Story and Photography by Caleb Talley
For generations, baseball has held a special place in American lore. The ballpark – whether a patch of grass or a 50,000-seat stadium – has been woven into the fabric of our culture since the turn of the 20th century. In 1945, social commentator Jacques Barzun wrote, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
Wars couldn’t keep people from the ballpark. Neither could the Great Depression. Heck, even Abraham Lincoln is thought to have learned of his 1860 presidential nomination while playing a pickup game of baseball (or its early incarnation) in Springfield, Illinois. He’s said to have shooed away the messenger so not to miss his next at-bat; though, there’s little evidence to support it.
Although Arkansas isn’t home to a Major League Baseball franchise, there’s no shortage of access to quality baseball and timeless parks filled with exciting amenities. Regardless of which corner of the state you call home, you’re not too far from a great day at the ballpark.
Located at the corner of Broadway Avenue and the Broadway Bridge in downtown North Little Rock, Dickey-Stephens Park has been a reliable source of great baseball for Central Arkansas residents since it opened in 2007. It’s the third park to be called the home of the Travelers (or “Travs”), following Kavanaugh Field and Ray Winder Field.
The Travs were the first professional sports team to claim an entire state when they succeeded the Little Rock Travelers in the mid-20th century. And there’s been no shortage of good times had when the Seattle Mariner-affiliated team takes the field each night during the summer.
There’s no bad seat at Dickey-Stephens, either. Whether you’re in box seats, the berm or the beer garden bleachers (yes, there’s a beer garden), you’re guaranteed a great view of the action. And there’s plenty of places to snag a fly ball, too.
No quality ballpark is complete without good food and drink; Dickey-Stephens has plenty of both. Of course, there are all the classic ballpark treats: hot dogs, pretzels and popcorn. Fans can enjoy the park’s Bacon Station (it’s exactly what you think it is), Hiland Dairy’s Ice Cream Express and various vendors selling traditional fair foods like funnel cakes and corn dogs.
For the coffee drinkers, Westrock Coffee offers fans a variety to choose from in the concourse. And what ballpark would be complete without an ice cold brew? Dickey-Stephens’ Brewski Junction has a wide selection of local craft beers. And unlike most venues across the country, the price of a beer won’t break the bank. A cold can costs about $5, compared to $8 or $9 at most other sports venues.
Throughout July and August, Dickey-Stephens Park will host a number of exciting theme nights and giveaways that will be fun for the whole family, including three firework shows. Upcoming theme nights include Witches & Wizards on July 12, Christmas in July on July 19, Video Game Night on July 26, Hero Night on August 9 and Back to School Night on August 23. And don’t forget Pre-Game Midget Wrestling, a fan favorite, on August 11.
Baseball fans can take advantage of promotions throughout the week, too. Dickey-Stephens hosts family nights on Mondays and Thursdays; and on Sundays, families can enter for $10 with a church bulletin. Tuesdays are Zoosdays, featuring creatures from the Little Rock Zoo down the first base line. And on Wednesdays, hot dogs are $1 and college students get in at a discounted rate.
Purchase your tickets and plan your trip to the ballpark by visiting milb.com/arkansas. Tickets range from $6 to $12, making Dickey-Stephens Park one of most affordable parks around to visit.
The state’s youngest professional baseball venue is home to the state’s newest professional baseball team. Sitting in the heart of a developing region of Springdale, Arvest Ballpark is the hub of summertime fun in Northwest Arkansas.
Opening in 2008, Arvest Ballpark is home to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a Kansas City Royals-affiliated club. Previously the Wichita Wranglers, the Naturals have received an incredibly warm reception in Springdale.
Like Dickey-Stephens, Arvest Ballpark offers fans a variety of great seating options, including premium dugout seats, third and first base line reserved seats and a grass berm – the perfect place to catch a Naturals’ homerun. The ballpark also offers an alcohol-free family zone in section 114, behind home plate.
Arvest Ballpark is as great a venue as any for the kids who tend to get a little restless over the course of a nine-inning game. The park features large playgrounds, bounce houses, putt putt golf and a miniature wiffle ball park where children can get a taste of the action themselves.
And if watching baseball gives you an appetite, Arvest Ballpark has all the traditional baseball concessions you could want. Be sure to stop by the Sweet Spot, on the third base side of the concourse, to satisfy your sweet tooth or grab a fan favorite Funnel Dog.
If it’s the theme nights you’re interested in, you’ll want to mark your calendar, because Arvest Ballpark has plenty of them throughout July and August. This summer’s most exciting nights include Independence Day firework spectaculars on July 3 and 4, a visit by Marshall of Nickelodeon’s PAW Patrol on July 13, Military Appreciation Day on July 20, Princess & Cowboy Night on July 21, First Responders Day on July 22 and Harry Potter Night on August 24. And bring the church group out on August 10 for Faith & Family Night, which will feature a Christian concert and a post-game firework show.
Fans can find something fun to celebrate throughout the week, too, with promotions nearly every night. Get $1 hot dogs on Mondays and $1 brats on Tuesdays. On What’s It? Wednesdays, fans can play trivia and win prizes throughout the game. On Thirty Thursdays, ice cold PBRs are $2, and mozzarella sticks and Coca-Colas are a buck. Fans can enjoy an exciting firework show after every Friday home game. Beer lovers will want to come out on Saturdays for Craft Beer Happy Hour, from 4:35 to 5:35 p.m. Sundays are for the kids, as children 12 and under eat for free and young Naturals fans run the bases following the game.
To get your tickets to the next Naturals home game, visit milb.com/northwest-arkansas. Ticket prices range from $8.50 to $14.50, but discounts are available by purchasing in advance.
Across the river and in the heart of downtown Memphis, AutoZone Park is as exciting a venue as any in the world of minor league baseball. Since 1998, AutoZone Park has been home to the Redbirds, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A squad.
This classic, neo-traditional style ballpark features views and amenities that rival the big leagues. Fans can take in the action at AutoZone Park from tabletops behind home plate, a party deck or a picnic terrace. The park also features berm seating on both sides of the field, and plenty of high quality, dugout-level seats. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
And true to its home in downtown Memphis, there’s a lot of good eatin’ too. AutoZone Park features a number of specialty food vendors throughout the concourse, including Flew the Coop and their famed chicken-on-a-stick, Well Stacked with fan favorite Blue Suede Burger and Dugout Dogs, home of the Memphis Sausage Roll. And what would a Memphis ballpark be without barbecue? There’s plenty at AutoZone Park, including Big Red’s BBQ, The BBQ Shack and Triple B. But while you’re there, don’t miss out on the 18-inch slices of fresh pizza from The Slice.
Fans of craft beer can find all the local brews at a number of drink vendors throughout the park. The Brewhouse and the TruGreen Bluff Bar offer up an assortment of domestic and craft beers, along with a full bar and frozen cocktails.
And AutoZone Park’s weekday specials are a real treat for fans who like to eat and drink while they take in our national pastime. Hot dogs are a dollar on Tuesdays. On Thursdays, fans can purchase “all-you-can-eat seats,” which showcase a different menu item each week. Through July and August, fans can pig out on pasta, tacos, chicken and more. Also on Thursdays, fans can purchase beer throughout the park for just $2.
Friday Night Block Parties are also a fan favorite. Each Friday, fans can enjoy live music and $2 beers in the pavilion in front of the ballpark ahead of the game. Stay late every Saturday for a spectacular firework show. And on Sundays, kids run the bases.
There’s also plenty of exciting theme nights throughout the summer. Promotional nights at AutoZone Park include a Fourth of July celebration, Legends of Memphis Wrestling on July 6, Harry Potter Night on July 7, Memphis Musica Night on August 3 and Grit & Grind Night on August 17.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit milb.com/memphis. Ticket prices at AutoZone Park range from $9 to $75.