Baseball’s a shockingly expensive sport to follow.
There are 162 games worth of tickets to consider, the food at most ballparks is absurdly pricey, and you’re not always guaranteed good weather for a game that literally gets longer every year.
All of this goes double if your favorite team is popular and successful.
Tickets are pricier, you’re more likely to pay out the nose for playoff seats, and the food now costs more than at your typical fancy restaurant.
In addition, good luck finding consistently decent weather in half the ballparks until well into the season.
However, there is an alternative, and it’s going on right now — Spring Training!
Major League Experience On a Minor Budget
For six wonderful weeks, all the Major League Baseball teams gather in either Florida or Arizona to get ready for the season.
Each team plays roughly 30 practice games, all of which you can watch.
And if you’re looking for a great Major League experience without a major league whack to your wallet, Spring Training is perfect.
For one thing, the tickets are cheap as can be, especially when compared to the regular season.
Prices vary between teams (it’ll cost a bit more to see the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox than a last place bottom-feeder like the Houston Astros,) but even a seat behind home plate for the Sox or Yankees will run you $50, at most.
Compare that to the hundreds of dollars that a seat like that would run you during regular play, and it’s easy to see which one’s the better deal.
If you don’t want to spend even that much, cheap seats (well, cheaper seats) might set you back $10-15 a pop.
That’s nothing, and it becomes even more of a bargain once you realize how small these Spring Training parks are.
Major League parks seats anywhere from 34,000 to 56,000 people, while the typical Spring Training facility seats maybe 10-11,000. Suddenly, those nosebleed seats aren’t quite so hazardous to your nose.
Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack
Then there are food and beverages.
At a Major League park, eating can run you just as much, if not more, than the actual ticket.
Even a basic meal of a hot dog, chips, and soda can run you ten bucks, easily. If you purchase alcohol, you might as well declare bankruptcy.
A Spring Training meal will almost certainly run you far less, though exactly how much once again depends on who’s playing.
Better yet, the menu at most ballparks is more varied and more interesting than during the regular season.
Back in 2009, a guy traveled to all 26 parks and ate a different delicious meal at each one.
He paid a combined total of $200, a tab that likely would have been far lower if he had stuck to traditional fare like hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack.
The obvious conclusion here is: whether you want a dog and soda, or something exotic and novel, you can afford it at Spring Training.
And then you have the intangibles that have nothing to do with preserving your bank account.
Spring Training is relaxed, open, and family-friendly, with far fewer obnoxious drunks than during the regular season.
The weather is almost guaranteed to be warm and pleasant, and players taking time out to say hi, shake hands, and sign autographs is a regular occurrence.
In many ways, it’s more like a picnic than a professional sporting event.
Combine that with the money you’ll save on tickets and food, and clearly Spring Training is the way to go.
That silly old regular season looks better on TV anyhow.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.