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How To Save Money On Playoff Tickets

Posted by vlm

The MLB Playoffs are here, and of the six division winners that have already punched their tickets to the postseason, only one…the Boston Red Sox of all teams…have seen a World Series championship since 1988.

Four of these teams haven’t even won a World Series in the ballpark they currently play in…that includes the Cubs…and two teams still haven’t grabbed a World Championship ring in their history. So playoff tickets will be in high demand.

Actually that’s a bit of an understatement. Cubs World Series tickets, should they make it, are starting at $2,000 for standing room.

It may be a little late for some of these tips to be useful, but file this away for next year, because if you’re seeking playoff tickets you can save a boatload of money by planning ahead:
1) Pay attention to the team newsletter.

You should always be signed up for a team’s ticket alert newsletter for any ballpark you plan to visit, of course, but the newsletter will let you know a) when season ticket holders can buy playoff tickets, since they will get first crack at it, and b) when the rest of us can buy tickets through the team, which will most certainly be cheaper than going through the markup.

Most teams give playoff ticket opportunities to folks who put down a deposit on a season ticket plan for the following season. This might be worth considering…you may want to get a friend or two in on it or sell your unwanteds on StubHub. If a team that hasn’t been good in a while suddenly goes deep into the playoffs, chances are good that tickets for the following season will go for much dough on the third party market.

But even if you have no season ticket aspirations, there will be some tickets still available through the team, and you’ll get an e-mail letting you know when they go on sale. You’ll have to be ready to jump on it as soon as they do, but the markup especially for teams like the Cubs will be significant…count on it being at least double the face price.

By the way, the team might hold a contest or an auction for playoff tickets, as the Cubs are doing…
2) Keep checking with the team.

It does happen; players and officials return their extras. Maybe not as much for critical games, but you never know. The point is to remember that playoff tickets especially will almost always be cheaper going through the team than through an agency or a third party.
3) Go for the “if necessary” games.

In my searches I noticed that when teams are making division series tickets available, the tickets for the first two “necessary” games go far more quickly than the game five or whatever tickets. So look into this option if you don’t absolutely have to go; you’re more likely to land a better seat at face price.

The team will refund whatever amount you pay for games that don’t get played (I presume that includes the fees), small consolation for missing the playoff game, but at least it’s safe.
4) Remember the third party market rules.

If you have to go through StubHub or SeatGeek rather than through the team, you’ll be paying more, obviously, but you at least don’t have to submit to the team’s season ticket demands.

Remember basic rules for using third party sellers: wait until about 2-5 days before the event to pick up tickets, or till the last minute if it isn’t that important to you, and be ready to snap up a good deal if one appears (hard to gauge, I know, just be realistic).

Also, be sure to go all the way to the checkout screen to compare prices; SeatGeek includes the fees in the displayed cost, but StubHub does not, and you may be very surprised at the difference between ticket prices in similar sections.

You can set alerts on both SeatGeek and StubHub, but thus far that hasn’t worked very well for me recently. Couldn’t hurt though.

I’ve gotten great deals on SeatGeek; so I recommend trying them first.
5) Be extra wary of scalpers and Craigslist.

I’ve written before about buying tickets on Craigslist and the potential for fraud, and how it’s generally not worth worrying about being scammed. It’s the same with scalpers. There are some things to know dealing with both, but the large majority of the time they are legit.

During the playoffs, though, when the stakes are higher and the costs of tickets skyrocket, you will occasionally read stories about scalpers and people on Craigslist selling fake tickets. I’m betting we may hear a story about this in Chicago. Just be extra careful.

If you decide to try the scalper route, by all means check out this advice from my buddy Andrew Van Cleve. He nails down deals for tickets that I only dream about.
6) Consider going on the road.

Let’s say you’re a die-hard Cubs fan who can’t put a second mortgage on their house to see a postseason game at Wrigley. Why not look into a trip to D.C.? Or L.A.? Or for that matter, Detroit? The Tigers could still make it as I write this, and we could see a World Series between two teams that are just a four-hour drive apart.

Since you’re reading this now for next season, if you think going to see your heroes on the road might actually be cheaper than seeing your team at home, sometime in mid-August…mark August 15 on your calendar…you should subscribe to the team newsletters of any team you think might make the playoffs. Remember, tickets will almost always be cheaper through the team.
Again, these tips may probably only be slightly helpful now, but if you want to get playoff tickets without losing your shirt, most likely you’ll have to plan well ahead anyway (I’ll re-post this earlier next time). So look into splitting a season ticket deal with a friend (you should probably share the postseason tickets too, just saying), subscribe to team alerts, and get your best practices on with StubHub.

And make sure you invest in one of these, of course…

30 Ballparks In 23 Days

Posted by vlm

In the 2012 season, Chuck Booth pulled off a remarkable feat. He saw every inning of 30 games in all 30 MLB ballparks.

Yes, I know. A few people have done that.

But how about pulling off that feat in 23 days?

Booth followed a schedule that included seven doubleheaders…including Toronto/New York, Boston/Washington (those two on consecutive days!), and Cincinnati/Chicago. You can read about this incredible journey, including how to handle flight cancellations, here at MLB Reports.

Platinum-level Ballpark Chaser Ken Lee (you can read about Ken’s fantastic journeys at See All 30) joined Chuck Booth as his limo driver for portions of the trip.

I managed to catch up with both Chuck and Ken to ask them about the trip…and how they did it.
KURT: What made you decide to do this? I ask because I wouldn’t be able to sit and enjoy it trying to do it in that short amount of time.

CHUCK: I choose to do the most amount of games in the least possible time because I have limited time off from my work.

Once I learned what the record was, I knew I had a chance to break it all the way back in 2008. I had six weeks surrounding the All-Star Break, so there was no perfect schedule I could have made. I actually did it in 26 days traveling (in 2008), but I had a three-day patch in the All-Star break and it has to be consecutive calendar days for this record.
KURT: A trip like this involves some awkward scheduling, and I noticed you guys used a lot of flights and rental cars.

CHUCK: Right now, the only time someone could break the record is early in the season, because teams schedule a lot of matinee games because of the weather. So it’s the last chance to do a lot of doubleheaders.

After my trip in 2008, I made a doubleheader master schedule grid for any two clubs based on if I could do them or not. It is about having the second game of doubleheaders available to be flexible in case you miss.

It was important for me to put together a depth chart for any day, so that if I missed a game for any reason, the chain of schedule dominoes could be implemented. Having that knowledge ahead of time saved me in 2012, when I had to rearrange 7 games because a cancelled flight out of San Diego forced me to scramble. I had to change five different flights. The airline was paying for hotels, offering to put people up for the night, I was there in my sneakers, banging away at scenarios.

I do like Southwest Airlines for that reason, because you can change a flight and not pay a transfer penalty. Whatever the value of the flight is, you pay the difference.

KEN: Back in 2012 I lived in Marysville, WA (an hour north of Seattle) and Chuck lived about 90 minutes north of me. He would come down and we would watch spring training games going over plans for each city. What we would do, where we would park, how we would pull off different maneuvers to save and most importantly, to save time.

We had a maneuver set up where I would go via shuttle from ORD (O’Hare Airport in Chicago) to get the car I had set up for 28 days, and came back to ORD and pick him up after he dropped off the truck. We had planned this maneuver in advance, we had it down to a science and it went so smoothly.

I drove as much as I could, that was a big part of me coming out on the road with him, so he would be able to relax as much as he could.

That worked out great until I got sick in St. Louis. My BP was sky high and I didn’t know it then, but the 5-hour energy drinks that caused me to develop Atrial Fibrillation (I am now a proud caffeine and energy shot free Ballpark Chaser). That night Chuck was a trooper and drove us most of the way from St. Louis to Baltimore.

No matter how much planning, no matter how set you think things are, Chaos Ensues and you have to be able to change up plans on the fly otherwise you will be in trouble!

The ballpark chaser community is amazing and people are often willing to help out a fellow chaser with a ride to the game, a ticket, someone to hang out with or a place to stay the night.
KURT: I presume you guys aren’t independently wealthy, how did you cut costs with all of this aside from using Air Miles?

CHUCK: I rent a car 365 days a year, I do courier work. If you’re renting a car 365 days a year, that’s a lot of miles and points you’re going to accrue.

National Car Rental has a rent-rent-reward program. The free day from them is actually free. You can drive anywhere, airport to airport, within 24 hours and have that one-way fee waived.

It might take an extra $10-12 to rent from National, but they have that program. You don’t have to rent like I do…someone like Gary Herman, who rents a car 17 times a year, he gets five or six free days.

I’ve written an article about National and how to save on car rentals. (you can read that here) National is the best; I’ve studied them all.

I know where all the mom and pop rental car companies are too, like in San Francisco, I’ll take the BART into town and there’s like seven Nationals downtown. You waive all the city taxes when you rent from there.

KEN: We would share costs for hotels, gas and everything we could. We ate as cheap as we could, spending several meal times at Wendy’s, Taco Bell or my favorite, Subway.

I also have friends that live all over the country, so I was able to couch surf a lot, which saved a bunch on hotel expenses and also allowed me to have a good home cooked meal while on the road, which was nice.

When you are running a tight schedule, you are forced to spend time driving from one city to another overnight, thus you are saving for hotels that night, since the best you can do is grab a catnap or two at rest stops or in parking lots of places like 7-11. (On our way to CHI from KC, I woke up in a 7-11 parking lot with a dude staring in the window at me – freaked me out!).

One of the main things we did, that I was not used to doing until this trip, was to buy tickets on game day. I learned from Chuck that you can really save a good amount buying your tickets either via StubHub or on walkup the day of the game.

I can’t tell you how many times we would get good tickets for cheap and save the ticketing fees. I was so used to paying that fee that it just became part of the budget. Saving those fees really adds up, and it makes those funds available for other more important things, like nachos and beer!

CHUCK: There’s always moves to save money here and there. You saw it first hand in Baltimore (at the Chasers’ meetup). You know all the tricks, park for free at the casino, dollar hot dogs outside, that’s all what we’re about, right?
KURT: You used a lot of flights, did you have Flyer miles?

CHUCK: No, I paid for the flights. I always fly without luggage. I carry a briefcase at all times, it doubles as a suitcase. You can stuff a pile of clothes into a briefcase and it is only considered a personal item on airliners. I never pay luggage fees on the airlines.

One of the biggest problems that is unforeseen in big trips is what to do with luggage. If you are staying at a room in any lodging, chances are you can leave your bag(s) with the front desk prior to check in…if you take Amtrak or Greyhound, they usually have checked baggage service.

I have gone as far to mail clothes back to myself, or buy new clothes on the road, in order to avoid bag fees. I always check where I can do laundry during the trip…if where I am staying doesn’t have services, I check the closest nearby place. Last year I was doing laundry at the University of Michigan at an all-night laundry facility on campus, after arriving by bus at 1:00 am.

Also check with ballpark rules about what you can bring in…my duffel bag never is too big to enter stadiums.
KURT: There’s also the fatigue factor. This has got to be tiring. Chuck, you even fell asleep for a couple of innings at Miller Park. What did you two do to keep “up”, so to speak? Nothing illegal I hope.

KEN: Bob DeVries and I couldn’t help but laugh when Chuck fell asleep at Miller.

To stay awake? Loud music, like blasting Guns-N-Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with the windows down helps a lot.

CHUCK: Yeah, Ken always likes to say that fell asleep at Miller Park. He’ll probably tell you that at the hotel I was blogging at three o’clock in the morning. If I wasn’t with those guys, I would have been standing in the concourse, I wouldn’t have fallen asleep at all.

Coffee, energy drinks, chewing gum, playing loud music, freezing yourself driving. Driving is the hardest part. We did drives that were 16,17 hours sometimes.

It’s a massive adrenaline rush, though. Every pitch counts, it’s like the World Series, you start to think, man I need a double play here!

Every second counts, so I love the challenge of it all. I have never been so hyper-focused on anything as I have been on my world record chases.
KURT: So it was just the adrenaline of keeping the trip going more than anything else?

CHUCK: Oh, totally, man, it’s crazy! The planning of it is a lot of fun too. I know every doubleheader scenario there is on the board. I do it every year. You can ask me about any possible doubleheader and I can investigate it for you.

KEN: Any Chasing trip is full of emotion and adrenaline. The portion of my trip that I was with Chuck was filled even more with adrenaline, because as his driver, I didn’t want to get him to a game late and have his streak ‘die’ on my watch.

In no situation was that more true than before the game at U.S. Cellular Field. The previous few days had seen me or us going from Kansas City overnight to a Chicago/Milwaukee doubleheader, up to Minneapolis and then an overnight to Detroit, early morning to Pittsburgh for a Pitt/Cleveland double header, then dark and very early driving Chuck to Cincinnati, dropping him for the game and making my way to Chicago. (Just look at that on a map for a moment, would ya? Wow!)

Chuck was to fly from Cincy to O’Hare and I was to pick him up there. If all went well, we would have 90 minutes to get to the ballpark on the South Side.

When I had asked friends from Chicago if it would be possible to do on a Thursday evening, during rush hour, I was told “Possible? I would say improbable”.

As it turned out, Chuck’s flight got in early, however, due to a car hauler fire on the interstate south of Chicago, I got to the airport late! At that point we only had 70 minutes to make first pitch.

The adrenaline kicked in, and since I have spent a lot of time in Chicago over the years, I took side streets and I got us to the ballpark with 14 minutes to spare! We did the improbable!

“Adrenaline”…oh and 5-hour energy shots!
KURT: I was really entertained by your story, how you were fretting about games going into extra innings, etc.

CHUCK: Maybe it doesn’t come across in the blog, but I had a blast! You said it doesn’t sound like fun, it was total fun! I had fun the seven months planning it before I went. It’s still fun talking about it. You’re cheering for outs, man! You don’t have any team loyalty! It’s a different way to look at it.

People in the stands were thinking I’m nuts, cheering for both teams. It was funny, because sometimes I’d get vocal.

The story of the 2012 trip gets 11, 12 hits a day even now. Doing these trips has enhanced my standing as a public MLB fan figure, and led me to a community of incredible Ballpark Chasers during these four incredible trip of a lifetime schedules.

I would not change a thing…having said that, I may not do another one of these trips again…

But one never knows. I said that in 2012, and then went to a game every day of the 2015 calendar, hitting a record 224 games, seeing every game I planned to over the course of 183 days, all within budget.

KEN: I have done Ballpark Chasing both ways, the leisurely way and the Chuck Booth way. Both have their merits for sure. The biggest thing I learned from traveling with Chuck is that no matter how much planning you do, and we did a lot, “Chaos Ensues!”

Parking For Free At The Ballpark

Posted by vlm

Recently I interviewed Scott Chamberlain, a prominent member of Ballpark Chasers, and someone who has accomplished a pretty remarkable feat in 2016…he has paid just $2 for parking all season!

Scott graciously took the time to answer my questions and share his tips; hope you enjoy the exchange below. If you’d like to check out Scott’s blog, you can find it at http://woochamberlain.blogspot.com.

How many games did you go to this year, and at how many ballparks?  

Up to this point, I am at 61 regular season MLB games at 8 different MLB parks and 155 sporting events on the year. I am at a slight disadvantage location-wise as I live in Indianapolis. I say slight because I have six MLB teams within a 4 1/2-hour drive of me yet none within 100 miles from my doorstep. Last season, I attended 143 MLB regular season games at all 30 MLB parks.

How did you find free parking? You can give me a couple of examples. Did you have a long walk in these cases, or were you going through unsavory areas of town?

I find free parking by trial and error. I have become very adept at reading street signage to be absolutely sure that a spot is free. For instance, on the south side of Chicago…there are a few blocks along 31st street that are free at all times and some that have the dreaded pay box. I’ve yet to receive a ticket as I would hate to see a “free” spot become a costly ticket.

Another good example is Wrigleyville. For day games, you can park on most streets around the stadium for free until 5pm. After that, the tow trucks are out in full force.  There are some main roads that have free parking at all times. These you have to walk 8-10 blocks but it’s a lot better than paying $15-$40 to park.

Also, I’ve found spots after doing research online or talking with fellow ballpark chasers. My favorite free spot find was given by a fellow ballpark chaser and close friend. They suggested a road southwest of Safeco Field near the port area. Sure enough, a simple six block walk to the stadium was all that was needed. And rather than fight traffic on the way out, it was strategically placed to where I could head south and onto the highway a couple interchanges down I-5 from Safeco.

Free parking is a must for me not only due to budget constraints but also ease of access. I don’t mind walking a mile or so in exchange for beating traffic around the stadium. However, safety is a concern and I will avoid unsavory areas. Miami, Boston, and Dodger Stadium are the three stadiums that I’ve had to pay for parking or use mass transit for as I haven’t found free areas yet.

Where did you pay $2 and why?

The $2 charge for parking kind of sticks in my craw a bit in hindsight. My drive from Indy to Cincinnati in May was longer than expected due to an accident on interstate 74. There was a bobble head that I wanted and I was worried about not getting it. I shunned one of my three “go to” free parking areas in exchange for rushing to the stadium for the giveaway. Even then, it was a metered spot that ended midway through the game so that’s where my $2 came from.

In retrospect, I wish I had parked in a usual free spot to have a perfect parking record this year.

You’re not cheating with this, right? No public transit or anything?

No cheating. When I did my 30 parks/143 MLB games last year, I kept a running total on every single travel expense from flights to parking to the Sunday morning hotel coffee before a game on getaway day.

What interested me about this exercise was the hidden expenses that are had. When going to Chicago for instance, I would always park at a CTA lot for five dollars and take the CTA train in. This would amount to an eleven-dollar move. Meanwhile, I was already in my car and for a few extra miles, could skip that move and park on the street.

New York and Boston are the only cities where I skip driving to games due to traffic or ease of access via mass transit. However, if you are wanting to do a NY/Philly doubleheader, street parking can be had in NY and Philly for a quick get-away.

What do you suggest for someone looking to park for free at the game? What are the hardest ballparks to find free parking, and which are the easiest?

If a fan is going to a game on a budget, parking fees can be a nuisance. I’d suggest arriving a couple of hours early and driving around a little to find good spots. The areas a block or two from the stadium are not necessarily convenient when you consider leaving after the game and fighting outbound traffic.

The easiest parks to find free parking are ones situated in a downtown area.  I’ve found that parking on edges of downtown areas and casinos have helped.

The hardest parks have been Boston, LA Dodgers, and Miami.

Do you hope to park completely for free in 2017?

I certainly hope so. I try to go to as many games as possible. It helps the budget to not have to pay to park.  Money saved here can go towards a food or drink item at the yard!

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