How often how often do you think baseball fans get their money’s worth?
Admittedly, I am a little older than many of my readers. Some of the younger ones may be surprised to hear me say that I remember the day when $25 would take a family of four to the ballpark for a game, as well as feeding them a hot dog and soft drink. Each of them!
Today, that amount of money may not cover your parking.
So the question that I have is this: how does a fan determine when his tab for a trip to the yard is worth it, no matter how much he paid? The determining factors will vary from fan to fan, but here are some considerations. Did the home team win? Was the game exciting? Did something historic take place? Did I have fun?
When I was a kid, going to a game in cavernous Municipal Stadium in Cleveland was well worth the money spent. Perhaps the fact that my dad was footing the bill had something to do with my feelings, but I was enamored with the game back then. I still am.
I can give you two examples of a fan feeling they got their money’s worth. A friend of mine is a lifetime St. Louis Cardinals fan and he got online a few years ago trying to get World Series tickets for both he and his wife.
After spending hours on his computer he was finally rewarded. He scored two tickets for Game 7 in St. Louis. Now all he had to do was hope the Series went seven games. With the Cardinals facing elimination in game 6, they went extra innings and pulled out a thrilling win. A few hours later, my buddy was heading for the Gateway Arch.
He sat in the stands and watched the Cards win a World Series, and he had a memory of a lifetime. Ask him about the experience and you will see what I mean.
My daughter got a chance to go to games 6 and 7 for the Indians-Cubs World Series in 2016. When Rajai Davis connected off Aroldis Chapman for a game tying home run she sent us a text. It said simply Holy S%*#! Though the Tribe went on to lose the game and Series, she will tell you that the experience was worth every penny.
That brings us to Wednesday night. Both of the National League’s division series were down to game five. It was elimination time for the loser and on to the NL Championship series for the winner.
Imagine you are an Atlanta Braves fan with a ticket to this pivotal game. All day long you are dealing with nervous energy. What will you likely see? Would the Braves win, at home, against those aforementioned St. Louis Cardinals? Would you see something historic take place?
You arrive at the SunTrust Park, the Braves’ new digs. After likely spending more than a C note with game ticket, parking, souvenir, the mandatory $8 hot dog and $10 beer, you settle into your seat. Your hopes are high…
Then the game begins. Before you can finish your dog and beer your beloved Braves are behind by a touchdown and a field goal! Seriously the Cardinals scored ten runs in the top of the first and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over. Many of those Braves fans were seen heading for the exits before the game got into the second inning!
I’m guessing that those fans didn’t feel like they got their money’s worth. They did however, witness history. The 10 runs scored by St. Louis in the top of the first were the most runs scored by a team in the first inning in post season history. Somehow I doubt if that fact will be very placating for those fans!
Later in the evening the Washington Nationals traveled to L.A. to take on the Dodgers in another elimination game. Now, I need you to put yourself in the place of a Dodger fan.
The Dodgers jump out in front with two in the first and one in the second inning. The Nats got one run back before Clayton Kershaw came on in relief in the seventh inning and got the third out by striking out Adam Eaton on three pitches. Dodger fans were delirious.
Kershaw came back out for the start of the eighth and three pitches later the game was tied. Back-to-back home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto brought the Dodger faithful back to reality. The game was now on!
When the Dodgers failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, the game went to extra innings. Joe Kelly stayed on to start the 10th inning and promptly walked Adam Eaton. Leadoff walks frequently come back to haunt a pitcher and this time was no exception. The next hitter, Rendon, doubled before Soto was walked intentionally.
Dodger skipper Dave Roberts stuck with Kelly to pitch to Howie Kendrick, a former Dodger. Kendrick just wanted to lift a ball to the outfield to get a run in, but when his towering drive landed over the centerfield fence for a grand slam, Dodger fans started streaming to the exits.
Most Dodger fans probably did not think it was money well spent, though they did get to see a tight, exciting game. The disappointment may well wear off some day and the fans may view the game differently.
One fan got my attention. With one out in the bottom of the 10th, a young man in Dodger blue started up the aisle. He paused when he came to four National fans sitting in a row. He reached across and gave each of them a fist bump, before clapping the nearest one on the shoulder as he continued his exit.
I was impressed. He had things in perspective and showed much class. Here’s another guess. I bet he never even thought about whether the money he spent to be there was worth it or not.
True fans don’t look at the game that way.
Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune
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