Take heart, baseball fans: MLB Opening Day is almost here. It’s been almost five full months since Kris Bryant threw out the Cubs curse, and in a few short days every team will start their season anew.
There’s nothing like the excitement of being at Opening Day for yourself. The offseason is over, winter is fading, the sun is (hopefully) shining.
So have a look at the image above. To most, it looks like an empty stadium. To us, it’s 56,000 memories waiting to happen. If your Opening Day plans include a ticket to one of those seats, we want you to have the most enjoyable afternoon possible. We compiled the best advice on how to make it one you won’t forget, and we’re happy to share it with you.
7 Tips for a Great Opening Day Baseball Game
Get there for batting practice
Players are still trying to get in the groove, so they almost always take batting practice before the opener. It’s a chance to take your kids down around the dugout to see their favorite players up close, or sit in the outfield and try to snag a ball in the seats. BONUS tip: Home teams often bat before the gates open, so if you’re there early enough you can find their homerun balls in the outfield seats for a great souvenir.
Scope out the new ballpark food
Stadium eats are way beyond hot dogs and Cracker Jacks. Food has become a central focus for teams across the game, so much so that the Cardinals held a fan vote to pick the newest food at Busch Stadium. Oakland is bringing in food trucks and lowering the price of beer at Oakland Coliseum. At the brand new SunTrust Park in Atlanta, fans will be able to enjoy the First & Third Hot Dog and Sausage Shack, featuring meats from local Atlanta butchers.
Buy a program
If your attention went elsewhere during the offseason, a program can be the best $1 you spend on Opening Day. It’ll give you the rundown on who’s new to your team and the visiting roster. If you already know the big names that moved to new teams, be sure to check out some of the biggest bargains among offseason transactions.
Check the Opening Day weather
This year, the Mets, Red Sox, White Sox and Twins all open at home in what could be some chilly weather, and seats in the sun would be a huge benefit. Finding them, however, can be tricky because every stadium is different and it’s virtually impossible to guarantee certain seats will always be in the sun. Here are a few tips for finding seats in the sun:
- Outfield seats are almost always in the sun for most of the afternoon at every ballpark. Shadows may creep in along the corners depending on the time of day, but generally the closer to centerfield you sit, the more likely you’ll be in the sun.
- Check the direction your stadium faces. Hardball Times has a compass for every outdoor ballpark. Most parks face some degree toward the north and east so batters don’t have to look at the sun. But this means seats along some first baselines see shade earlier.
- Remember the overhangs. Most modern ballparks are built more upwards than outwards. It’s great for sight lines but can sometimes put you under the level above and block out the sun. On one hand, that’s great if it rains. But if you want to stay warm on a cold day, it’s a drawback.
- The closer you sit to the field, the more sun you’ll get. Stadiums are built to get maximum light on the playing field, so the closer your seats the longer you’ll be in the sun before shadows start to creep in. This, of course, depends on the time of day but most Opening Day games start in the afternoon to take advantage of the warmest hours.
If you won’t be in the sun, or if it’s simply not warm enough to even matter, here’s what we suggest:
- Bring a blanket.
- Stocking hats and gloves: They’re ok.
- Hot chocolate and coffee are your friends. Skip the ice cold beer, just for a day.
- Take a walk. Most stadiums have open concourses so you don’t even have to miss a pitch as you move around to stay warm. Some—Minnesota, especially—even have heaters you can stand under and watch the game for a while.
Get your gear
Without fail, teams revamp their hats and jerseys for the new season. This year, the Royals will have a new gold alternate jersey and the Padres streamlined their ever-changing uniform look. The Diamondbacks are also pulling back on some of their uniforms from last season. The Arizona Republic summed up the changes, which amount to making it easier to read the names on those very dark gray unis.
The Nationals also have a new set of patriotic jerseys and hats for their mix and the Rockies continue to tweak their purple jerseys. But look for even bigger changes in a few years when Under Armor takes over as baseball’s exclusive uniform provider.
Get to your seat early
Opening Day features all the pomp and circumstance that the return of baseball deserves. Teams have pre-game ceremonies to announce coaches, players and lineups. You might even catch a B-52 flyover. Be sure to find your seat and get there early so you don’t miss a moment.
Finally: Remember you’re not a work
Baseball is back. Enjoy it!