Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Get Out Your Wallets--It's Baseball Season

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but here in New York, we’ve got two new sports stadiums: a new Yankee Stadium and a new Shea Stadium for the Mets, called Citi Field. Both are brand, spanking-new, boasting food that one normally wouldn’t see at a ball park (pulled-pork sandwiches from the gourmet barbecue restaurant Blue Smoke as well as sushi, and host of other culinary delights), shopping, arcades, and hot tubs, to name a few. And let’s not forget the new, “green” urinals. They don’t use water! They use something else that I don’t understand to get rid of beer-infused urine! It’s all very exciting.

I love watching baseball—namely my New York Metropolitans—at home. Why? Because here in the New York metropolitan area, it’s hard to get anywhere by car, subway, or bus. It takes a long time to do anything. To go to a 1:00 p.m. Met game, we would have to leave here at around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. if we were to drive. Same if we took public transportation. So, it’s been years since we have been to Queens to see a game. We usually huddle up in the living room, eating the foods that one would normally find at a game—chips and guacamole, hot dogs, beer, hamburgers—and watch our team blow a big lead in the bottom of the ninth. We’re fans. That’s what we do.

But all of this talk of Citi Field and its amazing amenities got me thinking that just once this year, we should go to a game. I thought the best thing to do would be to find a game that we could present to Jim as a Father’s Day present. I went on the web site, amazed at all of the wonders of this beautiful new ball park—because let’s face it, Shea Stadium wasn’t exactly a baseball Shangri La—and instructed the web site that I wanted four tickets for a Saturday afternoon game, for something called “best available.”

Well, it certainly wasn’t referring to the “best” price. Well, maybe if you own stock in Citi.

The computer clicked away and came back with four seats in one of the upper mezzanines for a grand total of $1560.00. I quickly pushed away from the keyboard, afraid that if I touched anything, a credit card that once had been stored in the computer after buying a pair of shoes would be charged for the tickets. After my heart stopped racing, I went back to the computer and tried to buy a cheaper set of tickets. Basically, I came up with four tickets at about $300.00 (if we wanted to actually see the game and not be sitting in the stratosophere) and started calculating our time at the ball field. With parking, food, a souvenir or two, we would be looking at a day that costs the family over four hundred dollars.

I’m sorry. That’s just criminal.

Isn’t baseball America’s pastime? Isn’t it the thing you did as a kid with your family that didn’t cost all that much, that took up an afternoon or evening, that was loads of fun and not a sock to the pocketbook? I know that sports has been like this for a long time—don’t even talk to me about what it costs to go to Madison Square Garden to see a Ranger game—but the fact that our under-achieving Mets have a new ball field sponsored by a company that is going bankrupt and still has the audacity to charge what they do for tickets and food just galls me.

We will probably go to a game over the summer. I’d like to see the new ballpark, see my team play, and sample some of the new food that’s being offered. (Because let’s face it, if they have food and it’s good, I’ll go anywhere.) But the fact that the cheapest seat at the stadium is $36.00 is just sad. How does a family of four or more go to a game without taking out a home equity loan? Particularly in this economy? I feel bad for all of the kids who won’t get to see a game at the ballpark, who won’t get to see David Wright take batting practice, or Johan Santana throw his warm-up pitches, or Carlos Delgado in the on-deck circle. Or, like my son, bring his glove because maybe—just maybe—he’ll catch a fly ball off of Carlos Beltran’s bat. Or have a hot dog loaded with yellow mustard and maybe some sauerkraut washed down with a watered-down soda. Heck, I feel bad for the adults who won’t be able to do all of these things.

So, how about it Major League Baseball? How about we forget about the fancy stadiums and fields and pulled-pork sandwiches and bring back $5 bleacher seats and $2 hot dogs?

Oh, that’s right. Because we have to pay some steroid-user sixteen million dollars a year to strike out in the playoffs. I forgot.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Maggie, my mom and sister love baseball, but I just find it too slow to hold my attention (is that criminal to say?). I'm more of a hockey fan, thanks to my hockey-loving husband who took me to a Blues game on our first date (and the Blues are in the play-offs--first game tonight! Hooray!). Okay, back to baseball, which sounds like ticket prices are way above the cost of hockey seats. It's going to be interesting to see how dedicated fans are during this recession when money's tight for many. I know one of first few Cardinals' games had the lowest attendance on record for the new stadium (granted, it was pretty chilly out but the number frightened people enough to make every news broadcast that evening). I figure these new stadiums cost a pretty penny and players are still getting insane salaries, so it's the consumer who's paying for all that (kind of like the Wall Street bank bailouts). Yep, gonna be interesting to see if prices start tumbling. With all the enormous flat panel TVs on sale, I have a feeling more folks will be watching from their sofas.

  2. Just do like we do in Cincinnati and wait a couple of months until your team is statistically eliminated from making the playoffs. Then you can find really cheap tickets!

    Oh, wait a minute. You're a Mets fan. Your team actually wins. Never mind.

  3. I wonder the same thing: how can a family or even just a devoted fan, do what fans do and come out and support the team and enjoy LIFE a little via the sport with these prices? Like you, Mags, I know professional sports are just money-printing machines for over-paid employees (not just the players—EVERYONE is over-paid in that arena!). But, still, I’m shocked. My story is that Mark got us tickets a couple of summers ago to see the Chicago White Sox play an afternoon game against the Cleveland Indians. It was GREAT. Truly one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. They had won the World Series the fall prior and all that team was still together. I’d never been to a major league ball park and we had decent $36 seats past third base (Mark’s hospital “concierge” had seats that employees could buy at discount—I think they were normally in the $50 dollar range?) and it turned warmer than expected and the game went 11 innings and the Sox won! Even the crazy and loud young “gentlemen” who sat behind us were suddenly oh-so-tolerable when the winning run was hit. It was tons of fun to see things like Jermaine Dye getting loosened up by a trainer on the field—the man is huge for a baseball player and it was a hoot to see the trainer rotating his leg all over the place, etc.

    I was still struck by this, though: We spent $72 on tickets, $18 to park (got a good spot, but that part was luck and my obsession about getting to the park super early working together)—so we’re not even in the gate and it’s 90 bucks. Then we each had about 2 hot dogs and 3 beers and we split a bag of peanuts—we wouldn’t have had that much, but it did go to 11 innings. Then we bought a souvenir to turn into a Christmas tree ornament (we do this nearly everywhere we go)—it was a cute repro autographed baseball to which I later attached an eye-hook and some pretty black and white ribbon. By the time we left, a simple ball game for two had cost $160. I enjoyed every penny’s worth, but . . . There was a family of 4 that sat near us who looked comfortably middle- to upper-middle-class and they left early because they didn’t have the time to stay for the extra innings. My guess is that they spent at least $300 to be there, probably more because of added snacks and souvenirs. You can bring a bottle of water and snacks in for yourself, but only in small, clear plastic bottles and bags because of security issues. Another nod to the brave new world of terrorism: is that pasty-chubby housewife really just carrying a store-bought bag of OKEDOKE popcorn or is it a weapon? (It’s actually both, if you see what I’m saying.) But, part of the whole experience is getting your snacks and beverages in the park, not brown-bagging it!

    How can families now do this thing that I remember lots of them used to be able to do on the fly, for fun, for just a few bucks, when I was a kid? It seems so unfair that now you have to have an in with one of the many corporate sponsors or other cluster seat buyers just to go at all. It’s as if in the booming 1990’s the nouveau and old-veau riche decided that it wasn’t enough to have the slate of luxuries they had, they had to take over and up-price all the common man pleasures to make them unaffordable luxuries, too. Most of the really good seats, if you do decide to take some money out of your 401K and buy tickets, are already bought up—if not by corporations then by ticket re-sellers who charge even more!

    This year the Chicago Bears announced they would not increase ticket prices. That’s a nice but really, REALLY, small gesture. Bears tickets are already crazy expensive (just to buy-in to the right to buy your season ticket pack it’s something like 5 grand!), as are Cubs tickets. I’m not a hockey fan, but I hear the Black Hawks charge plenty which is a big part of why the Wolves have come up in fan base. This whole thing is also why AAA baseball around here, via the Kane County Cougars and the Joliet Jackhammers is popular: you can drive less, skip paying to park, eat okay at the park, and see a game with other added entertainment (occasional sky-divers to the mound, etc.) for about a quarter of what it would cost to go to the majors. It is fun, but it’s not the same and I still feel sorry for the kids coming up now who may not be able to go to a Cubs or Sox game until they are out of college and working in the city as yuppies and can shell out for the over-priced seats.

    Lastly, it’s not just sports: try going to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They complain that the audience is a aging and dying away, but make it nearly impossible to bring children to see and hear classical music performed live. Same with theater: take you kid to a play? I’m sure you’d love to. But, not if the seat is going to cost $75, plus theater and (the much hated) TicketMaster surcharges.

    Damn shame. No wonder television and silly video games win out so much. Books and reading are really the last, best, affordable hope in all of this. But it’s still too bad a child will have to grow up reading the sports page or blog instead of being at the game.

  4. Whenever you make it to Savannah, we'll go to a Savh Sand Gnats game. Not quite as exciting as the Mets or Yanks, but it only takes 30 mins to get there, free parking, $5 seats, and cheap beer. Oh, and fireworks after the game...what more could you want? AND the Gnats are the Mets farm team, so you could pretend you're actually watching your own team...almost.