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8 Things To Do At The Ballpark (Besides Watch The Game)

If you're a sports fan, nothing beats the thrill of going to a game. If you're not a sports fan, nothing is quite as interminable as being dragged to a game. Simply eating a $12 plastic container of bland nachos isn't going to kill three hours, so you'll have to go out scouting for adventure. You might want to consider one of these fantastic diversions.

1. Pony Riding, Cheney Stadium

Few fans remember the 2004 Tacoma Rainiers' season win-loss record, but scores can probably tell you that it was the year the ponies invaded Cheney Stadium. The Seattle Mariners' AAA minor-league affiliate turned home games into every ten-year-old girl's dream. Not only could young fans ride ponies on the field, but a pony also delivered the game ball to the mound before the first pitch. Sadly, the Rainiers' media office told me this stellar attraction ended with the 2004 season, which means the 2005 season probably broke some sort of record for highest number of crying, disappointed fans under the age of ten. [Note: This photo was not taken at Historic Cheney Park during that magical 2004 season.]

2. Ferris Wheeling, Comerica Park

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Detroit's old Tiger Stadium may have been flush with history, but nobody was going to mistake it for a carnival midway. The Tigers' current home at Comerica Park fixes that problem with both a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. The Ferris wheel's cars are actually shaped like baseballs, an aesthetic choice that underscores the strong historical link between Ferris wheels and baseball. No one's so sure what that link is, but it's underscored quite thoroughly. [Photo courtesy of Colossus of Rhode.]

3. Swimming, Chase Field

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The Arizona Diamondbacks' beautiful home stadium houses perhaps the most famous ballpark diversion, a swimming pool just beyond the outfield fence. Don't show up in your swimsuit for just any old Snakes home game, though; according to the team's site, the Riviera Pools Pavilion can be rented to you and 34 friends for a meager $6,500 per game. Of course, that comes with a $750 voucher for food and beverage, so really, it's only $5,750 per game. At that price, you can't afford not to rent it out. [Image courtesy of .]

4. Pet Checking, U.S. Cellular Field

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Nothing's worse than walking through a stadium security check only to find that you've left your pet cat in your purse or backpack. At most ballparks, your day would be ruined since you'd either have to take Mr. Whiskers home or turn him free to fend for himself in the wild. Luckily, the management of the Chicago White Sox has a solution: fans can check their pets for a "minimal fee" which supports non-profit organizations that train service animals. No word on whether or not the team might start a particularly frisky dog at second base this season, although this pet-check is certainly a promising first step towards making the Air Bud series a reality. [Image courtesy of Can't Stop The Bleeding.]

5. Being Terrified, Ripken Stadium

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For most of the year, Aberdeen, Maryland's Aberdeen IronBirds play minor-league hardball in this stadium. In October, though, it turns into the 13th Inning, a haunted house so horrifying that the shaky play of Class-A baseball doesn't seem so scary after all. Don't take my word for it, though; here's the official website's description: "The 13th Inning haunt has you reliving baseball's horrid past as you brave the bloody clubhouse of Manager Justin Bobby, Aberdeen's notorious skipper who stumbled upon a demonic asylum of cannibalistic spirits, demons long buried, who've consumed his players' souls." Whether or not it chills your blood, it's definitely a conceptual nightmare.

6. Sliding Out of a Beverage Bottle, AT&T Park

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The home of baseball's San Francisco Giants boasts many unique elements, from the brick wall in right field to long home runs splashing down in the water of McCovey Cove. It also has a gigantic Coca-Cola bottle behind the left-field bleachers that doubles as the housing for four playground slides. And next to the bottle is an enormous sculpture of a baseball glove that doubles as"¦an enormous sculpture of a baseball glove. The Giants claim it's the world's largest baseball glove, though, so if you're into viewing record-setting sporting equipment, it should be good for at least 90 seconds of entertainment. [Image courtesy of the wildly entertaining Luke Cole's Roadside Attractions.]

7. Getting Sand in Your Shoes, BB&T Coastal Field

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The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Class-A Carolina league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, have an interesting private-party seating gimmick: The Beach. According to the team's website, the sand-filled Beach is stocked with folding lawn chairs and a great view down the third-base line, just like the beach. Except there's no ocean, but it's still perfect for fans whose favorite part of going to the beach is hosing the sand off of their feet. Even better, the section has a private bar and is next to the visitors' bullpen. Life as a minor-league relief pitcher must be tough; it's difficult to imagine that drunken opposing fans with handfuls of sand next to the bullpen would make things much easier.

8. Posing for Questionable Photo Ops, University of Phoenix Stadium

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This year's home for the Super Bowl gets to house the NFL Experience, a football theme park that pops up for entertainment before and during the big game. The attractions are mostly historical or involve running through simulated NFL drills, but in one case the activity involves posing as member of the very bad local football team. As the event's site advertises/warns: "Arizona Cardinals Home Team Photo - Step into a life-sized photo of the Arizona Cardinals and have a friend snap your photograph." Sure, the Cardinals may be perennial losers, but that just means you can show the picture to friends and say, "Oh, yeah, I totally played on their offensive line a year or two ago"¦" and have it sound remotely plausible.

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Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys. His last mental_floss contribution was a quiz on Sibling Underlings.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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