Spend a Summer Evening With the Winston-Salem Warthogs
Baseball is, in many ways, the perfect summer game. And if you're looking for a place to take the family on a hot summer evening, you will find no more family-friendly event than a Winston-Salem Warthogs game at Ernie Shore Field.
The Warthogs are the single A minor-league affiliate of Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox. For the baseball aficionado, a trip to see the ballpark might be a chance to see a young superstar in the making. For your children, well, it's a whole other ballgame.
There are tons of kids at any Warthogs game, and there is plenty to keep them occupied if they are not interested in the clean-up batter's ERA. First and foremost, there is Wally the Warthog, the team mascot, who roams the stands during the game and is mobbed by children as if he were the second coming of Hannah Montana. Wally dances, signs autographs and interacts with the crowd throughout the evening. My son got Wally's autograph on a Warthogs schedule magnet - a brilliant marketing move if ever there was one.
Trey Kalny, the Warthog's director of community relations, makes sure the attention doesn't lag between innings. There is plenty of fan participation in a variety of goofy games. Ever wanted to see two giant eyeballs race each other? You might get a chance at a Warthogs game. There are also some small amusement-park rides, including a carousel, at the stadium for younger kids.
The Warthogs have several kid-friendly programs designed to involve the community at large. One of the best is Wally's Summer Reading Program that rewards students who meet specific reading goals. Students who meet the goals are given a free ticket to a Warthogs game, a hot dog and drink at the game, a gift certificate from McDonald's and even a bit of on-field recognition.
The Warthogs also offer kids birthday party packages on game nights, which include a visit from Wally, special birthday seating, an autographed ball for the birthday kid and recognition by the public-address announcer. If you're a Boy or Girl Scout, you might consider the Aug. 22 Scout Sleepover at Ernie Shore Field. For a small fee, scouts can attend a Warthogs game and then camp out all night on the field. The evening includes a free movie, early-morning breakfast and a fireworks show.
Speaking of fireworks, Ernie Shore Field is the site for the annual July 4 fireworks show in Winston-Salem. This year, the Warthogs will have fireworks on July 3 and 4. But if your kids can't get enough of aerial sparklers, the Warthogs feature a fireworks display after every Friday night home game.
OK, so that's great for the kids but what if you're an adult, like me, who stopped liking baseball when he was 10 years old? There are still plenty of reasons to take the family to the park, especially this year.
If you've driven through Winston-Salem on Business 40 in the last year you probably have noticed the construction site of the new downtown ballpark, which is scheduled to open next spring. This summer is your last chance to take in a professional minor-league game at one of Winston-Salem's true landmarks. Next year Ernie Shore Field will become the exclusive home to Wake Forest University's baseball team.
The park, which opened in 1956 and seats about 6,000, was named after a former Forsyth County sheriff, who was also a professional baseball player. Ernie Shore, whose career lasted from 1912 to 1920, won two World Series as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and also played on teams with the legendary Babe Ruth. He was sheriff in Forsyth County for 34 years.
The park itself has been renovated several times since it opened, but it retains much of its original look. For kids and adults, it's still a great facility that has the feel of a classic ballpark from a time when the sport truly was the American pastime.
If You Go
401 Deacon Blvd.
Winston-Salem, NC 27115
You can find the full Warthogs schedule along with a calendar of special events and everything else at warthogs.com
Box Seats $9
General Admission $7
Children 12 and under receive a $1 discount on the above ticket prices. Children 3 and under are free.
The Warthogs also have a family-friendly section. No alcohol is permitted in the first six rows of section E.
Michael Huie, who lives in Winston-Salem, is a freelance writer and father of one.