This year, my son has been fortunate enough to be a part of the most extraordinary little league team. It hasn’t been about how many games they’ve won or home runs they’ve hit. It’s simply because the kids and all the families on our team approached the sport of baseball for what it is…a really fun game. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what’s been going on at Toyota Field. The Trash Pandas franchise is focused on fun and it’s awesome.
Here’s my story of how we took an entire little league baseball team to a Trash Pandas game and not only survived, but had the most amazing day.
Trash Pandas Baseball with Kids
Ticketing and Seating
At one of our last games, our dugout coach/team mom threw out the idea that we should all go to a Trash Pandas game. “Sure,” we all said, but also realizing how difficult it would be to gather all 12 players and their families and actually go. By some miracle it happened and she easily purchased everyone’s tickets online through the Trash Panda website.
Once you purchase your tickets online, you can manage them right from your smart phone. It’s hassle-free and easy, especially if you’re herding cats (I mean, wrangling a bunch of kids).
COST: Our team chose the $8 lawn seats because we had our entire team, siblings, friends, coaches, and parents, but there are so many options to choose from depending on your game watching situation. There are seats for groups, for date nights, and for families. Single game tickets range from $8 to $25 each. There’s not a bad seat in the house, so no matter what your budget for baseball watching might be, you’re going to have a fantastic view of all the action. No matter where you chose to sit, children under the age of two don’t need a ticket if they can sit on your lap.
The $8 lawn seats on the Budweiser Berm have no chair backs, and you can’t bring in chairs, so remember to bring a blanket to sit on. Kids can stand along the rail at the bottom of the berm to cheer on the Trash Pandas right fielder, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a foul ball.
Traffic and Parking
I am no stranger to traffic nightmares. I survive the elementary school car line every day. If you can do that, you can easily navigate the Trash Panda traffic and parking situation.
I’d heard the horror stories of opening day lines and prepared accordingly. Our minivan brigade left early and used every traffic app known to a smart phone, plus our hilariously epic little league team Group Me to warn everyone else in our party of any hiccups on the road. But other than a situation getting out of Decatur, traffic was like rolling up to a well-oiled Chick-Fil-A drive thru.
There are now many entrances into the parking lot, allowing traffic to flow fairly smoothly and alleviating those opening day traffic situations. There’s also plenty of parking for everyone.
COST: Parking is $10 on the day of the event or $8 if you prepay online before game day. Toyota Field is a cashless venue, so you’ll either need to prepay for parking before the game or pay with a debit or credit card when you enter the parking lot. Go here for more information on parking.
Entering the Stadium
I went to the University of Miami in the 90s. I’m used to walking through a metal detector to enter a sporting event. But if you’re not, be prepared. You’re going to have to walk through a metal detector. Leave your knives and pepper spray at home.
You’ll also need to prepare accordingly with your bags. Toyota Field only allows each fan to carry one 12”x12”x6” clear bag and one 4.5”x6.5” clutch with or without a strap. The clutch does not have to be clear. Special exceptions to this rule are made for diaper bags and medical needs. For more information on the bag policy, click here.
When you get there, the line to get in looks like you’re about to enter a major theme park, but I promise, it’s really not that long. There are actually three lines (remember this) and they all move rather quickly. So don’t panic when you see the line. Our large group was inside the ballpark in less than 10 minutes.
Pro Tip: Make sure to pay attention to the giveaway for the day and arrive early if you want it. Our entire team received a free Trash Pandas bobblehead. It was really great quality and we were all impressed that it was FREE!
Before our game, one child was randomly chosen from the crowd to hand out the game ball on the field. Not only have we been lucky enough to be on the best little league team, but we’ve made some amazing memories this season, and this game was no exception. One of our precious outfielders was chosen at random for this awesome opportunity by a Trash Pandas staff member. He just walked up to our outfielder in the Budweiser Berm and asked if he’d like to hand out the game ball. Um, YES!!! So if your child is feeling lucky, make sure to get there early.
The National Anthem was sung by a local vocalist and she brought down the house. The Tennessee Valley has some truly talented people living here and the Trash Pandas are certainly finding ways to showcase that talent. Plus there’s nothing like singing the National Anthem at the ballpark on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Trash Panda Game Time!
The game was awesome. It was filled with amazing plays and two grand slams for the Trash Pandas. Baseball just doesn’t get any better than that. Even the most critical fan of the sport will not be disappointed with the level of competition and play from the Trash Pandas. They’re a truly dynamic team and they are so much fun to watch! Also the players are extremely nice and attentive to kids. You couldn’t ask for a better group of athletes to call your home team.
Concessions & Snacks
We ate all the food. No really, I’m pretty sure we ate all the food. I love ball park food and Toyota Field was no exception. My family and the kids on our team ate tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, fries, popcorn, and ice cream. It was all delicious and fresh. We drank bottled water, Gatorade, sodas, and this mama had two very classy cans of wine.
Side note: I am gluten-free and found a great allergy friendly option in street tacos at the Bandito food tent. There are plenty of allergy friendly foods available. I would suggest simply asking a staff member for tips and options. Everyone is super helpful!
COST: A hot dog runs about $3 at the stadium and a souvenir baseball helmet filled to the brim with enough chicken fingers and fries to feed two kids and a husband was $22. I probably spent $100 on five kids and two adults (including my wine) and that was only because I said yes to everything anyone asked for because I wanted this trip to be epic-level fun for the kids that were with us. I truly believe that I could easily feed my family of four and leave full for less than $40 (or less than $10 per person) on our next trip to see the Trash Pandas.
Heads up: Drink and snack lines can be super long. Plan your food runs accordingly. I shopped around and just kept walking until I found a concession stand with a smaller line. I never got that frozen lemonade I wanted but I found other snacks that our kids loved just as much.
Restrooms & Potty Breaks
The bathrooms had relatively short lines. The only real line I ever waited in was for the family restroom when I had to take all the team little sisters at once. The main bathrooms are laid out very well with one door for entering and one door for exiting. There are plenty of stalls and sinks for everyone. I also noticed changing tables in each restroom.
The Trash Panda Gift Shop
The Trash Pandas need to look into a t-shirt with a Mariah Carey likeness wearing a franchise logo hat that says “I survived the Trash Pandas’ gift shop with a high-maintenance preschool girl.” I’m just saying that would be a souvenir to be proud of and I know many an “I said NO”-slinging dad who would rock it. But until they design my shirt (and this is where I claim my 10% royalty, thank you very much), there’s PLENTY to choose from in the gift shop that won’t break the bank.
COST: My husband bought a hat for himself, my daughter picked a super cute girl’s cap, both kids got giant foam fingers, and I opted for a koozie with my canned wine as my souvenir. There are shirts and hats and other fun souvenirs in every size, for every age, and in all the colors (for those aforementioned picky preschool girls). You can spend as little as $5 in the gift shop or however much your heart desires. There really is something for everyone and for every budget.
More Fun Stuff!
Everywhere we turned, we ran into friends we knew. It was so much fun. The kids had a blast. The adults had a blast. The Trash Pandas franchise has really gone above and beyond to make sure everyone has fun.
We found Sprocket, the Trash Pandas’ mascot while we were waiting in line for food. We easily hopped in line to have our picture made with him and waited just about five minutes for the opportunity. Sprocket and the Trash Pandas staff members with him were all so nice, and the kids loved meeting him in person. He walks around the stadium during the game, so pay attention. You never know where you might meet him.
We had so much fun on the lawn that none of our kids ever made it across the stadium to the Kids Zone, so I sincerely apologize I can’t tell you anything about that. But I’ve heard from other friends that it’s super fun and has a playground with a rubberized playing surface. Also no alcohol is allowed in the Kids Zone for enhanced safety.
We went on a Sunday and the kids were able to run the bases. How fun! The game we watched went into extra innings and the Trash Pandas won with a Grand Slam. How fitting! Make sure to check their schedule for each game’s events. On weekends there are post-game fireworks for fans to enjoy. I noticed on their calendar there are even days on which you can bring your dog to the game.
The Final Verdict
I’ve been to a lot of baseball stadiums: more MLB, minor league, and NCAA venues than I can count. I’ve had a lot of really good times watching baseball with some really fun people over the years. But nothing compares to my experience at Toyota field last Sunday. It was equal parts the party I was with – our epic little league team – and equal parts everything the Trash Pandas franchise has done to ensure everyone has a wonderful visit to their ballpark. I’m writing this several days after our trip and I still can’t stop singing their praises. My family has already planned our next trip, and we can’t wait!
Here’s a quick checklist of all the things you need to remember:
- Buy your tickets and parking in advance. You’ll save at least $2 on parking.
- There’s not a bad seat in the house, so who cares where your seats are. I highly recommend the cheapest seats on the lawn. Bring a blanket if you sit there.
- Toyota Field is a cashless venue, so make sure you have a debit or credit card. If you don’t have a card, you can use cash in the gift shop to purchase a gift card and use the gift card throughout the stadium.
- Make sure to read their clear bag policy and plan accordingly.
- Check the calendar and get there early/stay late for freebies, giveaways, and opportunities for additional fun events and themed games.
- Use this wonderful A-Z guide for all your questions: Rocket City Ballpark Guide
- Don’t hesitate to ask a staff member. Every single Trash Pandas employee we encountered was unbelievably kind and beyond helpful. It’s evident that they’re family and fan focused.
If we can survive a Trash Pandas game with an entire little league baseball team, I promise you can do it with your family. I can also promise you that Toyota Field was built for giving you the most fun experience at a baseball game anyone could ask for. I cannot say enough great things about the Trash Pandas, Toyota Field, and the experience altogether. I give our trip an A+++!
Trash Pandas, you gave 12 little baseball players the highlight of their season. We made memories for a lifetime. Thank you! You have a lot of new fans in our team.
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Andi Stewart is a Decatur-native, who spent over a decade living in Miami. She finally returned home, married a boy she’s known since childhood, and loves raising her family in the hometown she adores. She has two children, a son and a daughter. She’s a professional Environmental Engineer who balances a full-time career with motherhood. She’s run more marathons than she can count (mostly because she really enjoys eating) and she loves her daily barre class and traveling. She is passionate about her River City community and when she’s not volunteering, she’s enjoying all her city has to offer.