LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Before we get to the whole flu season there's still a lot of baseball to play. But it can be expensive to watch the boys of summer. At Boston's Fenway Park even standing room can run $50. The dream seats are over $300 and good luck getting them for face value. Add in parking, programs and food, and taking a family to Fenway can cost from $300 to thousands of dollars. As part of our series on cheap thrills for the summer, NPR's Tovia Smith takes in a ballgame without being taken to the cleaners.
TOVIA SMITH: Just close your eyes…
Unidentified Woman: Programs. Get your programs.
SMITH: Feel the hard stadium seats and sticky floors, and grab a hot dog and a cold beer.
Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, at this time we ask that you please rise.
SMITH: And you are there.
(Soundbite of song, "The Star Spangled Banner")
Unidentified Group: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see…
SMITH: OK, so it's not Cheryl Crow, and if you open your eyes, there's no Green Monster, no Dice-K and no Big Papi. But it is game on with some 10,000 die-hard Sox fans.
SMITH: Welcome to the Minor Leagues, a Sox-Yankees showdown.
Well, that is, the Yankees' farm team from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Paw Sox from Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Ms. GORMAN: Let's go C-C.
SMITH: Cathy Gorman splurged on box seats for the big game.
Ms. GORMAN: The best 10 dollars you're going to spend right here at McCoy.
SMITH: Yes, she did say $10.
Regular seats are just $6 bucks, and kids' and seniors like 83-year-old Ethel Kenney pay just $4.
Ms. ETHEL KENNEY: How do you like them apples?
SMITH: Compared to Fenway, it's peanuts.
Mr. KIP LEWIS (High School Spanish Teacher): We got a full meal for $5.50.
SMITH: That's a hot dog, chips, and a drink. Even baseball caps that sell at Fenway for $35 bucks are just $23 here.
Mr. FLOYD NARCISSE: You don't have to mortgage the house to go see them professional, uh, uh, what do I want to call them? Prima donnas, you know what I mean?
SMITH: Floyd Narcisse bought a neighbor and his grandson prime seats right on the third base line.
So you guys are down here in the big spender section, right?
Mr. NARCISSE: Yeah.
SMITH: Instead of some senator or movie star sitting behind home plate, the big shots here are guys like Zane Fitzgerald, an out-of-work sales guy.
Mr. ZANE FITZGERALD: I can reach down and touch the players right now, you know what I mean? says Fitzgerald. I can hear what they're talking about when they're on-deck circle. You know what I mean? You can't hear that at Fenway, unless you want to spend $500 on a seat. You know what I mean?
(Soundbite of bat hitting ball and crowd cheering)
SMITH: Okay, you get it: great seats at a great price, but to what? Could McCoy possibly offer the same thrill as, well, the real McCoy? Not to Christine McCormack.
Ms. CHRISTINE MCCORMACK: Fenway has the whole mystique. There's not a lot of mystique here, you know, you walk in, Fenway's just Fenway.
Ms. GORMAN: This is better than Fenway.
SMITH: That's Cathy Gorman again.
Ms. GORMAN: Exciting? Yes, it's exciting. We got a three-three game right now. Oh, no! It's in the air! He missed it! Right through the hands!
SMITH: In some ways, the farm teams are more exciting to fans like Floyd Narcisse, since every player is on the brink of a chance of a lifetime.
Mr. NARCISSE: It's like scouting. You say, Well, I think this guy is gonna make it to the big club, the parent club. You try to see who is going to be the next Kevin Youkilis.
ANNOUNCER: Leading off for the Paw Sox, designated hitter Jeff Bailey(ph)…
SMITH: Finally, in the seventh, a sac fly to left.
(Soundbite of cheers)
SMITH: And the Sox are up again by one.
(Soundbite of crowd singing "Sweet Caroline")
SMITH: And when Pawtucket finally pulls ahead in the eighth and makes the win…
(Soundbite of cheers)
SMITH: …the celebration here is no minor thing.
Mr. CONNOR PERRY: Awesome game.
Unidentified Man #1: Can I get a picture with you?
Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.
Mr. PERRY: Oh, mine too.
SMITH: That may be the best part of this bargain — that fans can get right up close and personal with the players.
Unidentified Man #3: Are you a (unintelligible) or Yankees?
Unidentified Man #4: You're welcome. I'm a Yankee. Sorry.
SMITH: Even if they have no idea whom they're talking to.
Mr. MICHAEL DUTKA: Are you a pitcher?
Unidentified Man #5: Yep.
SMITH: Who cares?
Mr. KAILEE BRITTO: They could be like the next Big Papi or Babe Ruth or…
SMITH: Talk about a good deal. You get a bargain on a ballgame and the thrill of thinking you might have just met the next baseball legend. And you can say you knew him when.
Tovia Smith, NPR News.
(Soundbite of crowd singing)
CROWD: …I don't care if I ever get back. And it's root, root, root for the home team, if they don't when it's a shame. 'Cause it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game.
WERTHEIMER: Disney World is not a destination in our Cheap Thrills series. Later today on All Things Considered we take a pass on the Magic Kingdom, because, hey, the carnival's in town.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.