Tagged: All Parks

Book Review: The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip





/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

For all of the information contained in “The
Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide To Major League Stadiums
authors Josh Pahigian and Kevin O’Connell fail to answer the one question I had
while reading this book.

And that, of course, is how they persuaded a publisher to
pay for this venture. THAT is something I want to know.

But that said, this book isn’t short on information about
any ballpark destination you may have, at least any ballpark that opened before 2004. Josh and Kevin traveled across the country and visited all 30 major
league ballparks in 2003. At least I’m guessing it was mostly 2003, the book does
include chapters for Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Petco Park in San
Diego, both of which opened in 2004. If there’s one regret they may have, it’s
that they didn’t go on this trip in 2012, when the only stadium left to replace
will be Oakland’s.

There is a chapter dedicated to each ballpark; in each
chapter the reader learns some of the history of the team, where and how to get
a good seat, how to get to the ballpark, some places to eat or drink at before
and after the game, some features of the ballpark, and some comments on the
overall experience. Overall each of these is covered pretty well; if there’s an
obstructed view seat, they’ll probably let you know about it. They’ve even
ranked each stadium’s hot dogs, with San Diego’s as the worst, while Oakland of
all places produced the best. A matter of opinion of course, but still fun.

All of this, I can tell you from experience, would be
painstaking work if it were actual work. They obviously enjoyed doing it as
much as I do.

And for the most part Josh and Kevin have done a terrific job.
This book would be very handy if you were going on a trip to four or five or
more ballparks as a vacation. It’s also an enjoyable read for any baseball fan on its own.

It is all written in an easily readable style, as if they
were talking to you and giving you the scoop in a non-condescending way,
occasionally interrupted with eye-rolling jokes shared between the two.

If I had a complaint about the book if would be that there’s
just a tad of braggadocio in it; for example, the introduction asserts that “You
hold in your hand the best guide on the market for the kind of road trip you’re
envisioning”. True, probably, although you could substitute the word “only” for “best”. Which isn’t their fault, of course. Still, this is a minor complaint. I received this book as a Christmas gift, and haven’t spent a minute
wishing I’d asked for something else.

If the publisher were willing to pay for an updated version
in order to include Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium, Nationals Park, Target
Field, the new ballpark for the Marlins that opens next year and the renovated
Kauffman Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field, I wouldn’t say they hadn’t earned the
right. This stuff changes constantly, as I well know.

So while adding the shameless plug for comparison; The Ultimate
Baseball Road Trip is very good for that, a road trip. The book doesn’t go into
the detail that a Ballpark E-Guide
does, and the reader probably won’t learn much new about his own home ballpark, but then they don’t have the luxury of updating things for the reader like I
do. But even with eight of the chapters in this book becoming dated, it’s still
a worthwhile purchase.

Take it from someone who is insanely jealous of the authors.

The Ultimate Fan Shares How To Scalp Tickets

I’m not big on ticket scalping. If I’ve done it for five events in my life it would be a lot. Of all my ballgame experiences I believe I’ve paid scalpers to get in twice. (Although I did score a great seat to an Orioles-Yankees game at Camden Yards for nothing once. Sometimes patience and persistence can make a world of difference.)

The first time was my first trip to Fenway Park in 1995. This was the year after the strike killed the World Series; fans were angry and tickets were easier to come by. Even with this, I paid something in the arena of $25 apiece–remember this is 1995 dollars–for bleacher seats at Fenway. My buddy and I ended up with very low seats close to the field. Except they were a little too low, and I was bobbing my head up and down trying to see through a railing all night.

The other time was in Atlanta. It was in 1999, my first time at Turner Field. I took the shuttle bus to the park and found someone willing to sell me a single seat. I don’t remember how much I paid, but it was a ripoff no matter what it was. The nice fellow said to me as I was walking away with the ticket on a cloudy evening, “The best part is, if it rains, you won’t get wet!” Apparently he’d never been in Turner Field before. The seat was in the upper deck all the way down the left field line, a seat that I believe you could get for a dollar today. Fortunately the place was empty on a rainy Monday night, and I was able to improve my lie early on.

I’m not a haggler. Never have been. It’s a product of growing up in a capitalist society. American consumers don’t have to endure that BS. Sell us the product at the right price or we’ll go elsewhere, period. Keep things simple so we can spend time planning our next trip to the ballpark.

But Andrew Van Cleve, author of the “Ultimate Fan: Have Game, Will Travel” blog, has opened my eyes to what an advantage this gives to fans who are willing to haggle.

Van Cleve gives tips on how to scalp tickets for low demand games, high demand games, playoff games and everything in between. He tells you exactly what to look out for, like networks saying a game is sold out. He describes the differences between StubHub and Tickets Now and other outlets. He goes into detail about what he calls the “Soar and Sink” cycle, where tickets skyrocket in price…and then fall as most folks are scared away. He has a few humorous stories of scores he’s made getting tickets.

The most important advice Van Cleve gives (although it’s all very good) is about how to deal with scalpers in general at the event. He debunks six separate myths about scalpers, including that you will get ripped off or that you need to be a good negotiator. Van Cleve claims that 99.5% of ticket scalpers are legit, and that you need only to know the market to negotiate. He tells you not to worry about the seller looking p***ed at you; that this is all part of the act.

Andrew Van Cleve lives in Chicago; according to my buddy Gary Herman he is within walking distance from Wrigley Field. I can’t think of a better location for someone to learn everything there is to know about how ticket scalpers operate. But he’s been around a bit too, as the title of the blog suggests.

I’m still not a scalper, but if I find myself in a position of necessity sometime, having this knowledge is going to be a big help. Who knows, I may need to learn that haggling skill to get into places soon, to best get the photos found in Ballpark E-Guides!

Tips For Using StubHub

In my E-Guides I often mention StubHub as a source for buying tickets to ballgames. Depending on the market, you can often get tickets cheaper than face value this way. As with buying directly from the team’s website, you will have to pay a fee for the service (15% of the ticket last I checked, which adds up on the more expensive seats). However, StubHub has a couple other advantages: you can choose the section you’d like, and you can see what the market is really demanding for a ticket.


Take the September 20 game between the Yankees and Rays at Yankee Stadium. For the best available seats in that game, the Yankees are asking (on their own site) $600 apiece for Legends Suite seats in Section 14A, Row 4, Seats 5 and 6 down the first base line. There is a $17.25 “convenience charge” for each ticket. (I’ve always wondered if I could make it “inconvenient” somehow and not pay that ridiculous charge.)


As I write this on September 13, StubHub has two tickets in that same section for $700 apiece. I am going to watch that and see if it comes down. There are also seats available in Section 14B, Row 9, farther from the field but still closer to home plate, for $575 apiece, which is less than what the Yankees were asking for Section 14A seats. (You can also get Champions Suite seats, almost at the same point at the third base line, for $325 apiece. But I digress.) An eBay seller is selling seats in this general zone for $588 apiece.


I realize this is a staggering amount of money for a ballgame ticket, but I am just using it as an example since I believe this will also cause the greatest variation. Listed below are the lowest StubHub prices of seats in Section 14A (or nearby and cheaper in the Legends Suite sections) by date:


Wednesday, September 15 – Seats in Section 14A, Row 8 for $700 apiece; Section 14B, Row 9 still available for $575.


Thursday, September 16 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700. $575 seats gone.


Friday, September 17 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700.


Saturday, September 18 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. In Section 14B in Row 3 (better seats than 14A), seats are now available for $677, and seats in Row 7 in the same section are now $700.


Sunday, September 19 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Two sets of seats available in Section 14B, $677 seats are now $648, others are $700.


Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 7:20 AM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Same seats for the same price in Section 14B.


Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 1:47 PM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. There are now three pairs of seats in Section 14B going for $500-$559 apiece, some in Row 3 even, finally less than the original sticker price (but don’t forget the StubHub markup, which makes $500 seats total $575). You can also now get Legends Suite seats directly behind home plate for $750. I never thought I’d be calling a $750 baseball ticket a bargain, but everything is relative when it comes to the Yankees.


The price of a ticket will likely go down as the event gets closer, and most of the time the availability of tickets will go up as well. You can score some real bargains on seats if you wait till the last minute; the drawback is that great deals don’t last long, and the seats that you’ve been eyeing may get snapped up within seconds of their finally becoming available at a price that you like. You have to balance how picky you are going to be about where you sit with how little you want to pay.


So my advice is to know how much you want to spend on seats and have a couple of general areas where you’d like to sit for whatever reasons. Keep the market in mind and be realistic. You are not going to get box seats for a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway for $5. Look at what tickets are going for on StubHub, get a feel for how much you’ll need to spend, decide on a dollar figure, and the second you see seats you want at that price, grab them. StubHub is no place for tentative people; I know this from experience.


I know my buddy Jake Cain at Ballpark Savvy recommends waiting until the last minute before buying tickets on eBay or StubHub. I don’t necessarily argue with that rationale, but there will likely be good deals available within a week of the event that you could let slip away waiting for something better that might not appear.


Another concern is that something could turn up and cause tickets to be in demand. This happened to me once. On a trip out west last summer, I was daily scoping eBay for Padres tickets for the day I was going to be in San Diego. As I was waiting for the prices to go down, it was announced that this Padres game against Los Angeles would be the first game of Manny Ramirez’s return from being suspended for steroids. Bam! The availability of tickets went down and the price went way up. I had no idea Californians loved fake muscles so much. I ended up not going to the game and learning a valuable lesson.


Hence my strategy of setting a price you want and grabbing it when you see it, and also checking very frequently, because good deals are snapped up quickly. But if you aren’t picky about where you sit, I would say 2-3 days before the event is a good time to start scanning those sites.


StubHub is a good tool for finding the right seats and occasional bargains, you just need to be smart about how you use it. I will try this experiment again with lesser demand tickets for the Pirates and let you know how it turns out.


What To Do In The Rain

If you go to enough baseball games, sooner or later you’re going to get caught up in a rain delay. And it’s not fun, except for the entertainment value of watching the grounds crew wrestle with an incorrigible tarpaulin infield cover on windy nights. If you have an umbrella with you, it’s not a bad idea to stay in your seat as it passes, sparing your pants and behind from the unpleasant dampness of a rained-on seat after it’s over. But if you aren’t so equipped, you need a plan.


Depending on where you are in the park, there may be spacious enough concourse areas nearby where you can stand comfortably and wait for the weather to clear. But if you are at a game that is sold out or nearly so, you aren’t likely to find many of these with everyone running for cover. And people are going to be buying hot dogs and drinks, so expect a long wait in line if you choose that route (although at least you won’t be missing any action doing so).


The smartest move you can make during a rain delay is to head for the restroom. Yes, I’m serious. If you think there may be a rain delay sometime in the evening, locate where the nearest restrooms are and be ready to make a beeline for them the second the grounds crew goes for the tarp.


There are several reasons why a restroom is the best spot to wait out a downpour. The first and most obvious is to take care of nature’s call. That’s a given of course, but the sound of rain tends to exacerbate such needs, and most patrons are going to be running towards the nearest dry spot before they think of this. The second is that no one is likely to want to spend a rain delay in a bathroom, so it isn’t likely to be too crowded and you won’t have to unwittingly bask in a stranger’s body heat like you would in the concourse areas. And the third and most important reason is the one that no one else thinks of until it’s too late: you are going to need paper towels to dry off your seat when the rain delay is over.


I am fully aware that loitering in a public restroom is low on the list of how American citizens desire to spend their leisure time. But this blog isn’t about acting like royalty–it’s about getting an extra edge when you visit a ballpark. A subway isn’t often the most pleasant way to travel either, but it’s usually better than dealing with congestion and finding a place to park in a city.


All I’m saying is that you can avoid crowds, take care of business that everyone must answer to regardless of their socio-economic position, and prepare for returning to your seat before the bathrooms run out of towels (which they will on a rainy night, believe me). If you have your cell phone handy, give someone you haven’t talked to in a while a call to pass the time. They’ll surely appreciate that you thought of them while you were in the restroom.


Just a couple of cautionary words about using the restroom to wait out Mother Nature. One is that the restroom is NOT for people-watching, no matter how bored you may get, especially if you’re the type to get googly-eyed at anything remotely unusual. For Pete’s sake, leave your camera in your bag. And two, if there aren’t any towels to use, don’t go for the toilet paper. Consider your fellow man and deal with a wet seat.