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Fri, Dec. 13

Spring training: The fleecing of the baseball fans

A young fan seeks an autograph from a Los Angeles Dodgers player while pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up in the background during a 2009 spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. The Rockes and the Arizona Diamondbacks left Tucson after the 2010 spring training season and now all 15 Cactus League teams train in the Phoenix metro area.<BR>RODNEY HAAS/Miner

A young fan seeks an autograph from a Los Angeles Dodgers player while pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up in the background during a 2009 spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. The Rockes and the Arizona Diamondbacks left Tucson after the 2010 spring training season and now all 15 Cactus League teams train in the Phoenix metro area.<BR>RODNEY HAAS/Miner

I have a problem. I want to take my girlfriend to Camelback Ranch in Glendale and enjoy a warm March afternoon sitting on the grassy berm and watching a Los Angeles Dodgers spring training game.

My problem is the price.

In order for me to do this, it will cost me anywhere between $8-$13 a ticket, depending on the game. It's the same price as the cheapest ticket in Dodger Stadium for a regular season game.

And that's a problem due to the quality of baseball I'm going to see. Sure I'm going to see Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Either, along with pitcher Clayton Kershaw. But I'm only going to see them for three innings before guys who have numbers matching the day's high temperature start to take the field, the players who will be starters for the Albuquerque Isotopes in Triple-A and the Chattanooga Lookouts in Double-A.

Spring training is quickly becoming the biggest fleecing of your dollar this side of Washington, D.C.

The cheapest ticket for an Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game is $8. The cheapest ticket to watch them at Chase Field during the regular season is anywhere from $9-$16. To watch the Reno Aces in Reno, Nev., the Triple-A team for the D'backs, the cheapest ticket is $7-9.

The Colorado Rockies, who share Salt River Fields with the D'backs in Scottsdale, cost the same $8. The cheapest ticket at Coors Field in Denver is $4. Watching their Double-A team, the Tulsa Drillers, costs $5. It costs more to watch the Rockies starters and scrubs in spring training than to watch them in the regular season.

The average cheapest ticket for a spring training game in Phoenix is around $8, with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics having the most expensive cheapest ticket - anywhere from $12-$20. The defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, have tickets going for $7, but for some games that price is as high as $35.

THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS!

FOR A SPRING TRAINING GAME?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?

And for what? Sure I'll see Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, but I'm also going to see guys who will be starting for the Richmond Flying Squirrels in Double-A, where I can watch them for a mere $4.

In 2012, the Cactus League set a new attendance record of 1.68 million fans for the 15 Major League Baseball teams that train in the Phoenix metro area. In December, the Cactus League released a new economic study that shows spring training contributes $632 million to the state's economy. The study also said that 57 percent of those surveyed came from outside the Phoenix metro area, with 67 percent of those saying spring training was their primary reason for the visit.

While the money generated is great for our state and the visitors from out of state are always welcome, the prices that baseball fans are being asked to pay are starting to get out of hand.

But then again, when you live in a place that hasn't seen green grass since the day the last out of the World Series was made, the idea of booking a flight to Phoenix or Florida for a weekend getaway of baseball and sun always sounds good and you'll be willing to pay whatever the price is listed.

To be fair to the teams that train in Phoenix, their average cheapest spring training ticket of $8 is cheaper than their average regular season price of around $10-$15. It's also on par with their average minor league price of $7.

But a savings of $2 to sit in the grass is hard to swallow when I can remember going to games in Tucson and spending $15 to sit behind home plate. Now those tickets are going for as much as $45 and $50.

The problem with these prices is that spring training is becoming more for snowbirds and less for the average Arizonan. The recent Cactus League survey suggests this too, saying that the average spring training fans are getting older with a median income higher than the U.S. average.

Maybe it's time for the Cactus League to start to change. Offer discounts to Arizona residents who show up at the box office and present valid Arizona ID.

There are a lot of us who enjoy spring training baseball. We just don't want to spend regular season prices to watch a bunch of minor leaguers play six innings.

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