Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The frugal fun of being a baseball fan

It may have snowed today in DC, but it feels like spring to me, because this week in Florida and Arizona there are baseball players stretching and tossing balls and swinging their bats-- spring training has arrived and the 2008 baseball season is on its way!

I suppose being a baseball fan is one of those things you can make as expensive or as cheap as you like. But I usually get tremendous fun and satisfaction out of it while spending very little.

Watching or listening to games at home is usually free if you're cheering for the hometown team. I'm not, but I still manage to get months of fun out of MLB's Gameday Audio-- I can listen all season long for just $14.95, less than the cost of two movie tickets for something that provides dozens of evenings of entertainment. There's actually something really fun and nostalgic about listening to baseball games on the radio, and I typically find that radio announcers are better than TV announcers anyway. But if you have your heart set on watching the games, you can get them over your computer for $14.95 a month or $89.95 for the season, which is not a bad deal if you're going to get a lot of use out of it.

Then there's all the side pleasures. Fantasy baseball is a fun, free pastime (and if any bloggers and/or commenters want to start up a league, I'm so in!) I'll spend plenty of time reading articles, messageboards, and blogs (a recent pleasure which skewers bad sports journalism is Fire Joe Morgan.) And hey, baseball makes for great small talk, which is no small bonus for someone as shy and awkward as me.

And of course, you can't forget actually going to games. I wrote a whole post with tips for attending baseball games cheaply, so I won't rehash, but suffice it to say that it can be really affordable entertainment, whether at the major league or minor league level. And if you live in Florida or Arizona-- or want to take a nice vacation there in February or March-- spring training is an awesome frugal option. The games are cheap, and the practices are even more fun and are free!

Of course, being a baseball fan isn't always frugal. You may be tempted to buy all sorts of apparel and paraphernalia (resist! you can do it!) And as you dutifully save your pennies by listening to games on the radio all season long, you may be nurturing a craziness that will tempt you to pay hundreds of dollars for playoff tickets should your team make it to October. (Then you've just got to make the hard decisions. It may be worth it if you can afford it; and if not, I promise the wins will be very nearly as joyful with a living room-full or barful of fellow fans.)

But baseball is one of my simple pleasures. When work and life gets hectic and stressful, it's wonderful to sink into a game where the rules and the score are clear and you can cheer hard for something that's important but not at all serious. (Does that make sense?) I get enough enjoyment out of it that it'd be worth paying a good deal of money for-- but instead I get all of that for cheap or free.

Are you a sports fan? Is it a frugal pastime for you? Do you have any tips for how to keep it affordable?


Anonymous said...

Never have been much of a pro sports fan -- can't see the attraction of watching a bunch of overpaid guys chase a ball around. College is OK, if you know the players in person & so have some reason to care whether they win or lose.

Baseball is the best spectator sport...because of the spectators. I love the fans!

Anonymous said...

I clicked back to your baseball outing post, excellent tips at both places!

My husband is a NASCAR fan and we live one hour away from Michigan International Speedway. We make one family / friend day trip to a race each year.

Our tricks include bringing enough tailgate food to cook and serve two meals - before and after event - and a snack to take up to the seats. The only "fast food" we buy that day is coffee.

And I specifically keep my race day attire to generic NASCAR or MIS logo wear. I stay away from driver / corporate sponsor / number specific items because alliances can and do change from year to year. (There's a fine line between "vintage" and "dated" fan attire!)