Out of the Ballpark

With Sox mania at its peak, it’s easy to be a superfan. What’s not so easy is scoring tickets to home games. Luckily, there’s plenty of other great baseball in New England, much of it an easy road trip away.

Springtime in New England means one thing for sports fans: baseball. And that, in turn, means the world champion Red Sox. Yet Boston’s success has come at a cost—namely, upward of $50 for an average ticket, $30 for parking, and more than $40 for a meal of Fenway Franks and watered-down Bud Lights. (And that’s if you can find a seat in the first place.)

Instead, for the cost of one Green Monster stool, treat your family to a night of cheers, jeers, and the chance to catch a pop-out foul by visiting three of Boston’s farm teams—the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox, the Single A Lowell Spinners, and the Double A Portland Sea Dogs—and watching future Sox stars before they hit the big leagues.

Stop 1: Pawtucket, Rhode Island

A gigantic banner outside McCoy Stadium proclaims it the “home of baseball’s longest game,” a record-breaking 1981 contest against Rochester that took 33 innings and two days to complete (the PawSox triumphed 3 to 2). Famed sluggers Wade Boggs and Jim Rice once played in this 10,000-seat stadium, whose first row of seats is positioned eight feet above the field, allowing fans to “fish” for autographs by dangling souvenirs on strings. This year’s rumored club additions include phenom pitchers Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden. While in town, visit the Slater Mill, where guides lead tours through the site of the birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution
(401-725-8638, slatermill.org).

The Sox’s home opener is 4/3, from $4 per ticket, 1 Ben Mondor Way, Pawtucket, 401-724-7300, pawsox.com.

Stop 2: Lowell, Massachusetts

Sixty-five miles north of Pawtucket sits another baseball-crazy mill town. Lowell’s minor-league team, the Spinners, honors the area’s textile-manufacturing heritage and has sold out every game in its 5,030-capacity LeLacheur Park since 2000. Loyal “Thread Sox Nation” fans point to former players like Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis as evidence of the club’s venerable legacy. And unlike at Fenway, the park’s concession stands all have prime diamond views, so game-goers never have to miss a pitch. After the game, stop by the three-floor Lowell Brewery—home to Mill City Ale (brewed on the premises), plus lots of pool and air-hockey tables.

The Spinners’ home opener is 6/17, from $4 per ticket, 450 Aiken St., Lowell, 978-459-1702, lowellspinners.com.

Stop 3: Portland, Maine

Current Red Sox ace Josh Beckett once pitched for the Portland Sea Dogs, back when the club was a farm team for the Florida Marlins. In 2003 the squad became a Red Sox affiliate and erected the “Maine Monster,” a nearly identical replica of Boston’s famed verdant wall, complete with a miniature Citgo sign. (The 10-foot-tall L.L. Bean boot in right field, however, is Maine through and through.) Chilly spring weather isn’t enough to keep die-hard Portland fans away from 7,368-seat Hadlock Field or even the popular stadium snack, Sea Dog Biscuits (a.k.a. ice cream sandwiches). L.L. Bean’s flagship store is a 25-mile drive away and open 24/7, allowing fans to shop after any game—even if it lasts for 33 innings (800-559-0747, llbean.com).

The sea dog’s home opener is 4/11, from $7 per ticket, 271 Park Ave., Portland, 207-879-9500, portlandseadogs.com.