A Night at the Nat


What to Expect at a Vancouver Canadians Baseball Game

By Daniel Fung

There is only one place in this West Coast city where you can watch mutant sushi pieces battle for bragging rights and grown men clamor for a chance to take pictures with a giant stuffed bear, all while kicking back with a beer or a soda in a beautiful open-air setting.

Welcome to the world of minor league baseball at Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians.

The giggles of playing children, shouts from vendors selling beers and peanuts, and chants of “Go C’s go” fills the Nat, as it’s affectionately known, is infectious on warm summer nights from June through September each year whenever the Canadians take the field.

Stroll around the stadium and you’ll run into parents treating their kids to a night out, groups of twentysomethings sharing laughs and beers, and diehard fans decked out in team paraphernalia and offering running commentary (sit next to them for perspective on who’ll be the next breakout superstar for the Canadians’ big-league affiliate, the Oakland Athletics). Some come for the game, others just to relax and take in one of the longest-surviving professional sports stadiums in the city under a late-evening sunset.

Some also visit for the sense of nostalgia and historical perspective. From the moment you walk up to the stadium you are immediately greeted by the portraits of baseball legends including Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio.

While there are plenty of opportunities to marvel at the history of this franchise that has been around in various forms since the early half of the 20th century, the C’s have done an admirable job at ensuring Nat Bailey Stadium is not stuck in the past in terms of amenities. Several upgrades have been made to the facility over the years. The most recent addition for the 2010 season is a brand new video screen situated in the outfield, giving the minor-league park a major-league facelift.

Let’s be honest, though, when it comes to in-stadium entertainment, the Canadians don’t rely solely on technology. Enter dance routines, theme nights, and, of course, the sushi races.

The latter is one of the most unique traditions in minor league baseball. Since 2008, the fourth inning has become famous for the event featuring three raw-seafood inspired mascots -- Ms. BC Roll, Mr. Kappa Maki, and the loveable loser Chef Wasabi -- in a race around the diamond. Chef Wasabi has only won once.

And yes, you can actually buy and eat sushi from the concession stands.

There are also plenty of reasons for the baseball purists out there to indulge in a night at The Nat, not the least of which is an opportunity to see some of the sport’s rising stars. The Canadians have had a long history of future major leaguers passing through its ranks -- with names such as Jim Abbott, Jack McDowell, Rich Harden and Nick Swisher. A popular attraction is the Wall of Fame exhibit highlighting some of the former players who once donned the “C” and have since gone on to make a mark in the majors.

Baseball aficionados will also find the intimate nature of the stadium appealing as every seat offers a spectacular view overlooking the diamond from the in-field – the kind of view few are privy to at a major-league ballpark (without putting a sizable dent in their wallets).

With tickets starting at just $10 and the average cost for a family-of-four hovering around $50, a Canadians game is an affordable and family-friendly sporting entertainment option.

So kick back on a lazy summer night, entertain the kids for an evening, shoot the breeze over a beer or two and watch oversized mutant sushi try to trample one another. And hey, you may even have time to catch the baseball game while you’re at it.

The Basics

Money Matters:

Major credit and debit cards are accepted at the concession stands.

Parking at The Nat:

There are several parking lots located within close proximity to Nat Bailey Stadium that charge event rates during Canadians home games. There are also street parking options along Ontario Street (where the stadium entrance is located) and on 33rd Avenue, which its major cross street.

Getting There:

If you are traveling by SkyTrain, take the Expo Line or the Millenium Line to the Main Street SkyTrain Station. Then take the No. 3 Main Street bus southbound to 30th Avenue and walk two blocks west to Ontario Street.

If you are traveling by Canada Line, take it to the King Edward Station then take the #33 29th Avenue Station bus on Cambie Street at King Edward Street. Continue southeast until you arrive at Ontario Street then walk two blocks north to 30th Avenue.

Food for Thought:

Nat Bailey Stadium offers traditional ballpark fare, from popcorn to peanuts to hot dogs, as well as some nontraditional fare such as a sushi bar. If ballpark food isn’t up your alley, there are several dining options located within close proximity to the stadium on Main Street. Don’t miss the Vietnamese and Chinese offerings here.

For the do-it-yourself types, Queen Elizabeth Park -- another one of Vancouver’s must-see sites -- offers an idyllic setting for a picnic and is located just steps away from the stadium entrance.

Daniel Fung is a Vancouver-based freelance writer who has covered the Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the 2010 Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey tournament. Presently, most of his writing appears on and Vancouver Canucks Examiner.

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