Take a small-town stadium. A warm summer night. And two teams of young ball players with major league dreams. Whatdya got? The ultimate Americana outing, up close and - better yet - Up North.
Wuerfel Park, home to the Frontier League's Traverse City Beach Bums, is an intimate, open-air, cottage-style stadium. The smaller scale means it's easy to keep your eye on the ball from any seat in the house. Around the infield, you can choose from classic chairback stadium seats or high-top tables for four. Bringing a bunch? 10- and 12-person suites and a five-level corporate party deck look out over the field.
If you've got a mitt and a hunger for homerun balls, pack a blanket and sprawl out on the grass behind the outfield. Families with kids will love the area between section 112 and the right-field foul pole; it's designated alcohol free and close to the stadium playground, romper room and video arcade.
No matter where you sit, you'll want to take advantage of the park's concession stands. Head over to the grill station and let the grill master serve you up a piping hot dog, brat or burger, or grab a slice of pizza. Dessert? There's ice cream - and Cracker Jacks, of course. Whatever you choose, prices are as reasonable as the game tickets.
The spotlight's on the team, and rightfully so - in its inaugural 2006 season, the Beach Bums finished 57-39, ranking the team third in the league. But team mascots, Suntan and Sunburn, steal the sideshow. Throughout the game, and between each inning, a zany bear pair leads the crowd in cheers and brings fans of all ages on the field for fun and quick competitions for prizes. Not picked to play? No worries. Promotional giveaways and events like FANtastic Fireworks Fridays and free sandcastle toys, logo balls and mini-bats happen every home game.
Wuerfel Park is located just three miles south of the Grand Traverse Mall, one mile north of the intersection of U.S. 31 and M-37. (231-943-0100, traversecitybeachbums.com)
Lynda Twardowski is travel editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in April 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.