Play Ball in Cooperstown…

I just returned from my 2nd trip to Cooperstown (the spiritual home of baseball) this year… my 2nd trip in 11 months.

For the uninformed, Cooperstown New York is the spiritual home to baseball. It is located in upstate New York amidst some of the most striking yet placid countryside east of the Mississippi. The hallmark of downtown Cooperstown is The National Baseball Hall of Fame– a pilgrimage every baseball family needs to place on their must-see list (before the kids get too old to want to holiday with “old” Mom n’ Dad.)

Which brings me to the choicest of recommendations…
Playing baseball while you are there!

Cooperstown Dreams Park & The Cooperstown All Star Village
There are two awesome complexes, both having their merits and both apt to provide a once-in-a-lifetime of good baseball and great family memories… one park in particular being what I feel is the more complete & total experience. (Price as of this writing: approx. $695 per player for the week.)

Both Complexes Provide:
A safe, fun, family-oriented experience with neat and well kept grounds. Both take advantage of awesome natural backdrops of low distant mountains and rolling hills, and both add the baseball touches you will love. They also feature flowers, banners and flags as well as plenty of organized employees (the backbone of this great week) to answer your every question; many are college-age summer interns.

Pageantry also has its place here in the form of great opening and closing ceremonies that set the tone for an exciting week of play.
Teams will play 1 or 2 games on most days with a 7 game guarantee (up to 10 or more games if your team is on a winning streak). You will play on manicured fields with 200 foot fences, so expect to see a lot of offense featuring long singles and home runs…bring extra players if at all possible and all the pitching you can muster!

Individual trophies and awards are given for various feats and the popular skills competitions, with winning teams receiving trophies at the end of the week’s competition at the closing ceremonies. Players receive 2 uni. tops, 2 pair of sox, a game hat and a commemorative ring presented to each player at the closing ceremonies!

The Facilities
Lighted, manicured, irrigated, ballfields and bunkhouse-team housing in a player’s village with access limited to only players and coaches with distinguishable armbands only! (Parents are allowed in during move-in day only.)
This is a good thing, as one of the larger impact items that many players will take from this experience is the team unity and team building that helps these young players to understand THE TEAM EXPERIENCE! This is where friends-for-life happen.

Meals are provided under huge tents where team and camp introductions and meetings are also held. Internet broadcasts of ball games are provided for families who cannot make the actual trip to Cooperstown… a very cool idea!

I did not find or hear of any needs that you might have that are not served. This includes bath and shower facilities, plenty of food and time for kids to be kids– including trading team pins (a very popular event)– with the other teams from around the country. There is even a staffed infirmary to handle the daily meds and any injuries that may happen. Free batting cages and practice areas are available as well. A Super Walmart and other assorted stores are available close by for additional basic items and stocking up for your week.

Adult Accommodations
There are many places to stay including hotels, many bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and private homes… a very fun idea for multiple families. Prices range from vacation-affordable to expensive with nothing really being cheap. There are also plenty of affordable and inexpensive restaurants ranging from fast food to the other side of casual… everyone is on vacation here, so leave the big boy pants at home!

Cooperstown All Star Village has unique family accommodations that can really save you time and gas money. Prices are in line with hotels in the area. The sports bar/ restaurant is a short walk away as is a small store with all the basics… all within the resort complex.

The Differences
Dreams Park
This is the larger of the two, with 22 lighted fields and 98 teams each week over a 12 week season. The grounds are beautiful, and the whole place was absolutely organized because of its vast size… maybe too organized. There seemed to be a rules-are-rules mindset– important, but almost annoying. Some staff seemed a bit distant and maybe even business-like but, again, efficient.
Fields are retro-cool with some showing signs of age; site lines for parents could have been better. The access controlled Player’s Village was well laid-out with lots of constant coming and going. Bath and shower facilities were all you need and in good repair. Two uniforms were provided (theirs to keep). U12, some U10 plus some girls Fastpitch week(s).

Cooperstown All Star Village
8 gorgeous new-look lighted fields with webcams-– as good as it gets.
Players were issued 2 sets of embroidered uniforms (theirs to keep), bunkhouses had AC, and the swimming pool for players and coaches was cleverly shaped like a baseball mitt. Batting cages are close by.
The access controlled Players Village was for players and coaches only… creating a team bonding experience… boys being boys, but where coaches also stay and staff supervises. U12 with at least one U10 week per season.

Staff was upbeat, courteous and very friendly, perhaps providing families a more laid back experience. Positive staff comments abounded and included yeoman work in getting rain-soaked fields ready for play.

An on-site resort hotel is available for parents. It includes a pool & fitness center, as well as laundry facilities and a general store for basics. The resort also includes a beautifully appointed on-site sports bar and restaurant with closed circuit television that beams ballgames in real-time so that families can have the choice of being at the park or relaxing in air conditioning while watching their favorite teams and player(s).

The Adult–Vacation Part… aka If momma ain’t happy… ain’t nobody happy!
Cooperstown is geared around baseball with its myriad of baseball-related shops, but there are ample things to do within the short drives you will take to and from downtown Cooperstown. I found the locals to be very helpful, friendly and inviting! The shops of Cooperstown were varied enough that the non-baseball family was happily occupied. There are a few museums, interesting brewery tours, restaurants, golf, lakes and other vacation fun stuff that most moms will appreciate… and do plan one afternoon at The Baseball Hall of Fame. Check out the Cooperstown Chamber of Commercewebsite for even more thoughts & ideas.

After payment, there really is little that parents (read moms) are asked other than to bring the sunscreen and have some vacation-fun… even team laundry is handled. I was a pleasantly surprised but nonetheless pleased that the moms I interviewed seemed to be having fun well into the week.

Planning This Mother of all Team Trips!
Transportation, parent housing, pins, time off…anything that goes into any vacation probably applies here, though adults really provide little parenting and the time with your players are reduced to the fun vacation-stuff… nice!

I will be providing a future article (maybe online by the time you read this) from a parent’s point of view. This particular parent/author was the organizational force behind his team’s trip. His thoughts will undoubtedly save you many dollars and hours…a must-read!

This is not just another tournament (you can do that much closer to home and for a lot less money). So plan 2 years or even more in advance (you may need to be flexible in your time requests, so again, plan in advance and inquire early!)

This is a once-in-a-lifetime family experience that children (and coaches and parents) will not easily forget… and at the time when many kids are making the transition from childhood to the very trying teen years, starting them out on a wonderful note with nothing but positive experience is not a bad thing at all!

I wish I still had my 12 year old ballplayer in the house to experience this and would do it without reservation… but if you have your own young player or team, I strongly suggest you take a good look and perhaps talk it up… way in advance. A team full of parents may have a lot of questions and hesitation, but from my experiences and interviews with parents, coaches and personnel, I heard so little negative that I cannot help thinking you will have a very special and worth-it week!
Your efforts may be well worth it!

What the experience may ultimately provide for your player… and your family can be priceless… a family bond that remains for years… and perhaps generations!

As the literature says… Because They’re Only 12 Once!


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