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How to Be a Baseball Fan on a Budget

July 12, 2019

4 min read

At my wedding this summer, my dad and I will do our father-daughter dance to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” During my childhood on the south side of Chicago and in the south suburbs, my dad and I went to White Sox games. I remember Frank Thomas, fresh churros, and later, watching the Sox win the World Series on an ancient and fuzzy TV at my college newspaper in Wisconsin. In fact, that season, I’d often driven the two and a half hours south with college friends to buy decent tickets on the street attend games.

Even as thrifty undergrads, we could afford to be fans.

But when I moved to New York from the Midwest in 2007, I found it so expensive to be a baseball fan that I essentially gave up. On my meager pay, I couldn’t afford the cable channels that would allow me to watch White Sox games. I tried to become a Mets fan, and even (gulp) a Yankees fan, but the experience of going to games was simply too costly: A forty dollar ticket, a few ten-dollar beers, and a meal, plus the cost of the subway rides would quickly spill over $80, and that’s without buying a t-shirt, hat, or cocktail, which I love to do.

As Stash’s resident broke person, I decided to make it my mission to find out why being a baseball fan has become cost-prohibitive for me, and if I have any power to fix that…without getting a job on Wall Street.

The numbers

It’s true: The cost of attending a Major League baseball game has skyrocketed everywhere over the last thirteen years.

According to BeyondtheBoxscore, ticket prices rose approximately 20 percent faster than both the median income and cost of living from 2006 to 2016. A Statista study shows that the average, regular ticket price increased 50 percent (from $22.21 to $32.44), from 2006 to 2018. And for the first time in 15 years, 2018’s baseball attendance failed to surpass 70 million, while the MLB is making more money than ever, Forbes reports. This means that while attendance is down, presumably in part due to ticket prices, the MLB is making money hand over fist because they’ve jacked up ticket prices so drastically.

For me, the result of these increases looks like a non-premium seat at a Mets game for an average of $27.60, or a good seat for $91.43. The average cost of a beer at Citi Field? $11. You’re killin’ me, New York.

But it’s Cubs fans who shell out the most for tickets, with regular seats costing an average of $59.49 this year, and premium seats going for $241.99, according to TeamMarketingReport. (Although their beers are only $9.50.)

And on average, a regular ticket in 2019 is $32.99, and a premium is $119.03. The average beer cost is $5.97. This year’s national Fan Cost Index, which measures the cost for a family of four to get tickets, parking, four sodas, two beers, four hot dogs, and two souvenir caps, is $234.38. In 2006, the average MLB FCI was $162.86.

In short, going to a game has gotten a lot more expensive, even if you’re rooting for this season’s cheapest team to see: The Arizona Diamondbacks.

So – what’s a thrifty baseball fan to do?

Buying MLB tickets on a secondary market—such as SeatGeek or StubHub—won’t often save you money, according to data gathered by TicketIQblog, which measures ticket prices when they’re resold. You’ll get lucky sometimes, but overall, these markets are more about giving you access to games, not giving you access on the cheap.

However, there are a few ways to save money on tickets:

  1. Find deals on each teams’ official website. This suggestion came from Team Marketing Report, and sounded too easy to be true. But when I checked the Mets website, there was a Dunkin Donuts-sponsored deal on their homepage for $15 baseline box tickets that would normally cost $57 apiece. Of course, this game was on a Sunday, not on a more-desirable Saturday night.
  2. Groupon. There are things I’d never pay full price for: a spray tan, eyelash extensions, a facial. So why am I paying full price for baseball tickets? I clicked over to Groupon to see if they had any good deals going on. And while they didn’t have Mets tickets for sale, they did have Yankees tickets for $15 instead of $41.80, which Groupon proudly displayed as 64 percent off.
  3. The Ballpark App. This official MLB app allows you to upgrade seats at a discount once you’re in the ballpark. So if you’re willing to take a chance, you could snag cheap nosebleeds and see what kind of deal the team is offering after the first inning. However, many teams don’t allow for huge discounts here, so as not to upset high-paying season ticket holders.

So there are a few options for the broke baseball fan to get into the game. Unfortunately, concession prices are much less flexible—you’re pretty much stuck with whatever your team has set. And if your favorite part of baseball has more to do with IPAs than ERAs, you should probably just pack up and move to Denver, where the average beer is just $3.00.

In fact, I think I may have a new favorite team. Go Rockies!

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By Emily Winter
Emily Winter is a writer and comedian in New York. She's written for TV Land, Glamour and Fusion TV.

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