I am not a very good baseball fan. I grew up with the Mets as the team of choice in my family although none of us were much into sports. This loyalty was solidified with the team’s World Series win in 1986 when I was ten years old, the prime age for baseball fandom. Now with a girlfriend who has lived her entire life practically next door to the Mets, I have returned to my old ways.
While remaining mostly cool, detached, and apathetic to baseball in general, I have to admit the sport is fun to watch. And that works for me because I don’t care about the losses; thus, I don’t get frustrated in what would normally, for a fan, be a very frustrating year.
The enjoyment of baseball relies on putting aside the fact that the sport — and perhaps all sports, or all forms of entertainment — is just a commercial. The baseball game is one long commercial for a variety of products and services. Every single aspect of the game is sponsored by a company that offers something for fans to buy. The true goal of these events which draw tens of thousands of spectators in person and millions via radio and television is not to entertain or enlighten. The true goal is to get you to part with your money.
And they do a very good job of this.
Last night, I attended a Mets game for the first time this year. The organization originally sold our seats to someone for $175 each. They came with wonderful, but expensive amenities, like access to a dining area. But we managed to save some money in some areas while missing others. Here are some things we did and some we could have done to save money at this Major League Baseball game, besides staying home and watching the game on television or listening on the radio.
Buy tickets secondhand. While our seats had a “face value” of $175, we waited until the last twenty-four hours to buy them through a second-hand ticket broker, StubHub. We saved almost $100 a ticket, paying what is much closer to what I believe to be a fair price for the experience. Our seats were excellent, a few rows behind the third base dugout. Fans are desperate to unload tickets they can’t use, so wait until the twenty-four hours leading up to the game and you’ll find better deals. These were likely someone’s season tickets, so they may not have paid full price either, but I do feel we got a good deal relative to what other seats cost.
Buy the cheapest seats. Every stadium has an option for the nosebleeds. With most games, you can buy the cheapest tickets but still find a way to see the game from a better location. There is usually an opportunity to move around, so don’t be afraid to perform a “manual upgrade” if you’re not infringing on anyone else’s enjoyment of the game and if you remain polite.
Take public transportation. We may be spoiled in New York. Public transportation to Mets and Yankees games is convenient. Parking at the stadium is an expensive hassle. I remember one time a few years ago it took two and a half hours just to get out of the Yankee Stadium parking garage onto the streets in the Bronx. Now I take the Long Island Rail Road to Mets games, and my girlfriend lives just blocks from a train station.
Bring your own drinks. For most fans, alcohol is part of the experience of being at a ball game. Alcohol must also be a way to cope with bad seats; in the past, I’ve noticed the worse our seats, the rowdier and drunker the surrounding fans. Anyhow, cut back the alcohol at the game and bring your own soda or water. Depending on the stadium, the security might let you bring in outside drinks or food.
Eat before and/or after the game. I tend to go into games hungry. This is a very bad idea for me, as I’m tempted to order and eat the junk food served at the stadium’s concession. Or even worse, if my seats include complimentary admission to one of the dining clubs, I might order food there. Either way, this food is very expensive. Consider a frugal tailgate at home before the game or in the parking lot and refrain from eating ballpark food.
Skip the souvenirs. Major League Baseball knows that the business of souvenirs is huge. Companies like New Era and Majestic Athletic pay significant licensing fees to the MLB in order to sell the “official” versions of sports merchandise, so they charge more for these “authentic” souvenirs. This is completely unnecessary for experiencing baseball.
Close your ears and eyes. Throughout the game, you are bombarded with marketing. There’s little you can do about this other than try to ignore it. Citi’s sponsorship of the Mets gave them naming rights on the stadium and all the ATMs are owned by Citibank. Pepsi has a significant presence at the stadium; its branding through signage is even larger than Citi’s and you won’t be able to find any Coca-Cola products at the game. Advertisers believe that the target audience for baseball is middle-aged men with greying hair; thus, Just For Men, a hair dyeing product, is featured prominently in the stadium and on broadcasts.
Anything that is featured, like the out-of-town scoreboard, the starting line-up, the call to the bullpen, or the play of the game, is attached to a sponsor. There is no way to escape this deluge of commercialism and fans have just grown to accept it. Even though you realize it exists, the association between baseball and these companies sticks consciously and subconsciously. I can guarantee that every one of these companies that sponsor a small piece of baseball has a counterpart that is just as effective or pleasant, but is less expensive because it doesn’t pay for massive sponsorship deals.
How do you save money at baseball games?
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 19, 2009.