I read recently that Derek Jeter is part of a group that might purchase the Miami Marlins. It is hard to imagine Jeter involved with a team that is not the New York Yankees, but if the report is true, then I wish him the best. But when he goes to watch a Marlins game, I hope he doesn’t do it from within the comfortable confines of a luxury box.
It would be a mistake to assume that all baseball owners are baseball fans. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. But for those owners who truly are baseball fans, there is one thing that has always bothered me: why do they watch the ball games from luxury boxes?
Baseball is America’s pastime. A ticket to a major league baseball game remains the lowest priced ticket in the four major sports. At $31 a ticket in 2015, it is nearly half the cost of the next closest major sport, basketball, which comes in at $55.88 per ticket, and a third the cost of an NFL ticket, which comes in at $92.92.
Like any business, baseball looks to make money, and one way of doing that is by selling luxury boxes, and other special, high-priced seating throughout their stadiums. I’ve been to three or four Washington Nationals games with seats in the Diamond Club, courtesy of a friend. And while it is nice and there are lots of perks, like the food and beer included in the price of the ticket, the best part about the seats were their close proximity to the field.
I had season tickets to the Orioles for several years. My seats were in the second section back from field level, looking approximately up the third base line from behind home plate. I liked those seats. They cost less than the major league average on a per-game basis, and they gave a good view of the baseball game. I’ve sat in the bleachers at Yankee stadium (the old Yankee stadium) and those were, perhaps, my favorite seats.
I like sitting at minor league games best of all. The stadiums are smaller, and there are no bad seats. You get a great view of the game unfolding before your eyes. And that is the most important thing. I don’t go to a baseball game for the beer or the food or the luxury boxes. I go to watch baseball. A hot dog and a soda are all I need, along with my score book and pencil.
It seems to me that those owners who are true baseball fans would eschew their private luxury boxes in favor of a good seat among the crowd. That is where baseball happens. That is where the sounds and smells of the game wash over you. It is where anyone has a chance of catching a foul ball, or shouting to a player. It is where the concessions people yell, “Peanuts!” and hurl the bags across rows of other fans. It is where you can feel the tense moments of the game along with crowd, cringe at the defeats and celebrate the victories.
The glass that separates a luxury box from the game might as well be the space that separates the Earth from the moon. You see the same game as the fans, but you don’t experience the same game, not by a long shot.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d make sure I had a seat out in the crowd, a different seat for each game. Baseball looks different from different angles, and it would be wonderful to have a chance to experience the game from all of them. Derek Jeter has had many of the best views in baseball from right there on the diamond. As he becomes an owner, I hope he doesn’t lose sight of what it is like to be a player… and a fan.