This post was written by Kurt Smith, author of Ballpark E-Guides, PDF-format guides that help fans get the most bang for their buck at the ballgame. He's been called “MLB's Worst Enemy” by “Connecticut Morning,” a TV program on which he is a frequent guest.
Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.
Baseball games don't have to be as expensive as they seem, or even as expensive as they used to be.
I live in South Jersey, which has some advantages if you're a baseball fan. I can go to see the Phillies, Orioles, Nationals, Yankees or Mets without an overnight stay. I can even reach the Pirates or Red Sox without paying for a hotel, if I'm willing to deprive myself of some sleep.
But there's a trade-off of course… that being that New Jersey is a pretty expensive place to live. So since I am not yet independently wealthy, I have to stretch my ballgame dollar as much as possible.
Fortunately, we have that wonderful World Wide Web, and one can find ways to save on everything baseball, from tickets to parking to food, without even getting dressed. I research the heck out of different homes of baseball to do just that, and it's well worth the trouble.
This April, I will be visiting spectacular Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore — a ballpark that only improves with age on its existing greatness — to see the Orioles, the team I loved as a kid.
You might have paid…
The total of tickets, gas, tolls, food, etc., might add up to about $100, and that's close to what I spent back in the days before the Internet.
Here's a breakdown of the costs. These are just estimates, but it gives a picture of what I would probably have to shell out for a trip to the Yard at today's prices:
Ticket: $20 (probably a bit more with the “convenience” fee)
Gas: $35 (about ¾ tank to get there and back)
Tolls: $24 ($4 for the Delaware Memorial Bridge, $8 for the Delaware Turnpike, $6 for the Harbor Tunnel, and $6 for the Tydings Bridge)
Food and drink: $11 (about $7 for peanuts, two dogs and two sodas outside; $4 for fries inside)
That estimate comes to exactly $100, and I used to pat myself on the back because I saved a couple of bucks buying peanuts outside.
Instead, you pay…
Now, here is my current plan and the cost estimate to see the Orioles this year. Hopefully, you'll find something in here you can use yourself.
Ticket: FREE. Did you know that the Orioles will give you a free ticket for your birthday? Yes, sir! You have to sign up for their newsletter, which is no big deal, and they'll e-mail you a voucher that you can exchange at the box office for a free upper-level ticket. It's not a bad seat either; at least in the past, you could pretty much sit anywhere in the upper level at the Yard. I'm pretty certain they'll be doing this in 2013, although I haven't seen it available yet. Several other teams also do this by the way. Check out the team's website.
Gas: $4. I might be overstating this a bit. I will only need to get to a PATCO train station and back, that's pretty much it. Maybe a gallon.
PATCO/SEPTA train: $8.60. From where I am, I will be taking a combination of PATCO and SEPTA trains to get to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where I can hop on a Megabus.
Megabus to White Marsh Mall and back: $11. Megabus is the best thing to happen to frugal travelers since couch surfing. A Megabus from Philly to Baltimore can cost anywhere from $1 (yes, $1) to about $20, but it's a super bargain any way you slice it. I'm putting $11 here because most of the rides I've searched for are $5-6, but if you're dedicated and early enough, you can reserve it for a buck. The ride is usually a pleasant one; I've never encountered any trouble.
MTA Maryland 35 bus to Camden Yards: $3.20. That's round trip from the park-and-ride at the White Marsh Mall. It's a slow trip, but at least you're not fuming at the traffic.
Food and drink: $11. About $6 for the peanuts, two dogs and two sodas outside, and a free soda inside for being a designated driver. Or instead of being the Responsible Sober Guy, $5 for two Natty Bohs and a tip at Sliders across the street before the game.
(Yes, by the way, like most teams, the Orioles will allow you to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the ballpark. But you knew that, I'm sure.)
That's a total of about $38. With just a little research, I knocked off nearly two-thirds of my bill for a trip from South Jersey to Camden Yards! And that's counting $5 for a couple of beers I might not have, and $11 for a Megabus round trip that I could get for $2.50 if I'm determined enough. The bill could easily be as low as $24 — a quarter of what I would spend otherwise.
Amazing, isn't it? Sometimes I think we could have funded our kids' educations with what we wasted going to a ballgame. I've learned it doesn't have to be that way.
Yes, there's a bit of work involved, like riding a few trains and buses, but I also won't have to deal with Baltimore traffic going in and out (where downtown red lights can last about a week) or finding a parking spot, which isn't always the easiest thing either. And I-95 is a boring ride, so I can let someone else drive it for me.
If you want to see a ballgame on the extremely cheap almost anywhere, you can do it. And you should. We all need more live baseball.