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Why the Baltimore Orioles minor league teams are worth checking out

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Parking, Food, Tickets, and dealing with traffic. Major League Baseball can an expensive pain in the butt. Take a trip down to the farm for some wallet-friendly entertainment.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

I have long been of the opinion that minor league baseball could very well be the best value in all of professional sports. If provides the opportunity to watch high-quality action at a fraction of the cost of an MLB game.

The Orioles make it even more attractive to their fans by having four of their top five affiliates within the state of Maryland, and the fifth, Triple-A Norfolk, is just a four-hour drive from Baltimore. Not a lot of teams have such easy access. For example, the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate is located in Las Vegas. That's a five-hour plane ride away. O's fans have it made.

The rosters of these teams make up, or least we hope they do, the future of the Baltimore Orioles. That 19-year-old you see in Aberdeen today could be an everyday starter at Camden Yards in a few years.

So I thought it would be fun to take a quick digital trip around to all of the Orioles affiliates, minus the "Rookie" level since you cannot attend those games, and tell you what you can expect to see there the rest of the season. Maybe it will persuade you to give it a chance one night. Sound good? Good!

Norfolk Tides

AAA Affiliate, International League
Norfolk, Virginia
Harbor Park
237 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

If you want the team where you are going to recognize the most names every time you go to a game, the Tides are the team to check out. Some notable guys who have spent most of 2015 with Norfolk: Steve Clevenger, Christian Walker, Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez and Eddie Gamboa. And that is just for your Tides. A lot of other organizations have some Major League level talent down at Triple-A too.

Harbor Park is huge for a minor league stadium. It holds about 12,000 people and has much more of a big league stadium look than all of the other O's affiliates. Admittedly, this is the one O's minor league stadium that I have not had a chance to visit yet.

Like I said, Minor League baseball is a great bargain. For the Tides, $12 will buy you the best seats in the house. Really, that will buy you any ticket in the house. That includes the promotions and giveaways that you have with pretty much every game.

A quick list of cool promotions the rest of the season:
-Youth Tides Jersey (July 10)
-Fireworks (July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 3, Sept. 4)
-Turn back the clock, including $0.50 concessions (Aug. 3)
-Spongebob Night, Tides wear Spongebob-themed jerseys (Aug. 7)

Bowie Baysox

AA Affiliate, Eastern League
Bowie, Maryland
Prince George's Stadium
28 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The Baysox are currently the best team in the Eastern League. That is reason enough to check them out. They sit at 47-35, and it's because of the solid core of talent they have right now, including inevitable September call-up Mychal Givens, who has pitched to a 1.72 ERA and 13 saves for the Sox. Other names of note on the roster are Tim Berry, who is struggling, Brandon Snyder, Glynn Davis, Matt Hobgood, Mike Yastrzemski, Branden Kline and 23-year old Trey Mancini, who is slashing .358/.392/.600 for Bowie over 25 games.

Prince George's Stadium is exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of a minor league stadium. The outfield walls are emblazoned with advertisements galore. The video board is a bit faulty, but still easy enough to see. It's cheesy, but not over the top. Officially, the park holds 10,000 people, which makes it the biggest minor league stadium in Maryland, for whatever that is worth.

The most expensive tickets are $17, so it is a bit pricier but still worth it. And the Baysox also have a lengthy list of promotions:

-Fireworks (every Friday and Saturday home game)
-Babe Ruth Bobblehead (July 19)
-Back hair appreciation night (July 30)
-"Captain Manny" Machado Bobblehead night (Aug. 9)
-General Admission for $1 (Aug. 20)

Frederick Keys

High-A Affiliate, Carolina League
Frederick, Maryland
Nymeo Field at Harry Groves Stadium
48 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Wei-Yin Chen made a brief appearance here earlier this season, but the main attraction now is 20-year-old catching prospect Chance Sisco, who is slashing .287/.370/.375 thus far. Other players to keep an eye on are shortstop Adrian Marin and outfielder Josh Hart.

Nymeo is a credit union, and it purchased the naming rights to Harry Grove Stadium this past off-season. The park, abbreviated HGS, holds 5,400 patrons and tickets range from $9-12, so it's a heck of a bargain. HGS was built back in 1990, and has a similar look to Prince George's in that it has tons of advertisements beyond the outfield walls.

Let's check out their notable promotions:
-Fireworks (every Friday and Saturday home game)
-Parks and Recreation night, all about the NBC show (July 20)
-Guaranteed win night, IF the Keys lose, you get to go to another game for free (every Tuesday home game)
-Zach Britton Bobblehead (July 25)
-90s Nickelodeon night (July 31)
-Seinfeld Soup Nazi night (Aug. 15)
-Kevin Gausman Bobblehead (Aug. 22)

Delmarva Shorebirds

Low-A Affiliate, South Atlantic League
Salisbury, Maryland
Arthur W. Perdue Stadium
118 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The Shorebirds may be the easiest team to incorporate into your family's annual vacation plans if you live in the Baltimore area. Perdue Stadium is about 30 or 40 minutes away from all of Ocean City's attractions. It's not even that much of a detour.

Currently, the roster doesn't boast a ton of star power, with only Sebastian Vader and Reyes jumping off the page. However, the beauty is that the Orioles most recent draft picks just started playing professional baseball at Aberdeen and Gulf Coast a few weeks ago. Don't be surprised if first-round pick D.J. Stewart is wearing a Shorebirds uniform before the end of the 2015 season.

It's all about chicken on the Eastern Shore. OK, it's really not, but Perdue is an important business out there. They sponsor Salisbury University and the Shorebirds. That's power. The stadium itself holds a little over 5,000 people and is set to undergo a major renovation following the season, including a new video board, which is something it has sorely needed for a while. The Shorebirds will also get a new playing surface as the grass has gotten noticeably beaten up over the years. For the fans, the concessions will be revamped to reflect a "boardwalk" theme. It all sounds pretty darn cool if I do say so myself.

Tickets for a Shorebirds game top out at $11 if you are looking to sit right down on the field level. But as always, there is a slew of promotions:

-Fireworks (every Saturday home game)
-Christmas in July (July 18)
-Manny Machado 2011 All-Star Bobblehead (Aug. 14)
-Float for the Fund, unlimited root beer floats for $5 (Aug. 16)

Aberdeen IronBirds

Short-season-A Affiliate,
Aberdeen, Maryland
Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium
35 miles away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

If you are a fan of minor league baseball and the atmosphere, the IronBirds are definitely one to check out. The newly-minted Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium is one of the nicest minor league parks you will find. Not to mention all of the cool little league fields just beyond the first-base side of the stadium, including a scaled down version of Camden Yards, including the warehouse.

On the field, the team looks to be much better than last year, when they lost nearly twice as many games as they won. The attention grabber is D.J. Stewart, the O's top pick in June's draft. However, fellow draft classmate first baseman Steve Laurino is putting up the numbers early (.328 BA, 6 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI in 17 games). Meanwhile, outfielder Cedric Mullins, another 2015 draftee, has also been solid (.324 BA with four stolen bases).

The IronBirds pitchers to watch are all southpaws: Travis Seabrooke, Tanner Scott and Lazaro Leyva. All three have good stuff, but Leyva has touched 99 mph this year.

At Ripken Stadium, you pay for the amenities. It's $26.50 for a club box seat and $17 for a seat behind home plate. However, they too have some cool giveaways and promotions.

-Fireworks (every Friday and Saturday home game)
-Dylan Bundy T-Shirt night (July 8)
-Cal Ripken Jr. 1983 World Series Bobblehead (July 15)
-Back to the Future night, Doc Brown T-Shirt giveaway (July 16)
-Christmas in July, Ugly Sweater T-Shirt giveaway (July 25)
-Cal Ripken "Season for the ages" Bobblehead giveaway (Aug. 5)
-Jackie Robinson #42 T-Shirt giveaway (Aug. 22)
-2131 Bobblehead giveaway (Sept. 2)

That's everything. Just a note, I did not include EVERY giveaway for each team, just the ones that I thought personally were cool. For a full list, visit each team's website. But anyway, I hope I convinced you to at least give minor league baseball a chance. It's a fun and affordable time, especially if you have kids.

Down in the comments, let me know what your personal best experience at a minor league game has been. It could be with an Orioles affiliate or not. Whatever you really enjoyed. And you can also feel free to Tweet me as well @_TyYoung. Thanks for reading.