Want to see an MLB game? Bring a Benjamin

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It’s all about the Benjamins. Or at least one Benjamin.

A Benjamin, or a $100 bill, will come in handy if you’re headed to a Major League baseball game in the near future. The cost of attending pro and college sporting events is well-documented, and in the face of a severe recession, these costs are going to price some families out of the business.

Football, with its limited schedule, can get by on even higher ticket prices, and its appeal is so huge in the U.S. now, colleges and the NFL really can call the shots on how much to charge. The NBA goes in waves, and the bottom is about to drop put on ticket sales there, but baseball is a completely different animal.

Major League Baseball teams have about 81 regular-season home games, so the ticket prices are determined differently. But for those of you who haven’t made the trek to an MLB city in recent years, the relatively low ticket prices are somewhat misleading.

Everyone knows the costs of parking, food and other ballpark items are sky-high, but the prices seem to have really jumped dramatically in recent years. The stadium lures you in with a somewhat low ticket price, unless you’re buying a front-row seat the day of the game, but hits you with tons of high prices for everything inside the park.

In Cincinnati, the Great American Ballpark has a good parking arrangement and pricing. For $2.50, a fan can park in one of the outlying lots. There’s some hiking to do, but it’s along the much-improvement waterfront of the Ohio River, which has a new park and several commemorative elements to African-American history.

Even before you get inside, the team store and Reds museum try to grab your money. Granted, there are a few unique items (where else can you buy a Cincinnati Reds dodgeball in person?), but it would be easy to drop a few Benjamins on useless trinkets there.

Statues of former Reds greats Frank Robinson and Ernie Lombardi are out front, and the team’s devotion to the 135 years of its history is admirable. But the Reds, and, I suspect, most other pro teams are true capitalists, ready to snatch the dollar of every fan’s hunger, be it for hot dogs or nostalgia.

The menu boards display several items that are only available for weekend games, so don’t be surprised if a stadium doesn’t have an advertised special treat. And be ready with cash: much of this nation is still very inconsistent on whether debit cards or cash is accepted.

One group that only takes cash are the mobile beer vendors — and they take a lot of it. Beer in Cincinnati was available at $8 per plastic 12-ounce bottle, or roughly the same price as a 12-pack.

If you put a premium price on something, does it raise its elusiveness or elite nature? This must be the thinking, along with having a captive audience. A hungry or thirsty fan, conditioned for years and years into liking certain ballpark treats, is going to make the sacrifice, but may not return to the ballpark again soon.

Complaining about the cost of anything, be it as discretionary as baseball or as essential as health care, is always easy to do, as inflation seems never ending. But it seems that in a recession, baseball owners could be looking more long-term, winning over the next generation of baseball fans by bringing them to games more often.

Maybe the demographic of MLB fans is changing. You’d hardly know we were in a recession by the way people spent away at the Reds’ June 5 game against Pittsburgh; the cash and debit cards were freely in motion, making it seem like only the affluent populous can afford trips to games.

With the cost of playing youth baseball becoming prohibitive as well, let’s hope MLB teams don’t price their most loyal fans down the ramps and toward the exits.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.