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.
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.
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.
World Events teaches the fundamentals of baseball, flag football, basketball, and other sports to children ages 4–17 with its series of NFL-, MLB-, NBA- and WNBA-affiliated clinics, leagues, and camps. The noncompetitive Rookie League baseball league teaches children how to catch, throw, zip between bases, hit pitches from a strike-throwing machine, stand in the most flattering light for baseball-card photos, and more, and younger players can practice the same skills in T-ball lessons. Flag football and basketball leagues for boys and girls focus on speed, agility, and strategy, with occasional dodgeball sessions and punting or shooting competitions. Each flag football, basketball, and baseball team plays six to eight regular-season games (starting at $65/team membership). Students spend full days training in baseball, football, basketball, and more ($140/week) during the one-week summertime camps. World Events also proffers dance classes ($45/month) and martial-arts instruction for kids tired of hearing their dad follow them around acting as a sports announcer (starting at $45/month).
The Stockton Ports, a class-A minor-league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, slug spheres and cater to the cheers of hometown spectators at the storied [Banner Island Ballpark]. MVP seats afford a player’s-eye view of the base-spangled diamond from box seats directly behind home plate and extending toward both team benches. Ballgame enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the game while following the emerging talent of future big-league stars—the team’s 70-year history has witnessed the launch of numerous major-league careers, such as those of Ben Sheets, Trevor Cahill, and Stomper the elephant.