Rain Check, Please!

I have more “On the Road” content to come — from last month’s trip down South and last week’s jaunt to Lowell — but, for now, how about something completely different? Loyal reader Pete Golkin is a proponent of an idea that I had never heard of before and, for all that I know, he invented: a universal Minor League Baseball raincheck.

The impetus for the idea is simple. Golkin, like myself (and surely many of my readers) loves visiting Minor League ballparks throughout the country. But when attending games in this context, rain checks are useless. When, if ever, will the traveling fan be able to return to the stadium in question in order to redeem them? Golkin, therefore, wants teams to issue industry-wide rainchecks that are redeemable at any Minor League stadium. This would certainly take some bureaucratic finagling, and I’m really not sure how feasible it would be. But I like the idea, and in response to Golkin’s request that I promote the idea I did him one better. I simply asked him to write the post himself.

So here we go! A poignant plea for the Universal Rain Check, written by loyal Minor League Baseball fan Pete Golkin in the form of a humorous essay:

I finally used my Williamsport Crosscutters rain check. Actually the wife deserves credit. Heading out early a few Sundays ago, she plucked the humble scrap from a kitchen shelf and inscribed these words on the back: “Please use MANGO for bkfst.”

A forgettable detour on The Road to The Show but a victory for Vitamins A, C and B6.

And that’s the problem. If your summer travel includes Priceline, tolls, a dose of the local culture (battlefields, snacks on conveyor belts, robot tobacco farmers) and a nightly topping of Minor League Baseball, ol’ Mr. Rain Check will likely land in your wallet but only to die there.

In the case of Williamsport, who could complain?  We had already soaked up a day of the Norman Rockwellness that is the Little League World Series on the town’s south end. And a third ballgame in 7 hours, even one featuring post-pubescent pros, was testing the limits of an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old jonesing for motel Nickelodeon.

Still, we waited two hours in the heavy night drizzle. The Crosscutters and Muckdogs never got past their dugouts and we left “Historic Bowman Field” —4 hours from our old Virginia home—knowing we were done there for the season. Moosic and Harrisburg were calling, to be followed by a new school year.

Historic Bowman Field

But what if that rain check wasn’t limited to Williamsport? What if I could have used it the next night in the next park down the road? For that matter, how about anywhere in Minor League ball for the rest of the year?

Call it the “Universal Rain Check” and bask in the resulting goodwill, MiLB.

OK, maybe some accounting issues would need to be resolved.

But remember, we’re talking about Minor League Baseball tickets. They’re not supposed to break the bank or become scarce–which is why you’ll never see a scalper in the parking lots at Danville, Greensboro or Richmond.

To work out the details, I suggest calling in the same accountants who said my old sliced cheese wrapper meant two-for-one admission anywhere on a Tuesday. And if I have to prove I’m an out-of-towner to get a rain check with “range,” I’ll gladly show a driver’s license. Simple stuff.

So on behalf of baseball pilgrims everywhere—at least the ones not bound for Fenway in an SUV limo–give the Universal Rain Check a shot, MiLB. It can only mean more fans up and down the road.

Oh, and while you’re at it, how about accepting MLB gift cards? I’ve got two I need to use before I lose them.

If you have any opinions on Mr. Golkin’s proposal, then, please, let them be known in the comments section. In the words of lifelong Minor League Baseball fan Mahatmas Gandhi: “Be the change you seek.”

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

17 Comments

I’m regularly amazed at the number of like-minded people I find through you and your blog, Ben (except the foul ball hog). I think this is a wonderful idea. Maybe its my acute knowledge of weather.com or maybe some southeast baseball deity loves me, but I’ve never been to a road game and had it rained out in dozens of stadiums. I see this as a great opportunity, though. My last road park was in Myrtle Beach, King of the Tourist Town. I’ve pondered how frustrating it would be to not be able to use the rain check should we need it. A town like Myrtle Beach has millions of out of towners in a single season, and I’m sure this has happened to many. What if instead of making them MILB-wide rain checks, they were just league-wide? For instance, let’s say the Princeton/Bluefield trip I have planned next week is rained out. In this case we could use them at Burlington, which is much closer to home for us. I love this idea and I think with some solid brainstorming there could be manageable solutions that keep everyone happy.

Thanks, Matt. My most loyal readers seem to be spread out all over the country, but I’d love to have a stadium meet-up of like-minded folks one of these days!

I, like so many others reading this, love the game. And let’s face it, this is a great idea. I doubt it’s going to amount to anything, however I do believe that it can be accomplished league-wide, not through the entire minor leagues. I think that it will take a nutty commisioner/president in a Single A Short Season league to try it out, and if/when it works, I think leagues like the Eastern League or even the International/PCL league will join in. I really hope this amounts to something!

If I ever write a Minor League Baseball-related screenplay, one of the characters will surely be the nutty commissioner of a Class A Short Season league. I’ll name him Mickey Relaford. Thanks for the inspiration!

Oh yeah, I agree with this too! Just last year I ended up with two Mud Hens tickets after a rainout Memorial Day weekend, and with plans already set to go to Fort Wayne and Akron, a return trip was out. In that case I had a buddy who lives an hour away and I gave him the tickets so they were able to be used after all. But in recent years I stood in the rain in Durham, more than 250 miles from home, knowing I would need to make a return trip (and I did, but with gas prices these days that would be nuts…especially since I am in California now) and back when the Danville 97s played their one season before moving to Myrtle Beach I got rained out there and could never get back. I do like the idea that if the teams can work the Kraft singles deal there should be some way to trade admission. It sure would be a nice thing to do if nothing else.

Just spitballing here, but picture this: The Eastern League develops a ticket co-op in which a fan with a rain-checked ticket can scan the code used by ballpark scanners and convert it to a new ticket at another ballpark. A fan could buy a grandstand seat in Altoona, sit through a 90 minute delay only to hear the game postponed, whip out his phone, load up the EL TIXChange app, scan the code, and have a digital ticket for tomorrow’s matchup down the road in Harrisburg. The league could report the number of tickets converted to each club, and the box office could forward 50% of the breakage earned from an unused ticket to the club that issued the replacement. That way, if the ticket was just exchanged for another Curve game, Altoona would forward that 50% to itself and keep the money just as it would now. Some front offices would scoff at the idea of bringing in just half of a normal ticket, but Altoona would keep half of the ticket price without issue and the Senators add another valuable tally to its attendance. The TIXChange would probably be used most often for the same team, so its another tool in the box for EL clubs, but also allows fans on the road to maximize their travels.

…Does anyone have some connections in the EL offices? Ben? ;)

Two ways to make it work. One way is to make it like a comedy club free ticket. You could get a Universal MiLB rain check, but it requires 2 concession purchases. You would pay for two concession vouchers at the gate when you redeem your rain check, then use those concession vouchers at the concession stands.

The other way is to have the home team store up these URC’s and each month send them in to MLB for reimbursement.

Tack this suggestion up to the top. Kudos.

Anyone want a rain check for the AZ Fall League??? :)

Glad to see all the support for the Universal Rain Check. Only a healthy Uncle Slam could make me happier.

A few before-and-afterthoughts:

If MiLB wants to break things down in fear of big costs, they could go with a rain check for locals and one for out-of-towners. As I say, I’ll be glad to show my driver’s license to prove I’m not from “here.” If there are two different vouchers, my bet is only a few thousand Universal Rain Checks would be needed each season.

Addressing Billy Byler’s concerns, “Absurd. And subscription to http://MiLB.com when site goes down should get you into http://NBA.com ?,” how about this: I can buy a gift certificate at the McDonald’s that Fred owns and use it at the McDonald’s that Shirley owns. Somehow McDonald’s makes it work. And remember those old cheese wrappers were pretty much a universal coupon.

MiLB manages unified branding, web services and a bunch of other things. Why not a unified rain check system for baseball pilgrims? I don’t think the money is the stumbling block as Minor League teams give tons of promo tickets away.

MLB would never go along with such an idea as the economics are so different. But MiLB is SUPPOSED to be creative and much more geared to the fan experience. Give it a shot.

Thanks for the soap box Mr. Hill.

What’s your home park, Pete?

I can ride my bike to not historic but still quite dandy Nats Park but in terms of MiLB, Google says Bowie is slightly closer than Potomac. Depends what kind of traffic jam I want to get stuck in.

You’d mentioned some towns down here in North Carolina, I was going to say we can cross paths and I’ll buy you a beer for kickstarting this. The offer still stands if you head down this way.

I like this idea. It’s similar to an idea that I wrote about over a year ago: I called it Minor League Concierge Service. It was for season ticket holders. I’m a full-season ticket holder for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. At the end of the season I have dozens of rain checks, ticket credits, free vouchers and the like left over. I try to give them away, but ultimately many go to waste. My proposal was to have a concierge-type service available through my home ticket office which would allow me to get tickets for another minor league stadium out of town using my home-field credits.

Here’s how it works: I’ll be on vacation later this summer. I might want to take in a game near the shore, say, Delmarva Shorebirds or Lakewood Blueclaws. I call my ticket office in Allentown and have them arrange for some good seats for me while I’m on vacation using my ticket credits. I’ll spend way more for concessions than the tickets are worth anyway. The same ticket exchange network could be used for the rain checks.

I make several multi-park trips every summer; some with up to five parks in a week. I try to purchase tickets ahead of time and I schedule in rain dates, where possible.

When a game gets rained out, I am making elaborate spreadsheets just to re-route the trip, all while eating the unused tickets.

If I could purchase a season’s worth of tickets all the tickets up front, including undated tickets at my home park. It would make these trips incredibly easier.

Short of an entire league arranging this, a few teams might be able to come to an agreement. Opt-in per team might be more plausible. Reminds me of the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Program – these art museums grant admission to visiting members of other art museums. If Box Offices didn’t have to try to reimburse each other, it would all come out in the wash.

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