Monday night marked a new season of minor-league baseball for the Hudson Valley Renegades, whose 38 home games at Dutchess Stadium will include plenty of family friendly promotions throughout the summer.
Returning to the Wappingers Falls ballpark that fans have nicknamed The Dutch, the Tampa Bay Rays' local Class-A affiliate takes on the Aberdeen IronBirds in their June 18 season opener. And much like their youngest fans, they grow up so fast. In just a few years, Evan Longoria and John Hamilton went from hustling out ground balls in Dutchess County to showing off their major-league skills for the Rays and Texas Rangers, respectively.
About a mile away from Exit 11 of Interstate 84, the 4,500-seat Dutchess Stadium opened in 1994. In addition to the obvious action on the field, families can picnic before and during the game; let kids do some playing of their own in the ballpark's playground; hang out with the team's raccoon mascot, Rookie; and eat standard ballpark fare ranging from sweet-potato fries to hot dogs, which you you can top with everything from mac-and-cheese to coleslaw.
Children 12 and under can also be registered for the free Kids Club, whose members can run around the bases after Sunday, Monday and Tuesday home games, and attend a free Monday or Tuesday home game (except for Opening Day and July 3). And children younger than 3 can attend games for free, as long as he or she sits on an adult's lap when in the stands.
Ready to take the kids out to the ballgame? Here's a look at the best games for the kids this season.
June 19: Kids' Opening Day
Kids will be the focus of their opening opening-day celebration, with free playground access between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and costumed characters from "The Avengers" mingling with fans. Before the game against the IronBirds, Kids Club members are also invited to participate in a game of catch, and after the game, members can take a picture on the field with the Avengers characters.
When: 6:35 p.m., Tuesday, June 19
June 22: "Where's Waldo?" Night
In honor of the popular books that challenge readers to find the white-and-red-striped Waldo in various scenes, fans can participate in a similar experience when a ballpark staff member will dress up as the character and hide throughout the stadium during the game against the Staten Island Yankees. Fireworks will follow the game.
When: 7:05 p.m., Friday, June 22
July 12: Ice Age Night
While the Batavia Muckdogs are in town, the ballpark will celebrate the release of "Ice Age 4: Continental Drift" with characters and promotions related to the animated feature.
When: 7:05 p.m., Thursday, July 12
July 23: Jeremy Hellickson Build-A-Bear Night
When: 7:05 p.m., Monday, July 23
July 30: Father-Daughter Dance
After the game against the Williamsport Crosscutters, Dutchess Stadium will hold a half-hour father-daughter dance on the field.
When: 7:05 p.m., Monday, July 30
Aug. 7: Choose Your Knight
Dutchess Stadium will have a Medieval Times-like vibe, giving fans the opportunity to cheer for knights as well as the Renegades (who will figuratively attempt to slay the Vermont Lake Monsters on the field). The first 1,000 children under 13 will also receive a Renegades hat.
When: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 7
Aug. 12: Family Olympics
The real Olympics are scheduled to wrap this day in London, but local parents and kids will carry the flame in more casual fashion through competitions at the ballpark while the Renegades face the Lowell Spinners.
When: 5:05 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 12
Aug. 21: John Hamilton Build-A-Bear Night
When: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 21
Aug. 22: Bring Your Dog to the Park
Service animals notwithstanding, this is the only night of the season you can bring your dog to this game against the Connecticut Tigers. In addition, there will be doggie-bag giveaways and local pet shelters on site to promote adoption.
When: 7:05 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 22
Aug. 29: Last Regular-Season Game
Excluding the possibility of playoffs, this is the last chance you and your family can catch the Renegades at Dutchess Stadium. Fireworks will follow the game.
When: 6:35 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 29
IF YOU GO
What: Hudson Valley Renegades at Dutchess Stadium
Info: 1500 Route 9D, Wappingers Falls, 845-838-0094; www.hvrenegades.com
Tickets: $6-$15 for regular single tickets; $8-$17 for games with fireworks (June 18, 22 and 30; July 3, 14, 20, 27 and 28; and Aug. 11, 24, 25 and 29); group and season-ticket discounts are available on the website