See a Great Ballgame for Free

03/20/2010
By From the Lowell Sun

By Charlie Bevis
Guest Columnist

In these tough economic times, it's good to know that you can still attend a first-class sports event for free. What most people don't realize about LeLacheur Park--home of not only the minor-league Lowell Spinners but also the UMass Lowell baseball team--is that there is no admission fee to watch UMass Lowell play its regular-season home games there.

Yes, you and your kids, or even your child's entire Little League team, can watch a high-quality baseball game in an outstanding professional stadium for free. Not only is admission free, but you will be able to get a fabulous up-close-and-personal view of the ball field from any of the park's 4,000+ seats. If you get there early, you can scarf up front-row seats, which your kids will be ecstatic about; at worst you can sit in the first few rows from the field.

There isn't much competition for these great seats. When my wife and I attended the UML game against Pace University last April, most of the hundred or so spectators at the game appeared to be parents and girlfriends of the ballplayers, with a smattering of student groups and a bunch of senior citizens taking advantage of the economical price of admission. Front-row seats for free! If these seats were at Fenway Park, you'd have to take out a third mortgage on your house to afford them, if you could find a bank to lend you the money.

Parking is also free on the various streets surrounding LeLacheur Park.

And you can also bring your own food and snacks to the game, as there is no burly security guard to stop you. Food at very reasonable prices is available at the concession stand; last year when I bought a hot dog and a drink, I got change back from my $5 bill.
Except for a very slight talent differential, the UML games at LeLacheur Park resemble a professional minor-league game. The players are introduced over a loudspeaker and the score by innings is kept on the large scoreboard in left field. Watch out for foul balls, though, which can rocket off the hitter's bat into the stands (kids can have fun chasing down these foul balls, although unlike the pros, they must return the balls).

From your near-the-field seat, you get not only a vivid view of the game but also an earful of it. This is the best part of the game. You can hear the chatter of the infielders, the taunts by players in the dugout, the arguments between coaches and umpires, and the distinctive crack of the bat when the batter makes contact with a pitch. Yes, crack of the bat. There are no pings of aluminum bats at UML baseball games, which you hear at most amateur games these days. UML plays in the Northeast-10 Conference, one of the few college conferences in the country that use wood bats instead of metal ones.

At LeLacheur Park, it's a toss-up whether the main attraction is the baseball game or the idyllic surroundings. In addition to the forested backdrop to the game and a vista of the Merrimack River, another great visual is the Aiken Street Bridge just past the right-field wall. Riverhawks, the bird that's the inspiration for the UML team nickname, will often fly overhead, like buzzards waiting to feast on the vanquished visiting team.

Attending a UML baseball game at LeLacheur Park will cost you nothing, but you'll receive plenty in return: a great ballgame played by talented ballplayers in a professional stadium with scenic views. There are six weekend dates at LeLacheur Park on the 2010 UML schedule to see a ballgame for free, the first one today and the last on Sunday, April 25. How many great sporting experiences can you attend for free?

Charlie Bevis is a baseball fan who lives in Chelmsford.