Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Covering The Knothole

(The following is a transcript of a telephone conversation between my wife and an agent at the Twins ticket office yesterday. )

Recorded greeting: Hello, you’ve reached the Minnesota Twins ticket office. Please listen to the following menu options carefully:

Press 1 for season tickets

Press 2 for single game tickets

Press 3 to get on a waiting list to see the Twins get swept in the playoffs

Press 4 for information on ticket discounts for Federal Employees

(Wife pushes one)

Recorded greeting: Please wait while we connect you.

Ticket agent: Thanks for calling the Twins ticket office. How can I help you?

(The sound of cash register constantly ringing can be heard in the background)

Wife: Hi, I’m calling about getting tickets for one of the Blue Bunny Kids Day games. That’s where you get two kids tickets for free for each adult ticket purchased, right?

Ticket agent: No, we don’t have that anymore.

Wife: You don’t?

Ticket agent: No. We still have Blue Bunny Kids Day games where children under fourteen get a free autograph and can run the bases after the game.

Wife: But no ticket discounts? Do you have any family ticket discounts?

Ticket agent: Well, we do have the Our Family Section. For only twenty-three dollars* you can sit in the alcohol-free family section and get a free hot dog and pop.

Wife: Twenty-three dollars a ticket? Don’t you have any other family discounts?

Ticket agent: No, we don’t.

(Sound of cash register ringing in the background grows louder)

Wife: You just lost yourself a customer!

Ticket agent: Wha? I'm sorry, Ma’am I couldn't hear you

(Cash register rings louder and more frequently)

Wife: I said you just lost yourself a customer!

Ticket agent: Huh?

Wife: You just lost yourself a customer!

Ticket agent: Ma’am you're going to have to speak up!

Wife: You just lost yourself a customer, mister!

Ticket agent: I've forced myself to wha?

Wife: You just lost yourself a customer!

(Wife shakes head and hangs up as ticket agent goes back to counting piles of cash)

One of the beauties of baseball is that the ball parks where the games are played have historically been a venue that your average family could afford to patronize. With eighty-one home games in stadiums that hold usually hold forty to fifty thousand seats, baseball was the cheapest ticket in professional sports. And baseball teams encouraged parents to bring their kids to the games by offering special discounts on seats in the bleachers.

I recall seeing Twins games at the old Metropolitan Stadium where I think we paid two or three bucks a ticket to sit in the outfield. It wasn’t the best view to catch the action from, but we didn’t care. The important thing was that we were at the game. When the Twins moved into the Metrodome they continued to sell cheap blue plastic seats in the outfield for maybe four or six bucks a pop. It was one of the better deals in town and allowed families to bring the whole crew out to the ballgame.

Such is not the case with the Twins new home Target Field. I despised going to the Metrodome to watch baseball and was ecstatic when the Twins moved back outside where they always belonged (although I was not happy with the way the funding went down). We live a mere ten minutes from Target Field and I was looking forward to again enjoying baseball under blue skies and sunshine. I was also looking forward to bringing my sons to Twins games at Target Field as my parents had brought my brother and I to games at the Met when we were youngsters.

Last year, I was able to take the eldest boy (then four) to one of the opening exhibition games against the Cardinals. It was a beautiful spring day and he had a great time. He lasted through seven innings and acquitted himself well--with the exception of chucking an empty water off the deck we were seated in (I blame the bad influence of the uncouth ruffian he was sitting next to). We wanted to get back to the ballpark with the rest of the family at some point, but with it being the inaugural season of Target Field and all, tickets proved difficult to come by.

So this year when spring again rolled around (at least on the calendar), my wife decided to call the Twins ticket office and see about getting some ducs. And that’s when she learned that the Twins are too busy counting their money to worry about whether families can afford to attend their games. I guess you can’t really blame them. When it comes to sports, Target Field is the hottest ticket in town and with demand outstripping supply there’s really no reason for the Twins to offer discounts to anyone (well, except for those noble federal employees). Still, there’s something grating about an organization that was more than happy to dip their hands into the public coffers to scoop up as much as they could to build their magnificent facility not making more of an effort to allow more of the people who are paying for Target Field everyday to actually set foot inside it. If you’re not going to offer family discounts, can you at least throw us a bone and provide discounts for residents of Hennepin County?

There’s also something sad about families being priced out of major league baseball. With all the greed, scandal, and cynicism in professional athletics these days, baseball was the one sport that still offered families an opportunity to experience the joy of a simple day at the ball park together. With all that local baseball fans have gained with the opening of Target Field, I hope that’s not something that we’ve lost.