Tuesday, April 1, 2008


So the new baseball season is underway … for most, that is. The New York Yankees will be hoping for better luck with the weather tonight when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener.

Monday’s rainout was a big disappointment for the fans, but every cloud has a silver lining.

It at least provided Clyde Haberman of The New York Times with the column inches to write an excellent article about the final season at Yankee Stadium and the state of baseball today.

Baseball may be a game of nostalgia, marked by deeds of derring-do, but let’s not kid ourselves; the average fan is being priced out of the market.

As Haberman reports, the best box seats at Yankee Stadium sell for $250 compared to $150 last season. The top seats at the new stadium will cost $2,500 apiece.

“The writing for the ordinary fans is on the wall,” he writes. “Both new ballparks [the Mets are moving too] will have fewer seats than the old ones, conspicuously Citi Field, which will have a capacity of about 45,000 compared with Shea’s 57,000.”

The message from the owners is clear. Baseball is no longer a sport of the people – the blue-collar workers – but an entertainment outlet for the city slickers willing to spend top dollar for their seats.

The Prawn Sandwich Brigade

It’s already happened in English soccer. Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane famously described the new fans at Old Trafford as “the prawn sandwich brigade.”

They don’t want to stand on the terraces. They want to be petted and pampered in their private boxes.

Perhaps it’s time to replace hot dogs with porterhouse steaks and the beer with Perrier water at ballparks.

It’s all about supply and demand … and the demand for baseball tickets has never been higher. It’s virtually impossible to buy them through the club, even if you’re prepared to sit in the bleachers.

That’s why sites like Ticketmaster and StubHub! are doing a roaring trade. You’ll have no problem finding seats there, just as long as you’re willing to pay the same price as you would for a one-week vacation in the Bahamas.

Haberman signs off by telling us that Fay Vincent, a former commissioner of baseball, has written a book containing anecdotes about the game in the 1950s and ’60s. Its title: “We Would Have Played For Nothing.”

No one does anything for nothing these days … as demonstrated by the recent refusal by the Red Sox to travel to Japan before their coaching staff were guaranteed sufficient remuneration.

That’s why, for the average fan like me, a trip to the ballpark is now a bit like Christmas. It only happens once a year.

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