Take the fam­ily out to the ball­park

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - By Sean Laughlin

Af­ford­able, fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment,” Justin Cole, North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals Gen­eral Man­ager said.

In early 2007, ground broke at the cor­ner of Gene Ge­orge Blvd. and Watkins Ave. to be the new home of the Kansas City Roy­als’ Dou­ble-A af­fil­i­ate (AA).

The next spring into sum­mer, the North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals played their very first sea­son at Ar­vest Ball­park, a fab­u­lous base­ball fa­cil­ity. The sta­dium has a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing; and it con­tin­ues to evolve.

With a seat­ing ca­pac­ity of 6,500 within the sta­dium as well as an op­tion of watch­ing from just be­yond the out­field fence in the grass berm or stand­ing along the rails. Ar­vest Ball­park is a tremen­dous place for th­ese young men to play each day, and a great place for fam­i­lies to spend the day to­gether.

“We are al­ways look­ing for things to have fun with the en­tire fam­ily,” Cole said. “We have the ‘Kids Zone’ with many in­flat­a­bles, we have the Ar­vest Ball­park train that does laps around the con­course and we are al­ways try­ing to be in­no­va­tive with our food of­fer­ings.”

The Nat­u­rals play 70 home games from April to Septem­ber, and a vast ma­jor­ity of those games have pro­mo­tions. Whether it is a Sat­ur­day Night Give­away, Buck Night, Fire­works Fri­day, KIDS EAT FREE Fam­ily Sun­day, the Nat­u­rals are al­ways find­ing ways to give back to their fans.

Kids can hang out with the North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals mas­cot, Strike the Sasquatch, and eat de­li­cious Dip­pin’ Dots while cheer­ing on the Dou­ble-A team.

North­west Arkansas is home to many up­com­ing, young base­ball play­ers who are get­ting very close to reach­ing their life­long dream of be­com­ing a Ma­jor League Base­ball player.

The Nat­u­rals fans have been very blessed to have tremen­dous play­ers who have played in front of them in their late teens and early-twen­ties be­fore they be­came All-Stars and MVPs.

Play­ers such as Sal­vador Perez, a Nat­u­ral in 2011, has gone on to be­come a 5-time MLB All-Star, World Se­ries MVP and 4-time Gold Glove Win­ner. Eric Hos­mer, a Nat­u­ral in 2010, has be­come a 3-time Gold Glove win­ner, 2-time All-Star and World Se­ries hero. And so many more play­ers that are now Kansas City Roy­als’; Alex Gor­don, Mike Mous­takas, Danny Duffy and the late Yor­dano Ven­tura. As well as play­ers who were traded to other big league clubs who have made an im­pact. All-Star Wil My­ers and Mike Mont­gomery who was the pitcher last year when the Chicago Cubs beat the curse and won their first World Se­ries since 1908.

Cole has no­ticed in the re­cent years, that Ar­vest Ball­park has been a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for fans from Kansas City who are in­ter­ested in see­ing the Roy­als’ fu­ture play­ers.

In the 10 years as a part of the Roy­als farm sys­tem, the Nat­u­rals have not only seen the play­ers on the field grow, but the North­west Arkansas com­mu­nity grow as well.

“I know, there was progress be­fore we got here, but just the growth in Spring­dale, Fayet­teville, Ben­tonville and Rogers, has been very cool to see and be a part of,” Cole said. “We are re­ally ex­cited to see where this area is go­ing and ex­cited to be a part of it.”

“The sup­port from the com­mu­nity to­ward the young play­ers has been there since open­ing night in 2008,” which Cole still re­mem­bers very well.

“Look­ing back to the first game and what it took to get there, the com­mu­nity sup­port­ing the build­ing of the sta­dium, the team com­ing here for that open­ing day and sit­ting here to­day in the mid­dle of our tenth sea­son; I al­ways look back at that day as such a great mo­ment,” Cole said.

That mo­ment led to so many huge suc­cesses in­clud­ing the growth in Spring­dale along with North­west Arkansas as a whole. The North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals ball­games are a great place to take the whole fam­ily to see a suc­cess­ful Mi­nor League team that brought the Texas League Cham­pi­onship to North­west Arkansas in 2010.

THE GROUND BREAK­ING

CER­E­MONY in Spring­dale for the be­gin­ning of con­struc­tion to build Ar­vest Ball­park, home of the North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals. (From left to right) Perry Webb (Spring­dale Cham­ber Pres­i­dent), Danny Dot­son, David Glass (Owner of the Kansas City Roy­als), Bob Rich, Jr. (North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals Owner), Jerre Van Hoose (for­mer Spring­dale Mayor), Eric Edel­stein (for­mer North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals Gen­eral Man­ager), Chris Cross­land, Ivan Cross­land, and Mike McFar­land.

Aerial shot of night game at Ar­vest Ball­park, dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral sea­son for the North­west Arkansas Nat­u­rals

NWADG File Photo

THE NORTH­WEST ARKANSAS NAT­U­RALS lineup for the Na­tional An­them dur­ing the 2008 sea­son.

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