We all have our own indicators that summer is just around the corner. Maybe it's when the grass starts to turn green or flowers start to bloom. But I know summer is on the way when the pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Soon I'll be enjoying a hot dog and beer under the warm summer sun and planning my next sporting goods purchase. Heading out to the ballpark can be fun for the whole family, but when you add in parking, snacks, drinks and souvenirs, it may be more than your wallet bargained for.
One option is to search for deals on tickets through such websites as StubHub or ScoreBig. StubHub allows ticketholders to sell their tickets at whatever price they wish. The best time to find a deal is in the days leading up to the game as ticketholders become more desperate to unload their tickets. ScoreBig lets you name your price for tickets. Not all bids are accepted, but the website guarantees all tickets sell below retail value and no fees are added. It's kind of a Priceline for tickets.
Discount websites are not the only way to find a ballpark bargain. With 162 games in the Major League Baseball season, teams often have more seats than they can fill. Many teams offer special packages or discounted tickets hoping to bring fans out to support the team in greater numbers. The following deals are some of the best I found around the League. Check back with us later in the season for new offers.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1. Philadelphia Phillies
After surprisingly landing the off season’s biggest free-agent, Cliff Lee, the Phillies have one of the most dangerous pitching rotations in recent memory.
Despite being one of the hottest teams in baseball, the Phillies are offering their Porch Package again this season. For $40 you get a ticket in the Scoreboard Porch section and a $10 credit for food, drinks or merchandise at Citizen’s Bank Park.
2. Washington Nationals
The Nationals are looking to improve on their last place finish in 2010 and it looks like they have assembled the young talent to get the job done.
Families who want out to check out this regenerated team at Nationals Park might consider the Family Fun Pack. Every Saturday and Sunday, tickets are available from $14 to $28 and each ticket includes a voucher for a hot dog, bag of chips and drink. As a bonus, kids 12 and under can run the bases for free after the game.
3. Florida Marlins
In their short history, the Marlins have already won the World Series twice and always manage to put a competitive team on the field.
The 2011 season marks the last season the Marlins will play in Sun Life Stadium before opening a new ballpark in 2012. If you want to make it out to one last game in the old Stadium, grab a buddy and a newspaper. Every home game played on a Tuesday is Miami Herald Two-for-Tuesday. All tickets are two for the price of one with a coupon from the Miami Herald.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
4. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds were the surprise team of 2010, winning the competitive National League Central with the help of NL MVP Joey Votto. Many experts are picking them to do the same this year.
If you don’t care much about what’s happening on the field, but enjoy the ballpark experience, the Reds have your peanuts and Cracker Jacks covered. All-You-Can-Eat Seats start at $32 and include unlimited hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and sodas until the end of the seventh inning. Add to the experience by going to Great American Ballpark on Fridays and catch a free fireworks show after the game.
5. Houston Astros
The Astros are rebuilding so the results on the field may not be up to expectations. Perhaps that's why the team is offering some great deals.
Every game at Minute Maid Park on Monday through Thursday is a Price Matters Day. Fans can get a ticket, hot dog, chips and a drink for just $10.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
For Cardinals fans, it may be tough to head to Busch Stadium and leave the Albert Pujols contract drama at the door. If you want to see one of the best players in baseball and get a good deal, check out the Dynamic Deal of the Week, when the Cardinals offer a special discounted ticket package.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
7. Colorado Rockies
After a disappointing 2010 season, the Rockies invested in young stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to lead them into the future. Combined with ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies should be dangerous in the National League.
In one of the best deals in baseball, the Rockies offer tickets to the Rockpile section of Coors Field at only $4 for most games. That’s less than half the price of a movie ticket in the Denver area.
The Coca-Cola Value Pack is the best way to give the whole family a Major League experience. For 11 games this season, $59 gets you four tickets, four food and drink vouchers, one program and a parking pass.
8. San Diego Padres
Finishing just two games behind the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, the Padres enter this season hoping they can recreate their winning ways.
Whether you're a serious fan or just looking for an excuse to spend time in the San Diego sun, the Padres Flex-10 Pack will get the job done. The Flex-10 Pack allows you to spread 10 tickets across any combination of games throughout the season. Buying tickets this way can save around 20 percent over buying individual game tickets.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
9. Baltimore Orioles
Life has been tough for Orioles fans lately, but new manager Buck Showalter offers promise for the future.
Happily, Ollie’s Bargain Night is back this season, with upper-level reserved tickets starting at $9. With three games against the Red Sox on the Bargain Night schedule, tickets may go fast, so check early to get the best deals.
10. Tampa Bay Rays
It can be tough to fill a stadium in Florida with all of the sun, sand and surf. If you haven’t been lured to Tropicana Field by the additions of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, maybe music will do the trick.
The 2011 Rays Summer Concert Series includes a free concert after the game for ticketholders. With prices starting at $12, this may be the cheapest way to see your favorite act this summer. Country star Darius Rucker is slated to play May 14 with more concerts to be announced soon.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
11. Minnesota Twins
The Twins just finished their inaugural season in Target Field and locked up all-star catcher Joe Mauer with an eight-year contract extension. Things are looking good for the perennial American League Central contenders.
To get a good look at this Minnesota team, you don’t even have to pay the price of admission. Target Field was built with several “knotholes” along Fifth Street that allow you to see the action inside the stadium at no charge.
12. Kansas City Royals
The Royals don’t get much attention these days, but the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium is one of the nicest in baseball.
This season you can take in a free fireworks show after every home game played on a Friday; Talk about starting the weekend off with a bang. Check their calendar because the Royals offer promotions like all-you-can-eat night and local-music concerts throughout the season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
13. Los Angeles Angels
Finding affordable entertainment in Los Angeles can be a challenge. If you're willing to head out of the city and go to Anaheim, the Angels have a great offer to take the family to see these perennial playoff contenders.
The Angels' Friends & Family Fun Pack provides dinner and a show with four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks for just $44. If the kids are still bouncing off the walls from too much cotton candy, send them down to run the bases for free after most Sunday home games.
14. Oakland Athletics
The A’s became the forgotten team in the Bay Area after the Giants won the World Series in 2011.
This season, the Athletics are offering several promotions to take back those fans. On BART $2 Wednesdays, you can get a plaza-level ticket for just $2. If you're one of the first 10,000 fans to arrive at The Coliseum on Thursdays, you'll receive a coupon for a free hot dog during the game.
Photo by CT State Library
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