Autism at the Ballpark: Aberdeen Ironbirds

Sorry for taking a few days to do a write-up – I’ve been a bit distracted with preparations for my sabbatical, and then with actually pretending to be a stay-at-home dad for a few days. ūüėČ

So, as the summer’s been progressing, we made our annual¬†visit to the Aberdeen Ironbirds for Autism Awareness Day.

So per my usual: we were fortunate to win tickets in Pathfinders for Autism’s lottery for the game.  (Tickets are normally quite affordable.)  Additionally, a major thank you should be given to Morgan Stanley, who sponsored the outing to the tune of giving each person attending the game with Pathfinders a voucher for $10 for food at the stands around the stadium.

The Aberdeen Ironbirds are the short-season Single-A farm team for the Baltimore Orioles. ¬†(Short-season A is where new college draftees report more often than not, as it is timed to begin after the College World Series.) ¬†A handful of current Orioles have come through Aberdeen, and it’s a good place to catch some of the stars of the future at a reasonable cost.

If you’ve driven I-95 in Maryland between Baltimore and Delaware, you’ve seen the Ironbirds’ stadium – it’s just off the highway at Exit 85 in Aberdeen, and is visible from the road. ¬†It’s a beautiful ballpark and is very much accessible for folks in the Baltimore metro area. ¬†Parking is plentiful and free. ¬†As with the majority of the minor league parks in the area, the stadium’s main concourse is on the same level as the parking lot, and is very much accessible for anyone who has mobility concerns. ¬†(Additionally, for those of us with children who do need to walk occasionally during games, the field is visible from the concourse, save for immediately behind home plate.)

Seating is stadium-style throughout the facility, and Ripken Stadium seats 6300 people when full. ¬†(It was a nice day when we attended the game, but hardly a full house.) ¬†In addition to the seating area, there’s a two-tiered picnic area down the right field line by the crab shack and the bullpens, and Pathfinders had access to this area for the game in question. ¬†It’s not too far away from the infield for viewing purposes, and gave plenty of room for our children to roam around without disturbing others. ¬†For Autism Awareness Day, a skybox was also made available as a quiet room, but we did not need to avail ourselves of it.

I found that Ripken Stadium is one of the quieter minor league parks. ¬†Certainly, there’s all kinds of sounds and videos going on to draw one’s attention, but unlike a lot of other parks, it did not seem to be¬†quite as distracting to the Monster or R. ¬†I don’t know if this is normal, or was just toned down a little bit for the special day, but it’s certainly something that I did have in mind.

For those with picky eaters, Ripken Stadium is fantastic. ¬†The selection of food across the stadium is expansive, and caters to diverse tastes – from burgers and hot dogs to salads, to seafood and gluten-free pizza. ¬†While there is a policy in place that states no outside food or drinks, we were not given any difficulties about bringing in cups for the boys. ¬†And yes, for those who care, there’s a decent selection of beer, though the two free-standing¬†craft beer carts seem to be cash-only.

No review of a venue would be complete without my mentioning the bathrooms, I fear. ¬†The bathrooms at Ripken Stadium, like the ones at other minor league parks we’ve visited this summer, are thankfully without hand dryers, though they are a bit more cramped than some other parks. ¬†I did not have any problems getting the Monster to use the restroom, so it’s all good in my book. ūüėČ

When we attend the Ironbirds’ game each year with Pathfinders, there’s an auction for the special Autism Awareness¬†¬†jerseys worn for that game, which is one of the big draws. ¬†I was fortunate enough to win one in 2013, and managed to snag another one this year as well. ¬† (The money from the auction goes directly to Pathfinders.) ¬†It’s a neat fund-raiser, and while I don’t know if any of the players whose jerseys I’ve won are ever going to make the big-leagues, it’s an interesting thing for me to have to help generate awareness, while supporting my favorite organization.

Next up for us on the baseball front: The Norfolk Tides, followed by the Delmarva Shorebirds with Pathfinders. ¬†(Link included for anyone who’s not signed up yet and is interested…)

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