If you're not careful, that spending spree at the ballpark this season can be three strikes for your bank account. Use these tips to ensure this American pastime doesn't bankrupt your food and entertainment budgets. Times staff and wires
Buy tickets in advance at the box office. Avoid shipping and handling charges accrued in third-party ticket purchases. Go straight to the park. You probably won't find the best raw figures, but after additional costs are calculated, the box office can be the better deal. If you work in a larger company, ask other employees for extra tickets. Some season ticket holders are more than willing to pass them along at a reduced ticket price or for free.
Deals and promotions. Look for special discounts for tickets. For instance, the Tampa Bay Rays have a Summer Select Six Pack special going on now for as low as $48. You get to pick which games, and most are included through August. For more information, go to raysbaseball.com.
If you're taking the whole family, try to catch discounts so they can enjoy the ballpark experience even more. Some stadiums have "dollar dog night" or an occasional $2 beer game. The Rays have Family Fun Day tickets for as low as $23 each that include a hotdog, snack and a soda.
The Clearwater Threshers have weekly promotions. For instance, Friday nights are Tampa Bay Times Family Night where you can get four Field Box tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and four bags of chips for $25 (with a coupon). For more information, go to threshersbaseball.com.
Free or cheap group tickets. Let's say your church group wants to see a ball game. It can't hurt to call public relations and ask for discounted rates or even free tickets. The organization will sometimes give away tickets to boost attendance and hope that recipients come back and pay for the next game.
Views are great from the cheap seats. Most ballparks are designed with few bad seats in the house. Foul balls tend to fly to left field, where seats can be cheaper.
Take public transportation or park in a free lot. This will vary depending on which ballpark you go to. If you want to avoid being charged premium prices near the stadium, public transportation is the best way to go. Usually, the farther you park from the stadium, the cheaper it is. Luckily for Rays fans, St. Petersburg's Looper Trolley offers free shuttle service from downtown to Tropicana Field through August. So park cheaper, or even free, and hop on the shuttle before and after the game. For more information, go to loopertrolley.com.
Coordinate a potluck and watch the game from home. Do you have a big-screen HDTV in the living room? Take advantage and watch the game in the comforts of home. A big group of friends and home-cooked plates provide just as much entertainment. And if you need a bathroom break in the middle of the seventh, you don't have to worry about long restroom lines. And you won't need a designated driver to get you home after all that beer.
Information from FreeShipping.org was used in this report.