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How to Save Money at Baseball Games

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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.

Citi Field, August 18, 2009

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?

Photo: Flexo

Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 19, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Katharine

I don’t know about other stadiums, but at Fenway Park you aren’t allowed to bring in outside food OR drinks. They sell you a $4 soda right outside the door and then make you throw it away when you try to walk in.

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avatar David @ DINKS Finance

I’ve been to a lot of Twins Games the past few years, and I’ve found a perfect way for guys (sorry girls, make a guy sneak it in for you) to sneak in beverages (I usually bring in pop).

Go to the gas station and buy a couple 20 ounce pops for a few bucks.
Wear cargo shorts.
Put them in your cargo shorts and do everything you can to walk normal without the bottles being noticeable
Unless they see it bulging in your pockets, you should get through.

Just like that, you saved probably $5 or more on two pops. I’ve done this probably 8-10 times without being “caught” once. It is now profitable for me to do this every time, because worst case scenario I lose a few bucks worth of pop.

-DC

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avatar David @ DINKS Finance

Oh and your right, NO stadiums will knowingly let you bring in outside drinks.

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avatar Tom Dziubek

“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. ”

Whoa! The normally stoic Flexo almost had an emotion? LOL

You want a challenge? Follow the Royals. It’s the reason I don’t the MLB package on DirecTV. Who needs to watch your team lose 90-100 times a year, every year? Well, that and it’s damn expensive.

Agreed on the food on the drink. Fill up as much as you can beforehand and try to stash snacks away on you somewhere before going in.

Stubhub is also a great idea, but you need to take into consideration the popularity of the game/event you’re going to. A Mets game on a Tuesday night in mid-August usually won’t generate too much demand and you probably can find a great deal on Stubhub. However if you’re trying to find tickets to a Giants-Eagles game in December that has playoff implications, you might have to act much earlier. BTW, I spent most of my late teens and early 20′s doing “manual upgrades” at stadiums. It may have come after the sixth inning, but a better seat is a better seat!

Regarding the souvenirs, you’ll be happy to know that when I interviewed Teri Gault of The Grocery Game (for an upcoming podcast on haggling), she said that she was able to successfully negotiate a discount at a stadium’s souvenir shop. She did say, however, that trying to haggle better prices on the food and drink was unsuccessful. LOL

One last thing, never “close your ears and eyes” at a ball game. Not only is there a lot of stuff you’ll miss, but you could catch a line drive right in the puss…depending on where you’re sitting. LOL

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avatar Barb

Food and drinks being allowed in totally depends on the stadium. Camden Yards allows you to bring in food AND drinks, and I remember bringing in subs and sodas to games at Yankee Stadium when I was younger.

Camden Yards also has an area where people sell extra tickets for the game at or below (usually below–sometimes WELL below) face value. For Orioles games, it’s usually not hard to snag seats.

And for souvenirs, try to align your outing with a giveaway day. That’s how I got both my Yankees hats, and at least half of my t-shirts are now O’s shirts, due to how frequently they give them away. (There ARE bonuses to having a crappy team.) I recently went to a Twins game and walked away with a free Justin Morneau wind-up toy.

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avatar Craig

I am a big Mets fan too although this season is a lost cause. Eating beforehand and bringing a bottle of water are your best bets. Some stadiums you can bring your own food in and you should. Food and drinks at the game are terrible.

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avatar Erica Douglass

Interesting post (and glad to see that Tom is commenting, too! ;) My only feedback would be to try to buy the tickets on craigslist. I found they are even cheaper than StubHub, but you may have to meet the person and exchange cash. I’ve bought lots of tickets on craigslist, mostly for concerts, and have saved a ton of money — to the point where I probably wouldn’t buy through Ticketmaster.

-Erica

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,364 (Platinum)

One of the biggest advantages of StubHub is that you can print out the tickets from home in most cases. But Craiglist is certainly a valid option. And as other commenters have pointed out that you might be able to find tickets under face value for popular games, so that is something to keep in mind.

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avatar The Tight Fist

Hey man, you fogot to mention a baseball tradition as deep-rooted as peanuts and crackerjacks: sneaking in booze! At at stadium where they let you bring in ‘non-alcoholic’ drinks, you just make a mix and put it into a coke bottle and you’re good to go. For other stadiums, the old flask down the pants trick works wonders. My go-to trick: I sneak in a flask of run, then mix it with a Coke I buy during the game. Then it’s cold!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,364 (Platinum)

I tried to avoid endorsing things the organization doesn’t want you to do. But if you feel you can get away with it, give it a try.

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avatar Candide

The ticket issue really depends on the team. If you’re going to a Packers or Giants game, unless they’re awful, it’s really tough to find seats below face.

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avatar Tom Dziubek

@Erica, if there’s a topic about sports, I’ll probably be commentin’!

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avatar pat

You can bring food and unopened drinks to the Phillies.
Rules vary at stadiums, call or check online for yours.

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avatar MyJourney

I get $5 buck met Tickets from a co-worker’s Son who works for Citi. They just need to fill up the seats so I take advantage.

Flexo,

If you have an interest in these tickets (they are inconsistent and no rain checks, but for $5! Its worth the gamble) go ahead and e-mail me.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,364 (Platinum)

Email is on the way!

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avatar KC

Stick with teams and fans that suck. My Dad and I are hitting Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincy this year. Free tickets in Pitt for 2 games, $9 UD front row behind home plate in Clev, and $25 beside the visitors bullpen in Cincy. So we spent a total of $68 for tickets to 4 games and I get to talk to the Cardinals relief pitchers (many who I knew when they played at Memphis). I prefer to sit behind home plate, but I couldn’t pass up sitting with my boys.

As for food and drinks many parks let you bring them in – Atlanta, Camden, Coors Field, San Diego, Dodger Stadium, Wrigley have all let me bring in food and sealed drink. In fact I asked an usher in Colorado what the best food in the stadium was and he told me to go out gate 5, go to the street and find Rosa – she sells the best tamales. So I walked out of the stadium bought my food on the street and came right back in.

But mostly I hit minor league games. There are lots of free tickets available – get to know some of the season ticket holders. A real fan knows their favorite teams farm system well and the best way to do that is hit up the minor leagues.

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avatar Writer's Coin

Going to baseball games is a treat for me, so I usually don’t worry about trying to save money by sneaking stuff in or moving down to a better seat. I go see the Cubs maybe twice a year and when I do I get there early (for the bleachers) and I try to go on a full stomach. But otherwise I don’t worry too much about spending once I’m inside.

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avatar Robert

I only live in a city that has a minor league team, but I think what you are saying is spot on. We have a new park in the city and things went up in price there once they moved to it.

The one thing I do is look for promotions or discount tickets (maybe at a radio station). Also, many companies buy box seats as perks for their employees. Basically the employees just have to reserve them with the HR dept. I have a few friends who then let me have the tickets if I ask. The downside is that weekend games are usually hard to get, weekdays not so much.

Finally, concessions are just part of it, and will be expensive. I usually eat before I go in the park and then have a beer while watching the game.

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avatar Greg

here in Greesnville, SC, we have a minor league team in downtown. You can get $5 tickets and the food is reasonable. I have gone to noon games on weekdays for lunch…buy a cheap ticket, a dog and coke, wind up spending what I would have in a sit-down place. I will take the minors over the pros any day.

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avatar Enrique S

I second the minor league games. The Long Island Ducks have a fairly new stadium, and the parking is free! The concessions inside are still pricey, though.

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avatar J

KC’s Kauffman Stadium will let you bring food or drinks in. But no cans, or glass bottles (if I remember), only plastic bottles.

The way I use to save on tickets is to check the team’s website on mlb.com. All of the teams’ I’ve seen have some sort of promotion going for something. Sometimes you can get 4 tickets, drinks, food, and a program for $40. Or sign up for the team’s ticket newsletter. You can get some seats for nearly half off. I went to an Astros game this year and got $36 seats for $20.

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avatar Tom Dziubek

J, good to see a Royals fan out there. I may be the only one on the east coast. And if Greinke doesn’t win the Cy this year, the system’s a travesty.

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avatar Gnrationow

I WANT TO SEE THE NEW COMMERCIAL FOR CHASE FREEDOM THAT HAPPENS AT THE BASEBALL FIELD AND HAS THAT REALLY CUTE LITTLE GIRL IN IT!!!

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avatar Gnrationow

I WANT TO SEE THE NEW COMMERCIAL FOR CHASE FREEDOM THAT HAPPENS AT THE BASEBALL FIELD AND HAS THAT REALLY CUTE LITTLE GIRL IN IT!!!

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