Baseball prices in stratosphere

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

It just got a little harder for middle income families to attend Texas Rangers baseball games.

Well, maybe not this year.

Club owner Thomas Hicks assured everyone that there would be no ticket price hikes to cover the $250 million contract he gave Alex Rodriguez this week.

Just wait. Prices will go up. Sometime. They always do.

Someone has to pay for that fat contract. That someone is the fan.

Hicks may be worth billions, but like any owner, he can always justify a ticket-price increase.

If you’ve been keeping track, several major league teams have already boosted their ticket prices, including the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox.

“The Red Sox have the most expensive ticket in baseball,” said Mark Sperandio, owner of the Everett AquaSox and a diehard Boston fan.

Even after he took over the AquaSox franchise two years ago, Sperandio continued to purchase season tickets for Red Sox games, but when the price for his seats went from $28 to $40 for 2001, he decided to get out. When the owner of a thriving minor league baseball team thinks things are getting too pricey, you can imagine how a family of four making $40,000 a year must feel.

“Hey, Dad, can we go see the Red Sox this summer?” Junior asks his father.

“Pick a game,” pop says.

“That’s it? One game?”

“That’s all we can afford, son.”

That little scene will be played out in homes across America this summer. It’s simply getting too darn costly for a night out at the old ballpark.

The lowest priced Mariner ticket – not counting the left field or center field bleacher seats – is $14. So a family of four has already dropped $56 before it ever hits the concession stand and that doesn’t include parking. If they can get out of Safeco Field for less than $125, Mom and Dad must have made sure everyone had a hearty meal before they got to the ballpark.

That’s bargain-basement baseball.

The truth of the matter is it’s probably going to cost closer to $200 to watch an M’s game. Last summer Sports Illustrated did a story on what it would run a family of four to attend a professional sports game in various cities around the country. This was based on parking, four midrange tickets, four sodas, four hot dogs, two beers, two programs and two souvenir caps. For a Mariners game, the tab was $179.73. For a Sonics game, it was $318.89. For a Seahawks game, it was $209.23.

Based on these prices, if you were to attend one game in each sport during the year, it would cost you $706. I recently booked six nights in a condominium on South Padre Island off the coast of Texas for $660. What’s it going to be, family: ballpark franks or frollicking in the Gulf of Mexico? I daresay, that’s what it comes down to for many families. Ballgames or vacations.

It used to be you could attend a baseball game without taking out a second mortgage. Now it’s a special occasion, maybe a one- or two-night-a-year event.

Do you think Rodriguez gave any consideration to the hard-pressed fans when he signed his new contract? Me-Rod? Think about anyone but himself?

What’s a ballgame without trying to get an autograph?

“Hey, A-Rod, could I get you to sign my baseball?”

“Buy my book, kid, then we’ll talk.”

I remember him as an innocent rookie at spring training. Leaving the ballpark in a flashy convertible, he’d stop at the gate to the parking lot and sign and sign and sign.

What changed?

The economics.

Do any of these bat-swinging, ball-flinging millionaires give a flying flip about the fans? Or do they just take it for granted that the Average Joe will always show up and plunk down a week’s worth of grocery money to watch a game we all once played for nothing and had fun doing it?

Yes, there are guys who care. One used to play for the Mariners. Maybe you remember him. Guy by the name of Ken Griffey Jr.

Opening night at Safeco Field two years ago, Griffey purchased 100 tickets for the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Clubs.

He didn’t forget these kids when he went to play for Cincinnati last summer. In August, Junior packed 25 youngsters and 10 chaperones on a plane and had them flown to Cincinnati for a weekend. They attended two games, went to an amusement park, spent two nights in a hotel and Junior picked up the entire bill, including meals.

When he still played for the Mariners, he flew a group of Rainier Vista kids to DisneyWorld in Florida, then brought them out to his house and entertained them with a pizza and swimming pool party. Another year he treated the kids from Seattle with a visit to Universal Studios in Florida. That’s not to mention the Boys and Girls Cubs in the Cincinnati area that he entertains at the ballpark.

The last thing players should do is forget the fans, but they do. Griffey’s the exception.

They may only remember them when they stop coming to the ballpark.

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