I went to a minor league baseball game a week or so ago. Like many minor league teams, the games were being advertised as “family” friendly. It seemed to work, because the stands were full of families with kids.
But, it didn’t seem to be all that friendly to them.
Most of the kids I heard were complaining that they wanted food. Or something to drink. Most of the requests, though, were to go to the playground area behind the grandstand. There was one kid, though, seven or eight, happily scoring the game. He wasn’t complaining. After all, he had something to do.
Now, I’ll admit that scoring a baseball game isn’t something every kid would like to do. Heck, I’ll happily admit that it’s not something every adult would want to do. But, it struck me that there was something different about the scoring activity, and the activity that the other kids wanted to do.
Scoring kept the kid in the stands watching the game.
It occurred to me that it was a pretty obvious idea. When you go to a restaurant, with a kid, they often have “kids menus.” They sometimes have coloring pages, or mazes on them. Some pizza places hand out pizza dough to play with. Or other toys or activities to use while at the table. You know what they don’t do? They don’t provide activities in another building to do instead of sitting at the table. They’ve realized that just as important as the kids enjoying the outing is the idea of the kids enjoying their time at the table. After all, that’s what will bring them back to the restaurant.
If a kid thinks he’s having a great time at a minor league game because he loves going in the bounce house, is he really enjoying the game? Are they going to want to go back when the bounce house loses its appeal? Aren’t these minor league teams actually creating playground fans instead of baseball fans?
The Red Sox do this too. They have a time for kids to go and meet Wally. But, that happens in the middle of the game. So, again, rather than the kids learning how to enjoy themselves at the game itself, they take them somewhere else. Why not just play Zootopia on a big screen under the bleachers?
The minor league game did have some “in seat” entertainment. Major league teams have those too, like sausage races. But, they also took advantage of the video scoreboard more than Fenway does. Things like appropriate video clips. The one that stuck out was the “Monster’s Inc. clip of the “2319” alert that they played during a pitching change. It was clever, and appropriate. Again, Fenway does some of this when Josh Kantor plays a song with an appropriate title at an appropriate time. Would purists get upset if movie clips showed up on the video screen during a pitching change? I’m not sure. But, they already show news clips, or baseball bloopers. Why not more things that will make a kid smile. Something simple and subtle could make a kid want to stay in their seat the whole game.
Which will teach them that being in your seat is the best part about being at a game.