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Find the sweet spots

These ballparks are hits with their fans: showcasing young talent and family fun, nearby and affordably

LeLacheur Park on the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell is home to the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League and the Division 2 University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks. LeLacheur Park on the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell is home to the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League and the Division 2 University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)
By Christopher Klein
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2011

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After a particularly brutal winter, baseball fever in New England is sky-high. Unfortunately, so are Red Sox ticket prices. Fans priced out of Fenway, however, can still catch the boys of summer playing at affordable, family-friendly minor league stadiums across the region. There down on the farm you will find, in addition to future major leaguers, your fair share of wacky promotions and venerable ballparks. An all-star lineup of 10 places to root, root, root for the home team.

BRIDGEPORT BLUEFISH A hot tub might be expected in a stadium in Arizona or Florida, but Bridgeport? New this season, fans can catch this gritty city’s independent Atlantic League team from unique ballpark seats: the cozy confines of an eight-person hot tub complete with champagne and a rubber ducky. Fans who prefer to wear their swimsuits elsewhere can dress for the Harbor Club, which includes an air-conditioned suite and full-service bar. The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, which holds 5,500 fans, is part of a waterfront revitalization, and the bustle of the city envelops the stadium, with train tracks and the interstate just beyond the outfield wall. $8-$20, 203-345-4800, www.bridgeportbluefish.com

BROCKTON ROX This independent Can-Am League franchise will be sporting a new logo and uniform design for its 10th season but a familiar face as the new manager: Bill Buckner, the onetime Red Sox first baseman. Campanelli Stadium, capacity 4,750, is New England’s most family-friendly sports venue. The Rox-a-Bye Baby Suite, a luxury box furnished with a changing table and toys, is reserved for parents who need to feed and change their young rookies, and a kids’ zone features games and a bounce house. Brockton’s nickname honors hometown boxing legend Rocky Marciano, and its mascot is a feisty kangaroo named K-O. The season starts May 26. $5-$15, 508-559-7070, www.brocktonrox.com

LOWELL SPINNERS “Thread Sox Nation’’ is crazy for its Spinners. Boston’s Single A affiliate sold out LeLacheur Park for 413 consecutive games until the streak was snapped last season, and there is a waiting list for season tickets. The chance to scout Red Sox prospects draws fans, as do creative promotional events, such as this season’s Scott Brown bobblehead night and dental flossing world-record attempt. New this year, fans will be able to order food and drinks on their smartphones and have them delivered to their seats. The ballpark, as it is most nights, will be filled to its 5,030-fan capacity for the New York-Penn League All-Star Game on Aug. 16. Season starts June 17. $5-$10, 978-459-1702, www.lowellspinners.com

NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS Home plate at New Britain Stadium is almost exactly 110 miles from both Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, placing it squarely on what some fan a while back named the “Munson-Nixon line.’’ It’s for good reason that the Rock Cats, the Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, consider themselves the “Switzerland of baseball.’’ Rock Cats fans, however, are anything but neutral about their team; New Britain set an attendance record last year. The sports bar and grill on the third-base line has great views of the field and plenty of televisions, just in case fans want to check on the Red Sox or Yankees. $5-$18, 860-224-8383, www.rockcats.com

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, which holds 6,500 fans and opened in 2005, is one of the newest in the minor leagues. The home field of the Double A Fisher Cats — like that of its parent club, the Toronto Blue Jays — features a hotel overlooking the ballpark, and a bar and grill beyond left field opens two hours before the first pitch. Another reason to get to the ballpark early is to cheer on Ollie the Bat Dog (a golden retriever, naturally) as he fetches the Fisher Cats bats in the home half of the first inning. New Hampshire will host the Eastern League All-Star Classic on July 13. $6-$12, 603-641-2005, www.nhfishercats.com

PAWTUCKET RED SOX Thirty years ago, McCoy Stadium hosted baseball’s longest game: a record 33-inning affair between Pawtucket, Boston’s Triple A affiliate, and Rochester. The seemingly endless box score from that epic and other game memorabilia are displayed in the stadium concourse. Sox fans will enjoy the dozens of portraits of Boston legends who played for Pawtucket that ring the ramps like supersized baseball cards. With 10,031 seats, McCoy’s unusual layout, with its first row eight feet above the field, has led to the quirky tradition of autograph-seekers dangling baseballs on strings and reeling in their catches. The grassy berm behind left field is a great place to soak in the sun and the game, even if it lasts 33 innings. $5-$11, 401-724-7300, www.pawsox.com

PITTSFIELD COLONIALS Historic Wahconah Park is as delicious a slice of Americana as a piece of apple pie. The 3,500-seat home of the Can-Am League Colonials is a true throwback. The wooden grandstand, which dates to 1919, offers intimate sightlines; the outfield fence is made from wooden planks; and die-cut tin signs hang from the manual scoreboard. Even the Pittsfield uniforms, modeled on late 1800s fashion, are retro. “Sun delays’’ are more common than rain delays at the park, one of only two professional stadiums facing west. The setting sun can cause a dangerous glare for batters, and games may pause for as long as 20 minutes before play can safely resume. Season starts May 26. $5-$9, 413-236-2961, www.pittsfieldcolonials.com

PORTLAND SEA DOGS The large green wall towering over left field in Hadlock Field, home of Boston’s Double A affiliate, instantly evokes Fenway Park. The 10-foot-tall L.L. Bean boot and the lighthouse that rises up beyond the fence after every Portland home run, however, are quintessentially Maine. Portland’s hardy fans flock to the 7,368-seat ballyard to watch Fenway’s future stars. Among the illustrious Sea Dog alumni are Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis. Between-inning entertainment includes the “Lobster Toss’’ where two fans try to trap rubber lobsters. Concession stands serve up Maine microbrews and popular Sea Dog Biscuit ice cream sandwiches. $4-$9, 207-879-9500, www.portlandseadogs.com

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS Sightings of the legendary sea serpent lurking in Lake Champlain may be rare, but they are common during baseball season at Centennial Field. That’s where Lake Monsters mascot Champ cheers on the home team in New York-Penn League action. Centennial Field, which opened in 1906 on the campus of the University of Vermont and seats 4,000, predates Fenway Park. Fans have to trade creature comforts for the nostalgia trip as the 1920s grandstand sports narrow wooden seats, obstructing steel beams, and concrete bleachers. This year the Lake Monsters will begin an affiliation with the Oakland Athletics. Season starts June 17. $5-$8, 802-655-4200, www.vermontlakemonsters.com

WORCESTER TORNADOES This was once a major league town, home to a National League franchise in the early 1880s. The rich baseball tradition carries on with the Can-Am League Tornadoes, who play at historic Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field. It was there a slender rookie named Ted Williams slugged his first home run in a Boston uniform in 1939. The open concourse ringing the top of the stadium allows fans to keep up with the action while heading to the concession stands. This season, fireworks will follow all nine Friday night games, and children can run the bases after the eight Sunday afternoon games. Season starts May 26. $7-$19, 508-792-2288, www.worcestertornadoes.com

Christopher Klein, author of “The Die-Hard Sports Fan’s Guide to Boston,’’ can be reached at chris@christopherklein.com.

If You Go

BRIDGEPORT BLUEFISH Bridgeport, Conn.
BROCKTON ROX Brockton
LOWELL SPINNERS Lowell
NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS New Britain, Conn.
NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS Manchester, N.H.
PAWTUCKET RED SOX
Pawtucket, R.I.
PITTSFIELD COLONIALS
Pittsfield
PORTLAND SEA DOGS Portland, Maine
VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS Burlington, Vt.
WORCESTER TORNADOES Worcester