When I was a kid, attending a major league batting practice was a big deal. It was something only done very rarely and usually for team VIPs and guests. Then more and more, fans would be invited in to watch batting practice before a game, but only from the stands.
These days, some teams offer fans batting practice experiences, where sometimes you can be down on the field, near home plate, watching from a player's-level view. Here's a look at five cool MLB batting practice experiences:
Boston Red Sox - Centerfield Batting Practice Package
Perhaps the most exciting (and most expensive) cool way to watch an MLB team have batting practice is the Red Sox Centerfield Batting Practice Package. This is a group deal, and your group of 20-24 fans gets their very own private section, right in centerfield, to actually catch balls during batting practice. The team gives each fan a commemorative Red Sox glove (theirs to keep).
If all that wasn't enough, the package includes a private tour of the ballpark, a free pre-game buffet meal for the group and even all the food and drinks for free, until the seventh inning. The package includes game tickets in the first and second rows of the Left Field Pavilion.
For 20 guests, the Red Sox Centerfield Batting Practice package is between $7,000 and $11,000 depending on the popularity of the team the Sox are facing. Although the group price is high, a group of 20 could pay $350 each to do it, which is lower than the price of some premium seat tickets at Fenway.
Atlanta Braves - Braves VIP Batting Practice Experience
The Braves offer an on-the-field experience for many home games, allowing fans to watch 45-60 minutes of Braves batting practice and 15-30 minutes of the visiting team's practice. Fans can take pictures, but no autographs. Tickets for the experience can be purchased in advance, on the Braves website.
The Braves experience starts three hours before the first pitch of the game and they don't offer it on Sunday home games or afternoon day games. Weekday games cost $55 per person and weekend games cost $70. These prices are for the batting practice experience only and do not include a game ticket.
Philadelphia Phillies - Ashburn Alley
For Phillies fans, home game practices are normally open to game ticket holders. The Ashburn Alley section of the grandstands opens 2 1/2 hours prior to game time. Fans can watch the team stretch and then both the Phillies and visitors hitting.
Cleveland Indians - Batting Practice XTRA presented by BP
This is another on-field experience, allowing fans onto Progressive Field to watch the Indians batting practice from right behind the batting cage. Batting practice XTRA costs $100 per person (not including game ticket) or $145 with admission to Terrace Club, Progressive Field's fancy, sit-down restaurant overlooking the field. For no extra charge, fans can also get into the ballpark early to watch practice from the stands. As a promotion, they hit some balls into the stands and fans who catch them get a BP gas card, as BP sponsors batting practice.
Milwaukee Brewers - Brewers Community Foundation Ultimate Auction
As far as fan experiences go, the Brewers sure offer a lot of great options. These are all auctioned off, for the benefit of the Brewers' community foundation. Experiences include sitting the owner's seats behind home plate, hitting lessons from Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron and even an evening with Hank Aaron. One available option includes the chance to watch batting practice from the field, along with a meet and greet with pitcher Yovani Gallardo. The package includes Field Level tickets, parking pass and even Gallardo's autographed, game-worn jersey. The bidding starts at $750.
Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia, which didn't make being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan easy. He has lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, now able to follow the Dodgers openly and attends games frequently. You can follow him on Twitter -@thefredsherman.Dodgers Injury Update: Fan's Take