a "kiddie play place," as he called it. I practically had to drag him to the area above the left-field concourse just before the seventh-inning stretch. Once we got there, I couldn’t get him back.
He spent more than 30 minutes catching pop-up flies and grounders in the youth-size baseball diamond area. Kids who forget their gloves can borrow a loaner, and everyone listens to the coaching tips while standing in line. When it’s your turn, the coaches pay attention to you. You catch one or two pop-ups or grounders while one of the White Sox Academy instructors offers pointers. Then, you get in line and do it again. That day, the line moved quickly, so my son got a lot of great practice.
Then he took to the batting cages (there are four cages with different pitching speeds for younger and older players).
Again, the line was not long, so he got several turns in the cage. Next thing we knew, the fireworks were booming, signaling the end of the game.
The area is free and accessible from both the lower and upper levels of the ballpark. You just have to have a ticket to the game. The play area opens when the gates do and stays open throughout the game.