The Best Cheap Date of the Summer: Minor League Outings
by Katey Rich
My boyfriend and I moved in together almost exactly a year ago, and while we’re far from in a rut — living together, for us, is pretty awesome — we’ve definitely slacked off when it comes to actual dates that require leaving our neighborhood, or doing anything new and adventurous. So last week, in the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had ever since I caught A League of Their Own on cable last summer, we took the subway train down to Coney Island to see Brooklyn’s own minor league baseball team, the Cyclones.
The field box tickets were located right along the third baseline, were $14 apiece, and even with the enraging $2 “convenience fee” and $3 “order processing fee,” a total steal. I was expecting a good, cheap night out of the house — what I got was a completely necessary blast of late-summer joy, for less than the cost of a nice meal out. Here’s how the rest of the expenses shook out.
Subway ride to Coney Island, $4.50 for two. We live in Brooklyn, off the R train, so this was an easier train trip than the average ride into Times Square, and full of far more interesting train companions, like the guy in medical scrubs talking about his high bar tab from the night before, or the flock of little kids dancing on the train in light-up sneakers.
Walk along the boardwalk, free. We had picked the perfect time to arrive completely by accident, with the sunlight stretching out into long golden beams and the beaches largely clear of people (but not the depressing skirt of garbage that snaked along the water line). The sun peeked out of clouds behind the iconic Parachute Jump. The air was salty and humid. In the pictures we took of ourselves, our skin looks tanned and refreshed, like an evening stroll on the beach is totally in our routine, and this wasn’t the first time we’d seen a sunset together in over a month.
Wonder Wheel ticket, $12 for two. The Wonder Wheel is a regular Ferris wheel with a terrifying twist. Each individual car is on a set of tracks, so when you hit certain points of the wheel’s rotation the car goes sliding back or, scariest of all, coasting forward right into the open air. The views are incredible — we could see the Freedom Tower poking up miles away in lower Manhattan — and the air feels even better up there. We probably should have made out or something, but I was a little too busy clinging to the cage and secretly praying the 92-year-old thing didn’t collapse.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog, $3.25 (shared). Because you have to. Because Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi made history there. Because it’s the exact same mediocre hot dog they sell in Penn Station, but tastier after your Wonder Wheel brush with death.
Brooklyn Brewery beer inside MCU Park, $26 for four (shared). This is not a deal in any real way, unless you’re talking baseball park logic (a single beer at Yankee Stadium costs $9.50). And truly, what’s the point of stepping into a half-empty ballpark at sunset, for a game between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Tri-City ValleyCats, without a beer to go along with it?
Lots and lots and lots of dogs to smile at, free. It was “Bark in the Park” night for Cyclones fans, and the entire bleacher section — where the tickets go for $9- was reserved for pups and their owners. We strolled over there long enough to watch a bulldog pick a fight with every other dog within eyesight, and even from our seats across the stadium could occasionally hear howls and barks, which totally beats the usual roar of the crowd.
Knish, $3.50. If there is another baseball park in the world that serves a knish, don’t tell me, because I want this to remain a Brooklyn special. It’s possibly the worst knish I’ve ever had, but that’s immaterial.
Chicken fingers and fries special, $7.75. Alright, fine, the food at MCU Park is not great, and way less intriguing than the odd offerings outside the gates on the boardwalk (fried clams AND gyros in one place? Why not!) But the chicken fingers were hot and crispy, so who’s to complain.
The thrill of victory, free. The Cyclones took out the ValleyCats 4–1. Go team!
Subway ride home, $4.50 for two. Our legs were a little sandy from a walk on the beach, my nose a little pink (I don’t leave the house much), my hair smelled a little of french fry grease, and the N train was deliciously air conditioned.
Total cost: 96.50. In a city where dinner for two for under $100 is routinely considered unlikely or impossible, not bad at all. And if you’re not boozehounds like we are, and choose to skip the ballpark food, it’s significantly cheaper.
Obviously, not everybody lives in New York, and the Cyclones season is ending soon. But cheap minor league baseball is everywhere, and cheap sports are everywhere all year round! I’ve lived in New York City for six years and have never made it to a single professional sports game here — the crowds, along with the high ticket prices, frankly terrify me. But the green grass and the bright stadium lights and the chants (“Let’s go Cyclones!”) are pretty much the same in MCU Park and in Citifield, and I feel pretty confident the crowds are better when everybody knows there’s less at stake. Plus the Cyclones come with the boardwalk, a weeknight blast of summer vacation that comes free, and without the massive crowds that come with so many other free New York summer traditions, like the Bryant Park movie series or McCarren Park Pool.
Support your up and coming sports stars. Get out of the house for less than a single Broadway ticket. Get yourself a story to tell that makes it look like you were doing summer right all along.