RALEIGH, N.C. (April 1, 2013) — A spring breeze, the crack of a bat, the sense of place that defines Minor League Baseball — all that and a choice of craft brew: What more could a baseball fan want?
From Asheville to Zebulon, games unfold in towns where Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramírez, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and “Crash” Davis once played. And at the ballpark, beer lovers can sample dozens of the state’s finest craft brews.
With the season opening during North Carolina Beer Month, here’s a rundown of the state’s Minor League teams and what makes each experience a grand slam.
Colorado Rockies (A). Home season opener: April 11. theashevilletourists.com
BEER HERE: Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub, G’Knight Imperial Red, Mama’s Little Yella Pils), French Broad Brewing (Wee Heavy-er Scotch Style Ale, Gateway Kölsch, 13 Rebels ESB); Highland (Gaelic Ale); Asheville Brewing (Shiva IPA).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Zipline delivery of the opening pitch. At Thursday-Sunday games, a rider selected by drawing flies 30 feet above the field and lands in time for the “play ball” call. Visit the stadium to register for this Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures opportunity.
Chicago White Sox (AAA). Home season opener: April 11. charlotteknights.com
BEER HERE: Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (Copper, Captain Jack Pilsner, Rein Pale Ale); Highland Brewing (Gaelic Ale, Razor Wit Belgian Wheat, St. Terese’s Pale Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Southern-style chivalry. The Knights take cues from their name with jousting between innings, Dragon Chips at the concession stand and Homer, the hardest-working dragon in baseball, as team mascot.
Cleveland Indians (A Adv.). Home season opener: April 5. carolinamudcats.com
BEER HERE: Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale, Wildflower Witbier in the stadium; additional choices at Cattails Restaurant).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: The dining. In the stadium, fans can try the catfish sandwich, a one-of-a-kind baseball delicacy. Cattails Restaurant offers destination dining before the game and premier skybox seating during.
Tampa Bay Rays (AAA). Home season opener: April 8. durhambulls.com
BEER HERE: Carolina Brewery (Sky Blue Golden Ale, Bullpen Pale Ale, Copperline Amber Ale, Flagship IPA), Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale, Southern Pale Ale), Foothills Brewing (Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Torch Pilsner, Carolina Blonde, Hoppyum IPA), Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: “Bull Durham.” To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the baseball classic filmed at the team’s old ballpark, look for a host of in-game features, themed merchandise and “Bull Durham”-era throwback jerseys worn every Sunday. And as always, the mechanical “Hit Bull Win Steak” bull stands tall above the 32-foot-high Blue Monster, Durham Athletic Park’s answer to Fenway’s Green Monster.
Miami Marlins (A). Home season opener: April 11. gsohoppers.com
BEER HERE: Natty Greene’s (Southern Pale Ale, Buckshot Amber Ale, Guilford Golden Ale, Wildflower Witbier).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Canine batboys. A pair of black labs — Miss Babe Ruth and Master Yogi Berra — retrieve bats, reload the umpire’s ball supply and entertain fans.
Texas Rangers (A). Home season opener: April 4. hickorycrawdads.com
BEER HERE: Howard Brewing (Action Man Lager), Loes Brewing (Loe’s Pale Ale, Vienna Lager and others).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Day in the Minors Experience. This special program starts with the morning meeting and covers batting practice (you might get to take a few swings), a mascot appearance (you can even don the costume) and other experiences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Chicago White Sox (A). Home season opener: April 11. intimidatorsbaseball.com
BEER HERE: Foothills Brewing (Carolina Blonde), Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: NASCAR crossroads. Kannapolis native Dale Earnhardt, the late motorsports legend nicknamed the “Intimidator” for his aggressive driving style, was a part owner of the team, which flies a No. 3 flag in his honor and sells items with an Earnhardt Race Day logo at the shop, called “Intimidation Station.”
Chicago White Sox (A Adv.). Home season opener: April 12. wsdash.com
BEER HERE: Foothills Brewing (Carolina Blonde, Foothills Hefeweizen, Hoppyum IPA, Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Torch Pilsner).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: The Dash Pack, the high-energy entertainers who keep things lively at fabulous BB&T Ballpark, 2010’s Ballpark of the Year. Beer lovers should find the downtown ballpark’s shuttle convenient: Foothills Brewing is one of its stops.
Visit www.NCBeerMonth.com to find more ways to enjoy April.