Autism at the Ballpark: Bowie Baysox

And the march from ballpark to ballpark continues.

This weekend is a double-header for us.  We’ve the opportunity to go catch two of the Baltimore Orioles’ farm teams this weekend – the Bowie Baysox (AA, Eastern League) on Friday night and the Aberdeen Ironbirds (Short-Season A, New York-Penn League) this evening.  Both teams are doing their Autism Awareness games this weekend.

So per my usual: we were fortunate to win tickets in Pathfinders for Autism’s lottery for the game.  (Tickets are, otherwise, quite affordable.)  Seriously, if you live in Maryland, have a family member with Autism, and aren’t looking at Pathfinders’ site for activities for your family… what are you doing?

The Bowie Baysox are the Oriole’s AA farm team, and the closest of their farm teams to the home club in Baltimore.  Most years, when we go to catch the Baysox, we’re going with my curling club for their summer outing, but this year, that game conflicted with a wedding we were attending.  Fortunately, Pathfinders had arranged for tickets for another game (they were one of several organizations that were handing out information on Autism at the park that night, including Rise for Autism and the Arc Central Chesapeake Region).

Prince George’s Stadium is conveniently located just off of the intersection of US 301 and US 50 in Anne Arundel County.  It’s about an hour drive from our house, and offers a lot of free parking around the facility.  The main concourse, and the entrance as well, are all on ground-level, so it is easily accessible to anyone who has mobility issues.  The concourse is reasonably broad and free of obstructions if your child needs to be able to roam, and even better – you can see the field from almost all of the concourse, save for immediately behind the plate, where the press box is located.  Further, like most of the Orioles’ farm teams, the stadium has a small amusement area at the far end of the concourse (in this case, the first base line) with a carousel, a bounce house and a couple of games for small fees-per-play.

The majority of the 4200 seats in the stadium are traditional ballpark seats, but there are bleacher sections along both baselines for ‘general admission’ seating.  The boxes – two of which had been set aside for use as ‘quiet rooms’ during the event – are located a floor higher, but can be reached by elevator for those who cannot climb the stairs.

As you all know, bathrooms are an issue for the Monster.  The bathrooms at the park are, thankfully, without air dryers, though the bathrooms themselves aren’t quite as plentiful as one might like.  (There was one occasion where I had to throw the Monster over my shoulder and book it to a bathroom to keep him from having an accident.)  However, once inside, the facilities are plentiful, and even though there was a small crowd on the evening we attended, I can’t imagine it being much of a wait on a busy evening.

Food at the Baysox’ stadium is plentiful in both amount and variety.  I did not go looking for anything gluten-free or vegetarian, so I cannot report if there is any available.  They do have kids’ meals (hot dog, chips, a drink and a toy) for a low cost, which kept R happy, and the Monster was made content with a chicken finger platter with fries.  I do have to report that when I went to the grill stand to get a pit-beef sandwich and a beer, the food was well-worth the money in both quality and quantity, and the beer was a lovely local brew.  We did not risk taking any food into the stadium – just the kids’ sippy cups – because of a large sign in front that clearly indicated that the Eastern League does not permit outside food or drink in, but I would call ahead if it were a concern.


Now, the special stuff.

So, on Thursday morning, Neal from Pathfinders left me a message on Facebook, asking if we were attending the game on Friday night, and if I could give him a call back.  That seemed weird enough – granted, the tickets are always under the wife’s name, not mine, but we share a surname – but I was running to a meeting and shot him a message to ask if I could call him afterwards.  It was probably a good hour or so before I could get on the phone, and then I reached out to confirm that we were going, and ask what we could do to help.

“Would your son like to throw out the first pitch at the game?”  he asked.  I did point out that the Monster probably can’t throw more than five feet, but that wasn’t an issue.  So it was settled – we’d be going to the game, and he’d be one of the group that threw out ceremonial first pitches.  We spent most of that evening and the next morning before camp trying to see if we could get him to understand what we were going to be doing, that we were going to a baseball game and he would get to throw a baseball.  I left work early and zipped over to his camp mid-afternoon to retrieve him, to the excitement of his one-on-one aide and the special-needs coordinator, and then we raced home to get everyone.

So, of course, God decided to make things difficult.  On our way to the game, we were rear-ended in downtown Baltimore by some idiot who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to traffic.  None of us were hurt too badly (though the wife is experiencing a serious amount of discomfort now, and has seen a doctor, and I’m still a little bit stiff myself), and the van was still sufficiently operable to get us to the game just in time for the Monster to get hustled down to the field for the first pitch.

But still, the Monster now has a nice souvenir of what was honestly a unique experience, and aside from his not getting the fireworks he wanted… I think he had a good time.

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