Our correspondent Jordi Scrubbings is back with another take on all things Rays….

I’ll admit, when reported attendance numbers are below 15,000 at Tropicana Field, I feel kinda guilty. I feel guilty because I think I could make a difference. It’s the same guilt I feel during an election when there is a candidate I support but I don’t bother to get out and vote. And then that candidate doesn’t win. Was it because of me? Or was it because of hundreds of other people like me who figured someone else would carry the burden of voting?

Although the worst a candidate can do is raise my taxes, approve or disapprove of transportation measures, cancel programs, stifle the economy, or generally cause the social fabric of the world around me to fall apart, for some reason I am more concerned about an empty seat at Tropicana Field that my tuckus could have sat in.

I wonder if I am the only one. Am I the only person who thinks if the team moves it would be partially my fault for not supporting them to the utmost of my ability?

I am a huge baseball fan. The fact that I am writing here is evidence enough that I am a huge Rays fan. So why aren’t I at every game contributing my +1 to the attendance total?

First and foremost, I am a partial season ticket holder. I go to over 20 games a season. I have the Rebecca Black Package, which means I am at Tropicana Field every Friday, Friday, Friday.

But what about Saturday through Thursday? I don’t have kids. I live 30 minutes from Tropicana Field. I don’t have a dog. I have a plant that requires watering once a week. And I’m watching most of those games on television. Why don’t I go?

There are a few reasons why I don’t go to very many games outside of my bundle. Number one, I am unemployed.

The fact that I lost my job two weeks ago and I am currently seeking employment is a huge factor in limiting my Rays live viewing experiences. I am now one of the 10-14% in the area out of work. It’s kind of a weird feeling. Every dollar spent is a dollar closer to running out of money.

Granted, it is only nine to 15 dollars to sit in the cheapest part of Tropicana Field, the TBT Party Deck. And I don’t think those are bad seats at all, although the experience of sitting the bleachers is different than sitting in other parts of the stadium closer to the action. But they are good seats, and live baseball is live baseball.

Number two, there is a lot more to a game than just a ticket.

Besides the cheap admission fee, there are other costs associated with going to a ballgame that send the cost up quite a bit. There is the gas cost – for me, about 10 dollars or so for a trip there and back. There is the often needed stop at the ATM for parking fee cash, because parking attendants never take credit or debit. And far be it for me to pass my usual bank for another God-forsaken ATM and its God-forsaken fees. That could cost upwards of another four dollars.

Then there is parking. Oh, beautiful parking. How much I would love to have public transportation. Or perhaps a Star Trek teleporter to “beam” me directly to the ballpark. But alas, as is, I must park. It’s free of course if I find a spot six blocks from the ballpark. And I just may if the total attendance is fewer than 15,000. But for a premium game, those few spots are as good as gone. So I must journey on.

There are a few five dollar parking lots around the vicinity of Tropicana Field. Those aren’t bad if I have my walking shoes on. Or I could park downtown for three dollars and take the shuttle bus. Or I can park across the street from an official lot for 10 dollars or so.

Or I could actually park on Tropicana Field property. Remember when parking was free? That was great, wasn’t it? I had a parking pass once and it was the greatest investment of my ballpark-going life. For nine dollars a game, I parked mere rows from the main entrance of Gate 1. Guards waved me in as I flashed my weekly pass like Wayne and Garth backstage at Alice Cooper. It wasn’t Milwaukee, but that part of the parking lot definitely was “the good land”.

Number three, the cost of satisfying my hunger.

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for good ballpark food. I’ve moved on from hotdogs and Cracker Jack and I would rather not go back. My dining area at the Trop is the hidden gem known as the Boar’s Head Spaghetti Bar on the third base side of the fourth floor from the Whitney Bank Club. The deli-spaghetti bar is the locale of choice of many of the vendors, staff, and even media types such as Fred McGriff and Orestes Destrade. The staff is friendly and the cheese-filled breadsticks are delicious.

But a drink and meal can cost at least 15 bucks. That adds up.

True, I don’t have to eat at the Boar’s Head Spaghetti Bar every time I go to the ballpark. I don’t have to check out the Everglades BBQ or Outback either. But I would rather spend good money on food once a week than spend five dollars on a hot dog and coke two or three times a week. If I am going to the ballpark, I want the trip to be a treat to myself.

So after averaging 15 for food, 10 for a ticket, 10 for parking, and 10 for gas, I’m spending roughly 45 dollars per trip to the ballpark. And that’s just me. Again, no kids, no family, and not even a date.

But yet I still feel guilty. I feel if I spend another dollar or go to one more game a week maybe we won’t hear the attendance issue anymore. Maybe if the attendance was 10,000 and 1 we would be in the clear. I like to think my butt counts. I like to think I make a difference.

Even if I don’t.

What about you? Do you go to as many games as you would like? Would you like to go to more? How much do you usually spend at a night at the ballpark? Am I only one who feels guilty?

(Picture from FifthWorldArt.com’s photo essay of the recent Rays tweet-up.)

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15 Comments

  1. Don says:

    I feel its somewhat “good” that ownership feel the pain of dumping payroll 1st and worrying about attendance later. IF attendance continued to be good (avg) during these meaningless games what incentive would it be for them to spend more money next year.
    Maybe Friedman& stuie can sit home and watch the playoffs/WS and some lights will come on….they will be poorer because of being out…
    I don’t feel guilty but somewhat “vindicated” that I can sit home in front of the TV.. drink .50 Beers (instead of $9.00) and not care how many times BJ/SHOP strikes out……WELL maybe NEXT YEAR…

  2. Kelley says:

    I love this article! Any time someone brings up attendance, someone else chimes in with the Rays being the cheapest tickets, etc., in MLB. But it’s so much more than that. I’m so glad you pointed out all the “hidden” fees of going to a game. And I’m in Sarasota with a family of 6, so that really adds up when we want to go to a game.

    But I still feel guilty and will feel like it’s my fault if the Rays move.

  3. Sarah says:

    Well, yes….and no. Jordi, you concede that some the extra costs associated with attending are avoidable. Some are really hard to avoid — the service fees for buying on line really irk me, for example. But you You CAN park downtown and take the shuttle — the public garage is $5, but evenings and weekends you can often find free street parking. The shuttle runs frequently and leaves you closer to a stadium gate than does parking in one of the stadium lots.

    And you really can bring in much of your own food (no alcohol), which you can either bring from home or buy someplace cheaper than the stadium. I don’t understand why people fail to take advantage of these opportunities, if indeed the cost of parking and food is really what keeps you away.

    On the other hand, I can share the sense of guilt about not going more often — although I’d say time is what keeps me away more than money. When I was watching the last two games on TV I felt awful that the poor turnout would feed the “Rays have not fans!” trolls, and that I hadn’t done my part to improve the situation.

    But then I think…. I don’t feel guilty about movies I didn’t see or restaurants I didn’t dine in often enough. Baseball is entertainment — it’s supposed to be the fun thing I do on top of my obligations, not a new obligation. Unless the Rays adopt a “free lawn service for season tickets” plan, they are only going to see me when I really have the time to spare.

    • Dre says:

      Just an FYI – as far as beverages you can only bring sealed water. Learned that the hard way when I brought a brand new sealed soda.

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, my son lost a Gatorade to the bag checkers! Not sure why they have that rule exactly, but now we bring along water for actual thirst, and then each kid is allowed to buy the snack of their choice during the game. So we do spend something on food there, but it’s a lot less than it would be if they went all Raymond James on us and didn’t let us bring in anything.

  4. Gus says:

    Don’t feel guilty. We are being manipulated by millionaires and billionaires.

    If you want to go and stay thrifty, park next to the police station and walk. it is 2 hour free street parking over there (plenty of time if Shields is on the hill) and they don’t enforce it (plus your car and your walk is safe). Eat or drink something at Ferg’s if you must.

    Also, you can usually pick up cheap tickets on that side of the stadium if you are looking to score a few.

    I’m not sure where people get the impression that public transportation is free or something. Most places it is going to cost you $4-5 per person up and back if you ride a train. If you have a car of 3-4 people that gets 20 miles to the gallon, you should be under $10 in gas. Comes out about the same even if you have to pay to park, plus you aren’t crushed by drunks on the train after the game (the train was so crowded for a Nationals July 4th game that we ended up getting off and walking 3 miles back to our hotel).

  5. Michael says:

    You should not feel guilty about attendance. It’s not your responsibility. The Rays organization does not exactly do everything possible to fill those seats.

    I was on a bus with a guy going to a Sox game early in the year, a huge matchup while the two teams rested above the division, and his big concern was “I hope we get more than 20k”

    What the fuck?

    You’re going to an epic fucking baseball game dude, attendance is not your concern.

    It’s incumbent upon the franchise and the municipalities to keep the Rays alive. It is not the responsibility or duty of even devoted fans to exert themselves beyond reason in any capacity to ensure the welfare of the franchise. Although I’m sure they would love it if you did so, it takes the pressure off of them.

  6. Dre says:

    i too feel a bit guilty, but only on the weekends. a year ago i moved from south tampa to carrollwood, and there went the weekday games. having 2 dogs, there is no way i can leave them all day at work and all night for a game. because i work in south tampa, when i lived there it was fine. i was able to stop by at lunch, and then even have almost an hour after work before having to leave for the game. but now, it’s not at all a possibility.
    i personally preferred the weekday games. the weekend games can get to be too much, and i hate the concert games. i understand the point of them, and it definitely gets people in the door, but that is about 15,000 people that have absolutely no interest in the game. fine, don’t pay attention to what’s going on. but stop getting up EVERY INNING to get something to drink so by the end your so drunk you are cheering for the other team because you’re mad you had to sit through the game to get to your sacred concert. (stepping off soapbox)
    on a more positive spin, i would DEFINITELY go to more games if the stadium was in tampa. i dont want to start that debate though, so i only speak for myself.
    this year is my least attended year recently – i’ve been to about a dozen games. to be fair, in 2007 and 2008 i worked for the team so i was there for almost all home games (even the ones i didnt work). but in 2009 and 2010 i was at over 20, and before 07 i was at probably 10-15.

  7. Ro says:

    Great article! I’m sure you’ve expressed the feelings of many fans and even fans of other teams. Attendance is such a big issue with the Rays, but a lot of teams are experiencing similar low numbers.

    I totally relate to the guilt, but for me, it’s because I live in Arizona haha! When I hear the low attendance numbers I think, “why don’t I move there?” I feel powerless, unable to show my support all the way out here in the desert.

  8. Steve says:

    I heard someone on one of the afternoon talk radio shows say that part of the problem in this area is the amount of people that work in restauraunts and hospitality. This is why I don’t get to as many games as I would like. I work 5 nights a week and my days off are Mon. and Tues. If the Rays are in town I usually go to the games on those days. But they often have Mondays off, so that leaves Tues games. I have been to about 6 games this year, but if I had a regular 9 to 5 I would have been going to many more.

  9. Yomar says:

    We used to buy partial season ticket plans every season back to 2002 me and my wife and 2 kids. My business is bad and my wife is a teacher, so we just couldn’t afford it this year.

    A customer gave me a pair of tix to one of the games with the Yankees last month. I bought two more for the kids, and due to the expenses Jordi mentioned, we ended up spending close to $100 for the evening’s entertainment even thought the tickets themselves were basically buy one get one.

    Times are tough, and they’re going to get tougher, imo. I love baseball and I’ve been a huge (Devil) Rays fan from day 1, but I don’t feel guilty about not putting money in millionaire’s pockets when I have my own family to take care of.

  10. Sarah says:

    Well, at least I don’t have to feel guilty about watching from home tonight. No Desmond in the lineup? I’ll bet those fans in attendance want a rain check!

  11. Marc says:

    Do you go to movies more than once a week? Do you eat at your favorite restaurant more than once a week? Most likely no. So why do you feel obligated to go to Rays games at least that often? And there’s the word – obligated. Once that enters the discussion, we’ve just gotten to the root of the problem.

    The Rays and St Pete are reaping what they’ve sown. Moving is an empty threat at this point. What municipality in their right mind will build a stadium for them at this time? The “move” threat is just that – a threat. In reality, it would take years for it to happen and by then several things could occur: 1) the economy improves and Tampa can help build a stadium; 2) the Rays go back to the Rays of old and stink up the joint, limiting their move options; 3) Boohoo Stu sells them.

    If they move, it’s no more your fault that your favorite movie tanked at the box office or that your favorite restaurant went under. When those things happen, the customer base isn’t blamed. It’s the fault of the owners/creators. Just as it would be if the Rays packed up.

  12. bill says:

    It is sneaky expensive and I constantly feel guilty even though I go to about 16 games a year as well -

  13. 5wa - Rob says:

    I greatly appreciate the mention for my photo essay on the #RaysTweetup – Yesterday there were 36 clicks on the link! Great article and I will be there for the next RaysTweetup! I am posting the article to Twitter via @5wa

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