Some kids go to baseball games because they like watching baseball, and others go to get free stuff.
As any young fan knows, there are lots of days at the ballpark when you can get hats, shirts and other very impressive baseball junk just for showing up and buying a ticket. With a little planning -- and parents who don't mind driving all over the East Coast -- you soon could collect enough giveaway stuff to open a sporting goods store.
It's the start of a new month. So, let's take a look at free-stuff highlights for May:
* Orioles: There are only two giveaways at Camden Yards this month, but the items are pretty decent. For Saturday's Orioles-Indians game, kids 14 and under get a copy of Rookie League magazine, which has pictures and articles about big-league players. May 17, the Orioles play the Red Sox, and kids 14 and under get a free Cal Ripken growth chart, which comes in handy if you can't find a yardstick to measure yourself, or if you want to cover a hole in the bedroom wall.
Not many tickets are left for these games, so check before you go.
* Phillies: If you're reading this before lunch, there might be time to drive to Philadelphia for today's 1:35 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants. You'll use up a tankful of gas getting there. But the Phillies are celebrating the Phillie Phanatic's birthday by giving kids 14 and under a Phanatic cap.
There are two other important Phillies games this month, both on Sundays at 1:35 p.m. May 22 against the New York Mets is growth chart day (the Phillies' version has pictures of the Phanatic and catcher Darren Daulton). May 29 is beach towel day, but you have to bring your own pail and shovel.
* Yankees and Mets: Get tickets for May 21 and 22, when the Orioles visit Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, fans 14-and-under get a baseball stamped with Yankees autographs. The next day, kids get a Yankees wallet. The games begin at 1:35 p.m.
What good is a ball without a glove and a baseball shirt? That's what the Mets must have been thinking. Sunday, May 15, is kids jersey day, with the Mets playing the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. You get a fielder's glove May 29 when the Mets play the Cincinnati Reds. Game times are 1:40 p.m.
The season's best giveaway is July 24 in Detroit. If you show up at Tiger Stadium, and it's a really long drive, you get a Cecil Fielder growth chart. The trouble is you might need a pickup truck to get it home.