While New York baseball is focused on the Mets and Yankees, there's a team that plays a little further out on Long Island that's worth a visit for any baseball fan.
The Long Island Ducks finished their 12th season of existence in 2011, and since day one, the team has stressed competitive baseball in an affordable, fan-friendly atmosphere. At Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, the Ducks accomplish both of these goals every summer.
The stadium seats 6,002, and there's rarely an empty seat in the house. The Ducks play in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, one of the many independent baseball leagues in the country.
The stadium features a renovated, state-of-the-art scoreboard in left-center field, as well as luxury skyboxes and the Ducks Club - a restaurant and bar on the second level. The ballpark is constantly staying up-to-date to provide a memorable experience for the fans.
Many former Major Leaguers play in the Atlantic League, so it gives fans the chance to closely interact with them. The players sign autographs and pose for photos before every game.
Among the familiar faces at a Ducks game, former Mets shortstop and World Series champion Buddy Harrelson serves as the team's vice president of baseball operations and bench coach. He makes it a point to engage the fans and reminisce about his successful baseball career.
For Long Islanders, the Ducks are right in their backyard, and seeing a game is a must for Nassau and Suffolk County residents alike.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Bethpage Ballpark features reasonably priced concessions along the first and third base lines: Long Island Favorites and the creatively named "Fowl Line Fare." These locations serve all the typical ballpark favorites.
The Ducks Club is the newest feature of the ballpark. Located on the stadium's club level, fans can enjoy a great view of the game in the shade as well as a bar and restaurant.
Tickets for the club level are just $15. Season ticket holders and fans in the luxury suites have access to this club every game, while mini-plan holders can purchase Ducks Club passes for just $1 per game.
The atmosphere of Bethpage Ballpark is its main selling point. As mentioned earlier, the Ducks pride themselves in creating a fan-friendly experience for all their fans.
Down each foul line, there are activities for kids of all ages. Left field features a spacious picnic tent and inflatable trampoline, while the right field corner has a speed pitch booth, where young fans can show off their arm strength.
The seats are roomy and very close to the field, and there's really not a bad seat in the house.
Once again, Buddy Harrelson adds to the stadium's atmosphere because he makes himself so available to the fans. The Ducks staff is always available for help and also very friendly.
Also, ballpark giveaways are a common occurrence.
The stadium is situated in Long Island's Suffolk County. While suburban Long Island isn't exactly New York City, there is still plenty to do out there, especially visit the beach.
As for the area directly around the ballpark, the only point of interest is the county court house, which certainly isn't a tourist attraction.
However, since the stadium serves mostly Long Islanders, the surrounding area isn't a huge issue, since many fans return to their homes after the game.
Usually, every single game during the summer months is a sellout for the Ducks, and it's been that way for each of their first 12 seasons.
A common practice is for fans to make noise using their "Quackers" that are shaped like duck bills and make quacking sounds. There's so much for fans to do at the ballpark that it's easy to lose track of what's going on in the game.
Each night, the stadium hosts community events, birthday parties and local baseball and softball youth leagues. It's great to see the kids run out on the field and participate in the National Anthem with the Ducks players.
Unlike the stadiums in the Bronx or Flushing, Bethpage Ballpark is incredibly easy to get to from all directions since it's right off the Southern State Parkway and offers free parking; Citi Field charges $19 while some lots near Yankee Stadium cost $30 just to park your car for the evening.
The stadium offers a constant view of the game action, so even when fans are enjoying the festivities down the foul lines or grabbing a hot dog, they can still see the game in full.
The concourses are quite spacious as well.
Seeing a Ducks game yields an incredible return on investment. For about $100, a family of four can not only see a competitive baseball game, but that price would also cover full concessions and even souvenirs from the "Waddle-In Shop."
It's a perfect summer event, especially for the scores of young baseball players on Long Island.
Just as popular as Buddy Harrelson, the Ducks mascot, Quackerjack, is present at every game and adds to the fan-friendly atmosphere.
In addition to serving as the home of the Ducks, Bethpage Ballpark often hosts local baseball leagues, which allows the players to play on a professional field for an experience they'll never forget.
Finally, the stadium outfield wall has three-tiers of advertisements, since local companies know that their ads will be seen frequently by tons of fans every year.
Overall, a visit to Bethpage Ballpark should be a priority for any Long Island baseball fan. Even non-Long Islanders will enjoy the atmosphere and fan amenities at this stadium.
The Ducks are a professionally run organization from the top down, and it shows through their ballpark.
Love going to this ballpark. The price is right and there's not a bad seat in the house. My daughter belongs to the kids club which is pretty cool. She has won so far 3 autographed balls. She gets 10% off in the gift shop, got invited to QuackerJacks birthday which we just went to. The food is your average ballpark food, except if you go to the Ducks Club, with prices to match. Nothing compared to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. QuackerJack, a duck, is at every game making the rounds and kids can take pictures with him. The have silly little games between innings to keep the fans entertained. The ballpark itself is very clean and the staff is super friendly. We try going to a couple of games a year and are thinking of buying a mini ticket plan (10 games). Not that many day games. Seems like Sundays and only a few Saturdays this year (2012). It is nice to have a local team that you can go see and root for. If your visiting long island or if you already live here and haven't gone to a game yet, you should! You won't be disappointed. Its a fun time. I'm giving the neighborhood a 3 because there is nothing around the ballark, its not because its a bad area.
Bethpage Park is really in the middle of nowhere LI, but the stadium itself is pleasant. Very nice scoreboard and plentiful parking. The kids there all have duck callers, so God help you if you're sitting behind one of them. You'll be hearing duck calls in your dreams. They have a really good variety of food and beverage.
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