Sometimes sipping a cold beer feels great. Sometimes sipping 18 cold beers feels better. Better than that? Joining hundreds of beer fans on the outfield of the Sacramento River Cats' home turf to sample beers from nearly 70 breweries while listening to live music. A joint effort of Raley Field and the Northern California Brewer’s Guild, the 2012 Raley Field Brewfest distills the thrills of a baseball game without the baseball or rabid mascots. Now in its sixth year, the sprawling celebration covers the playing field's quarter-mile semicircle with local craft-brew vendors, including Auburn Alehouse and Knee Deep Brewing Co., touting their frosty, frothy libations. Near second base, live bands bat good-time tunes into the air as hops and barley funnel into thankful gullets. VIPS gain daylight, vampire-free drinking privileges and bubbly bragging rights with early access and eight beers more than standard tickets.
Founded by three Scandinavian families in 1977, Scandia Family Fun Center flings open its doors and invites families in for afternoons of youthful fantasy. Manicured hedges and lush green mounds dot the center?s challenging miniature golf course, while go-karts rumble past on the Stockholm Raceway. The sounds of splashing and laughter not only indicate the birth of a pirate, but also a gentle collision between Baltic Sea bumper boats, accompanied by the crack of speeding baseballs and softballs at the batting cages. The center?s Scandia Screamer lifts passengers 165 feet into the air before accelerating to speeds of 65 mph, while the Swedish Scrambler opts for a more amenable 25 mph. Visitors can also exercise their opposable thumbs at a fully-stocked arcade, visit Scandia's snack bar brimming with pizza, hot dogs, and churros.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award?winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
Bay Area Youth Sports' year-round youth football programs strive to build kids' character as well as their passing skills. Kids as young as 4 get their start in the non-competitive, co-ed NFL flag football league, whose high-scoring but contact-free games teach values like teamwork, self-confidence, and sportsmanship. The contact flag-football league takes the game's physicality up a notch, while the tackle football league pits kids in full pads and helmets against others of similar weight, age, and experience. Relaxed, family-friendly schedules help keep practices fun and casual at all levels.
In the summer months, Bay Area Youth Sports hosts Bay Area Adventure Camp, where kids aged 5 through 14 enjoy a wide range of activities under the supervision of experienced staff. The younger ones are matched with those leaders in a ratio of four to one, so they're never far from helpful supervision, whether they're playing soccer or learning to skateboard or ride a horse. The camp is partnered with a variety of other companies, which lets them arrange amusement park trips, archery, indoor skydiving, and other activities that require a lot of equipment or any number of roller coasters.
Arena Softball's advanced pitching machines fling curveballs, sliders, and fastballs at players preparing for a big game on their indoor softball field. The same field also hosts birthday-party matches regulated by experienced umpires, and after the game, players can feast on snacks or home-run softballs. Arena Softball also hosts a variety of leagues.
The faculty at MVP Sports Unlimited includes three trainers versed in Nike's SPARQ method, a former Seattle Mariner, and a coach with a 25-year career in fast-pitch softball. Baseball, softball, and soccer players flock to the 15,000-square-foot center for one-on-one instruction and to finesse team dynamics, relying on a practice space whose climate stays consistent without the hoopla of rain dances. Inside, a 3,500-square-foot turf training field stretches out under 15-foot ceilings and is flanked by six 70-foot batting tunnels. A pitching mound and an L screen equips each of these, and the staff can wheel in either a Bata machine capable of hurling a 95 mph fastball or an Iron Mike machine that visibly winds up to help batters work on timing. A pro shop sells gear for practice, and an arcade and a lounge with WiFi entertain sidelined visitors.