Home Run! The Top Reasons to Attend a Baseball Game in Person This Summer (Beyond the Games Themselves)

A closeup of a baseball with the Major League Baseball emblem. SLGCKGC/Flickr.com
Ignore the brightening skies and tiny buds peeking out of the soil. We know that summer is almost here (thanks heavens!) because the week started with Major League Baseball's 2015 Opening Day! If you're planning on heading to a ballpark this summer (and you should, even if you don't know the difference between a Babe Ruth and Baby Ruth), a raft of special promotions, historical happenings, and more is going to make seeing a game in person even more fun than usual.

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A closeup of Cleveland Indians Larry Doby in black and white. Cleveland Indians
Everyone knows Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in April 1947 when he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but did you know the first African-American player in the American League was Larry Doby? Doby made his debut with the Cleveland Indians in July 1947. He was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. The Indians will issue a replica of the Larry Doby statue to the first 12,500 fans at its July 25 game against the Chicago White Sox. For those visiting after July 25, the statue will reside permanently outside Gate C of Progressive Field.

Offer a toast to the civil rights pioneer with one of 40 beers Progressive Field will be serving on tap in 2015, including 17 Ohio brands.
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An aviator hat with the Chicago Cubs emblem on the front. Chicago Cubs
Seeing the Chicago Cubs play is always a good time—they're amongst the most popular baseball franchises (ranked fifth most valuable in MLB by Forbes Magazine). This year, you'll want to head to the stadium early in the season, because the cubs will be offering aviator hats to the first 10,000 fans in attendance at its April 17 game against the San Diego Padres. It's an appropriate giveaway: the stadium is at Navy Pier, which was used as a training facility for pilots during World War II. And with the average high temperature in Chicago getting up to only 60 degrees in the middle of April, this promo is not just sentimental but also practical. 

Whenever you go, you can't say you really experieced a Cubs game unless you ante up for a famed Chicago Dog: a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with tomato wedges, pickle spears, sport peppers, diced onion, mustard, neon relish, and celery salt, served on a poppy seed bun. A Windy City classic.
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A bobble head of 2005 World Series champion and White Sox player Bobby Chicago White Sox
This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the White Sox's legendary 2005 World Series victory. Collectors take note: in celebration, the team is offering commemorative bobble heads to the first 20,000 fans at its July 4, Aug 1, and Aug 29 home games.

But even if you are not able to attend any of those games, you'll want to get your selfie stick oiled because throughout the season the ballpark will feature statues of  2005 World Series Champions to pose in front of, located both inside and outside of U.S. Cellular Field.

Not enough reason to head to a game? Let your stomach guide you. This year's new food offers are enticing, including 35th Street Tacos and gluten free creme brulee cheesecakes, brown butter and sea salt marshmallow squares and taffy apple.
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A closeup of a Lobel steak sandwich, steak on a kaiser onion roll. New York Yankees
With 27 World Series championships, the New York Yankees are aguably the most storied franchise in all of sports. Those who wore the pin stripes include such Hall of Famers as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson. Fans of contemporary baseball will be pleased to learn that they'll be able to purchase a Cooperstown-style (home of the Baseball Hall of Fame) Derek Jeter jersey at one of the six Yankee memorabilia shops at the stadium this season.  Make sure you get one with a little extra room, as you're going to want to down one (or two) of the stadium's renowned Lobel steak sandwiches—prime beef, soaked in au ju, horseradish sause, on an onion Kaiser roll. Yum!
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Baseball player Carlton Fisk Andrew Malone/Flickr.com
The Yankees arch rivals to the north, the Boston Red Sox are also going the bobble head route, this time gifting fans with a Carlton Fisk bobble head at the team's May 5 game against the Tampa Rays. Fisk was the player who "willed" the ball to stay in play as it went over the Green Monster in Fenway Park to force a Game 7 in the 1975 World Series.

While the Red Sox would break fans' hearts by not winning Game 7, they did heal those aching hearts when they won the World Series in 2004. The Red Sox will issue a Pedro Martinez Hall of Fame plaque to all fans at its July 28 game against the Chicago White Sox. Martinez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015 and was a member of the 2004 World Series Championship team.
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Cheesy Corn Brisket-Acho: nachose topped with smoked brisket, cheesy corn, and pico de gallo Kansas City Royals
On the other side of Missouri, sits the city of Kansas City, home of the Royals, the 2014 American League champions. In Game 3 of that epic series, in the top of the 6th inning, with the game tied 1-1, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas dove into the stands to catch a foul ball. The Royals went on to win the game 2-1 and eventually, the ALCS. It's fitting then that the Royals will issue a bobble head of Mike Moustakas' famous dive to the first 15,000 fans at its June 20 game against the Boston Red Sox.

While at Kauffman Stadium, visit the concession stand for Cheesy Corn Brisket-Acho. This nachos offering is topped with Kansas City favorites like smoked brisket and cheesy corn.

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A photo of the Lolo's Chicken and Waffles stand. Above is an advertisement for Mountainside Fitness Eric Kilby/Flickr
Foodies are well taken care of at Arizona Diamondbacks games with such tempting in-stadium offerings as fried chicken with waffles and vegan, Bisbee Tamale. And at plaza near Gate A of Chase Field, gormandizers will find a rotating array of local food trucks. Each home series features a new set of them!

Wash those offerings down with a draft beer at the Draft Room, with more than 20 choices available.
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LA Dodgers former manager Tommy Lasorda holding a tray of cannoli Los Angeles Dodgers
Tommy Lasorda made his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. While he only spent two seasons as a player with the Dodgers, Lasorda returned to serve as manager from 1976-1996, winning World Series Championships in 1981 and 1988. In honor of his legacy, the Dodgers will issue a Tommy Lasorda garden gnome at its May 25 game against the Atlanta Braves. 

The Dodgers are also celebrating the manager as chef: Tommy Lasorda's Italian Trattoria opened in Dodgers Stadium in 2014.. Its new menu item this season is Lasorda's Meatball Marinara Cone, which joins other Italian ballpark favorites like pizza and sausage sandwiches.
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A closeup of a fried oyster sanwich on a bun with lettuce and tomato. Seattle Mariners
Italian food is only one of many options at ballparks this season. Seafood lovers can head north to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners will serve an oyster sandwich with fried farmed oysters from Puget Sound, butter, lettuce, tomato, spicy remoulade sauce, on a bun. 

The ball club will also pay tribute to the local music scene with a '90s themed fireworks and Grunge music spectacle after its May 29 game agains the Cleveland Indians.
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A white beer stein with the St. Louis Cardinals emblem displayed. St. Louis Cardinals
What else would Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals issue to its adult fans but a beer stein? This year's promotional beer stein commemorates the 1985 National League Championship team. The Cardinals will hand out this collector's item to the first 25,000 fans 21 or older at its June 12 game against the Kansas City Royals.  Midwestern favorites like bratwurst and hotdogs, served at stands around, Busch Stadium will go mighty well with whatever you put in your stein.
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