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How I Went to Over 20 MLB Games This Season Without Going Broke
If baseball has lost some of its luster as our country’s national pastime, it may be because a day at the ballpark has become a bit too pricy for the common man.
The simple pleasure of enjoying a hot dog and a beer at the ballgame can get pretty expensive once you add up your $10 Dodger Dog, $12 craft beer and $75 preferred field box MVP ticket.
For this reason, many spendthrift sports fans prefer minor league baseball. However, it is still possible to enjoy a trip to the majors on a budget. This season alone, I’ve been to over 20 MLB games in eight ballparks while still staying financially solvent.
Here are a few tips to help you do the same.
Buy Your Tickets From a Resale Site
Most MLB teams sell their seats online using Ticketmaster or a similar service that charges convenience fees on top of the ticket price. While there are occasional promotional deals or discounts you can take advantage of, you typically have a much better chance of paying below face value if you use one of the many ticket resale apps and websites.
StubHub is one resale site with a lot of name recognition, but it adopted Ticketmaster’s sneaky practice of waiting until checkout to hit you with the additional fees. That’s why I now prefer SeatGeek, which includes all fees in the quoted price. SeatGeek also lets you sort through tickets by price or “deal score,” which calls your attention to seats that may not be the cheapest available but represent the most bang for your buck.
Resellers usually drop their prices as game day approaches, so you can usually save money by waiting until just a couple hours before the first pitch to buy your ticket.
Bring Your Own Food and Drink
The seventh-inning stretch anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” mandates that someone “buy [you] some peanuts and Cracker Jack,” but it doesn’t specify where they buy them.
I purchase both of mine at the dollar store, along with other snacks, like Reese’s Pieces and Junior Mints, and throw the entire junk-food smorgasbord into the knapsack I take to the game.
And while MLB parks still have a stranglehold on beer and alcohol sales, you can often bring in your own soda and water, provided they are in plastic bottles with an unbroken seal. Of the teams that allow outside food and beverages inside the park, most also require you to carry it in small bags or crushable coolers that are no larger than 16-by-16-by-8 inches and can be searched by security. (The Arizona Diamondbacks have slightly different cooler requirements, as they want fans to use ones that are no larger than 11-by-11-by-15 inches).
The most generous teams, which includes the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, will allow you to bring in food, soda and water.
Stingier teams, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals, force you to check your drinks at the door but do allow guests to bring in food and bottled water (and typically juice boxes).
Then there are teams like the Cleveland Indians, which allow food but no water (juice boxes are still permitted for kids) and the Boston Red Sox, who officially permit only bottled water but have been known to allow fans to bring in outside food.
The Mariners are pretty miserly when it comes to beverages, not allowing sodas or even water bottles (though you can bring an empty plastic bottle and fill it at any of the park’s 66 water fountains), but they do allow outside food if it’s wrapped, bagged or inside a container.
Stadiums will change their policies now and again and often have their own weird idiosyncrasies when it comes to what is and isn’t permitted. So before you pack for the game, be sure to check the team’s website to ensure that you comport to their regulations.
Root for a Bad Baseball Team
I get it, most people follow whatever baseball team is nearest them, and they don’t really have that much input into whether or not that team is any good. And if they did have a say in the matter, they’d probably opt for a good team, as most sports fans prefer winning to losing.
But as someone who does get to pick between a good baseball team and a bad one, I choose the latter nine times out of 10.
I live on the northwest side of Chicago, so I can take a 35-minute bus ride north to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or a 45-minute train ride downtown to see the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
While it takes roughly the same amount of time and money for me to get to either ballpark, I’ve been to only four Cubs games this year and three times as many Sox games.
That’s because the Cubs are defending World Series winners vying for the playoffs and have the highest average ticket price in all of baseball. Meanwhile, the Sox are perennial cellar-dwellers whose lousy attendance figures mean I can usually pick up nosebleed seats at a weeknight game for $5 each.
That vast cost difference may explain why a 2017 J.D. Power Fan Experience Study found that the last-place Sox have the most satisfied sports fans in Chicago, while the reigning champion Cubs finished fifth in the city’s rankings.
Time it Right
Of course, if you are one of those poor, unfortunate souls stuck rooting for a winning team, you may have to do a bit more work to figure out which games are the most budget friendly.
For starters, pay attention to who the visiting team is. Just as ticket prices shoot up when a nationally popular team like the Yankees or Red Sox is in town, they’re also likely to decrease when the away team is a losing club with a small fan base.
Also, weeknight and weekday games are almost always more affordable than weekend games, with Tuesday and Wednesday games typically being the cheapest. Similarly, late-season tickets tend to be cheaper than spring and summer games, especially if the team in question is fading from contention.
September baseball may not always be as thrilling as opening day, but it does often come at a fraction of the price!
Patrick Grieve is a tight-fisted skinflint who can typically be found scrounging around in dive bars, empty baseball stadiums and second-run movie theaters. He’s also a writer, so The Penny Hoarder just felt like a natural fit for him.