Scenes can outweigh MLB gimmicks
Over the years, the fast food industry, Las Vegas casinos and all things Disney have successfully adapted to technological innovations, fluctuating economic forces and trending consumer interests.
So, too, has Major League Baseball. At an increasingly sophisticated level, MLB organizations are employing the model used by all-inclusive resorts and cruise lines to attract and retain patrons.
The recurring elements are family-friendly promotions, live entertainment, site-specific educational experiences, and culinary fare that reflects imagination and creativity.
The bonus for the baseball organizations is that a professional sporting event is part of their packages.
During the 2018 season, Major League ballparks welcomed nearly 70 million guests.
As in seemingly every other aspect of life these days, commercialization figures prominently in the ballpark experience.
Team stores positioned near the entrances and exits were not assigned space arbitrarily by the architects.
In the joy of the moment, that $119.99 Yadier Molina replica jersey at Busch Stadium in St. Louis suddenly becomes a must-have souvenir.
As any visitor to New York City will attest, everything is more expensive in the Big Apple, particularly in relation to the Yankees.
The organization offers a clever revenue-producer called Hands on History that enables white-gloved patrons to hold 10 to 15 historic Yankees artifacts, which are subject to availability.
Artifacts include Babe Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring, a bat used by Mickey Mantle during his Triple Crown season of 1956 and one of seven World Series trophies.
At $125 per person, this experience includes a tour of the New York Yankees Museum, complete with “entertaining stories” shared by the museum’s curator. What the experience does not include is a game ticket, which is subject to the Yankees’ dynamic pricing model.
Or, if you really want to live large, the Yankees offer The Inside Experience, which features a guided stadium tour, an opportunity to meet a player on the current Yankees roster or a Yankees alumnus and a game ticket for one of the Field Level sections.
No offense intended, but for the price of $675 per person, the hopeful patron would be well-advised to cross fingers that the current player is not a recent call-up from the team’s AAA affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
If all politics is local, as the saying goes, so are the eats at big league ballparks. Hot dogs, popcorn, and peanuts are still staples, but teams are increasingly catering to regional tastes. Located a short walk from Inner Harbor, Baltimore’s Camden Yards presents Fried Cajun Catfish, Chesapeake Bay Lump Crab Cake and Oyster Po’ Boy sandwiches.
The Seattle Mariners are serving up a “true taste of the Pacific Northwest” with KuKu Fries, which are “French fries topped with togarashie Japanese seasoning, red tobiko (flying fish roe), chili sauce, horseradish crema and chives.”
Fireworks and promotions continue to sell tickets or they wouldn’t consume so much space on schedule magnets and foldout schedules.
Surely, the New York Mets are confident kid-centric giveaway days featuring a Spider-Man Bobblehead, toy truck, Build-A-Bear Teddy, and Beanie will boost their gate.
For retired Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, the CEO of the Miami Marlins, an organization that has endured nine consecutive losing seasons, a major priority is creating an environment at the ballpark that is reason enough to buy a ticket.
“This is professional sports, and I feel bad for even saying this, but it’s impossible to win every single game,” Jeter told a Miami television station. “But one thing you always remember is the experience you had while you were at the park. We want people to enjoy themselves, and look, a lot of times people come (and) they don’t know who won or lost. Sometimes they don’t even know who was playing, but they do know if they had a good experience, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
In some respects, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are not unlike Yosemite National Park and Miami Beach. A visitor’s experience can be uniquely memorable, based on an individual’s awareness of sights and sounds, and yes, even smells. With large crowds nearby, moments of peace and serenity still prevail. After all, baseball is played in a park.
And thus we arrive, appropriately, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, with its spectacular view of the city’s skyline and its bridges, especially at sunset — thus proving that some things are definitely worth the price of admission.
Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona.