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Play Ball! Save Money Going To a Ballgame.

Baseball is back, baby. Pale Hose. Redbirds. Cubbies. O’s and Nats, too. With a full 162-game slate. After a year of hibernation, Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums are filling up (somewhat) with throngs of screaming fans all across the country.

If you’re eager to attend a game in-person, returning to the ballpark to support your MLB team will require some health and financial considerations.

Health restrictions
Going to a game should be relatively low risk, as long as you follow COVID-19 precautions. Some stadiums may require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. In some parts of the country, there may be limits on how many fans can attend. And there remain health and safety protocols to follow—mostly based on state and local government regulations. Check the rules with the ballpark in advance.

Cost-conscious planning
Your pre-game routine starts at home. Before the first pitch, you’ll want to prepare by calculating your tickets costs. Want to show your fandom? Estimate how much you want to lay out for a team jersey/cap/gear or summer ballpark outfit. And commit to having enough cash for parking, snacks and refreshments.

There are plenty of ways to save, if even a buck or two, if you do a little planning ahead. Here are some ways to lower costs.

TICKETS

In 2019, the average cost for two tickets to a baseball game—and a couple of drinks and dogs to complete the experience—was over $100. That expense drove down ticket sales, even before COVID hit.

The post-COVID ticketing experience has changed dramatically. When buying at the ballpark, lower prices and tailored packages for fans is the new norm. New practices make it more flexible to refund or exchange tickets (switch dates). According to ESPN, “Fans can also expect to see more perks such as exclusive pregame experiences (attending batting practice or holding the flag during the national anthem), better food and drink coupons and limited-edition collectibles.”

Savvy-ticket buyers know that buying from a secondary online marketplace (such as TickPick, StubHub, or MEGAseats.com) to get your tix beforehand can save money. However, fans’ complaints of resellers using computer software, or “bots,” to purchase massive amounts of game tickets and resell them to fans at a considerable mark-up—got the attention of regulators. Newer enforcement of federal laws now require these companies to stop their illegal ticket-buying practices and impose civil penalties—a big win for ticket-buyers.

Other ways to save on the cost of tickets:

Get a monthly pass. For die-hard fans on a budget, it’s an affordable way to catch multiple games.

Attend a midweek game—they’re a better bargain than weekends.

Sit in the nosebleed seats—you’ll be up high, but it’s an affordable way to see a game live.

Hit up friends who are season ticketholders—see if they’ll let you bum along or maybe sell you their tickets to a game they can’t attend.

PARKING

Stadium parking prices and the cost of gas drive-up your bottom dollar. There’s also the hassle of driving and parking. Use public transportation when you can to save. Depending on where you live, public transportation can be as little as $2 each way. And if you plan to have a couple of drinks at the stadium, you won’t need to worry about driving home.

TEAM GEAR & MERCHANDISE

Price-wise, stadium merchandise is immensely marked-up. Teams count on you to buy on impulse. A great savings tip is to check out places like Target, eBay, Old Navy, Ross—even your local thrift shop. You can usually find T-shirts, jerseys and caps at these places much cheaper.

Most MLB teams have club memberships you can join to enjoy savings on concessions, merchandise, and special offers all year long. Some of these loyalty programs are free or have a small annual fee.

If you’re tempted to buy at the stadium, the new trend is digital. According to ESPN, “Fans will… use their phone to scan themselves through a turnstile, order food and buy merchandise.” It’s one-stop shopping for all your favorite team’s gear.

EATS

Concession stands at the ballpark can mete out your desire for many iconic summer treats: frosty cold beers, roasted peanuts, a box of Cracker Jacks, cheese-smothered nachos, all beef hotdogs or maybe a bag of popcorn filled over-the-brim. Many parks wow fans with international cuisine options.

A lot of fans don’t know that most stadiums allow outside food or non-alcoholic beverages, with restrictions. So if you can manage without the iconic delicacies, bring your own snacks and beverages to keep your costs down. Click here to see the food policies of the MLB ballparks.

Look for ballpark promotions and plan to attend a fan appreciation day or special event. You may find deals for discounted food such as $1 hot dogs or Taco Tuesday. Special theme events (such as Star Wars night or Back-To-School night) sometimes include free or discounted food and exclusive merchandise. Or better yet, snag a special puffy shirt with some very special soup.

Another plan of attack is to consider tailgating, or just going out to eat before you get into the stadium. This infographic, produced by Sports-Management-Degrees.com, shows just how crazy the world of food and drink is at sporting events.

Resources: ESPN, Mondaq® Ltd, Stadium Journey, Southern California Public Radio, Moneyunder30.com