Cactus League Nixes
Value, Loses Relevance
Beyond The Recent Hubbub Over The Loss Of Small-Town Intimacy That Was The Hallmark Of Arizona’s Spring Training Experience Is The Simple Fact A Better Baseball Experience Is To Be Had At Other Venues With Other Teams
Mr. Pineapple, one of the craft beers sold at the ballpark.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
March 24, 2015 - On the whole, Cactus League ticket prices are on the rise. But, that’s not breaking news. While not all teams have raised prices drastically in recent years, many have decided to capitalize on the spring training’s increasing popularity by price gouging. That, along with third-party sites like StubHub, is driving the cost to attend a game upwards.
But, I’m not here to talk about that. Peter Corbett of The Arizona Republic already dug into that topic pretty extensively, highlighting disturbing facts like two seats for a split squad game between the Angels and Giants on March 20 went for $183 from the Giants website; or that two lawn seats for a Cubs game sold for $85.90.
Though, the news wasn’t all bad. The Diamondbacks, for instance, have barely raised prices since Salt River Fields opened in 2011 and only charge $9 to $28 per ticket.
Those hard stats do a lot to tell us what, on a whole, what’s happening to the cost of an average Cactus League game. Namely, that, in general, it’s going up. But, I want to know exactly what that means to me.
After all, if I don’t look after me and the millions of others who are just like me, who will?
Is this rising cost prohibitive for a schmo like me earning in the low five figures? Will it stop me from soaking in the rays and relaxing while millionaires (and some hundred thousandaires) run around like children?
To answer that question, I headed out to the ballpark on March 21 with my brother and two nieces to see just how cheaply I could enjoy a day at the park. That means getting into the game (legally) and purchasing some food and drink. After all, as my niece intimated, spring training can get kind of boring, and downright worthless without some ice cream (or beer, in my case).
So, first I had to buy myself a ticket. After much consideration, we settled on the Athletics vs. Reds game Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Initially, I had wanted to see an Angels game, because they’re my favorite team. My Dad, a Yankees fan, bought me an Angels helmet as a souvenir when I was two because the gift shop was out of Yankees garb and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sadly, the Angels use a fluctuating pricing system that means the prices for lawn tickets for Saturday game were an absurd $15 before fees and taxes. Mularkey, I say!
The Athletics charged a more reasonable $10 per lawn ticket. Though, that cost did rise to $17 after fees. These were not cheapest tickets around as the Diamondbacks and Rockies both charge $9 for lawn tickets ($11 with fees). However, the Rockies were playing a split squad game (which is bullshit — I don’t pay to see half the team) and the Diamondbacks game was sold out.
So, out to Mesa we went. Hohokam doesn’t have the most expansive grass seating area, but, then again, the Athletics don’t sell out, so there was still plenty of room to sit. One bonus of visiting Hohokam is the carry-in food rule which allows you to bring in factory-sealed food and drink.
That means our first round of refreshments (water, popcorn and peanuts) cost under $10 for four people.
But soon, my tummy was a grumbling for more and adult thirst required hoppy refreshment. I made my way to the completely uncrowded refreshment stand behind the centerfield wall to demand satisfaction.
And, satisfaction was found, kind of. I ordered a cheeseburger (grey meat and no fries for $7.25) and a Goose Island IPA. I know what you’re thinking. Trying to see a game on the cheap and you buy the craft beer? You’re a goddamn fraud.
You’re only kind of right. I am a fraud, but Goose Island isn’t craft beer. They sold out to Anheuser-Busch years ago. But, yeah, I am a beer snob and went for the ‘better option.’ Honestly, the guy paying $7.50 for Bud Light is getting more ripped off than the guy paying $9 for a decent IPA anyway.
The game was a decent one, not one of those low-scoring yawners that spring training can sometimes turn in. It was nice to see A’s second baseman Eric Sogard wallop a double to the wall because he went to my high school and played in front of my brother at shortstop on the varsity squad (I think that’s the worst humblebrag ever?).
Brett Lawrie also showed up for the roughly 40,000 Canadians in the stands by walloping a 3-run home run early on.
How do I know Canadians were present? Because it’s Arizona in the spring. The moment I stepped out of my car, I heard two things: a woman singing the National Anthem and a child saying “Mommy, what’s that?”
The mother’s response was classic. “It’s the America song. Kind of like ‘O Canada.’”
After some early heroics the rest of the game fell into more of a lull and I spent more time chasing a toddler down a grassy hill than actually watching the action.
Right on the cusp of the seventh inning, we decided to grab one more beer before alcohol sales ended, so we ran over to the “craft” beer booth and paid $6 for a can of San Tan’s Mr. Pineapple. Once again, the term “craft” was used loosely as Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, or what I like to call an abhorant abomination, was also available.
And, that was it folks. A nice day at the ballpark for just $42.25.
Wait, $42.25? For what? For a shitty burger, a couple halfway decent beers and discount Moneyball? Holy shit. Next time I’m just going to sneak some Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA into a high school baseball game in my reusable water bottle.
Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer living in Phoenix. Follow him @TheManofLetters.
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