A cheapskate shells out for his team

September 17, 2015


I’m thrilled to be cheering for a winning Blue Jays club this late in the season. Really, I am.

But this suddenly compelling Toronto team is really testing my cheapskate nature. As a dedicated penny-pincher, it’s clashing two of my strongest impulses: watching baseball and saving money.

As a Blue Jays fan, it’s been easy to do both for many, many years. Now, I’m learning that drives to the playoffs may be a lot of fun, but they don’t come cheap.

On a recent Sunday, it became clear my days of low-cost Jays games are over. Overnight, the Blue Jays became the hottest ticket in town, celebrated by a string of sellout crowds at the Rogers Centre.

A friend and I had gone down to cheer on the local nine for ourselves, and learned every merchant in the city is cashing in on the baseball bandwagon. As the Blue Jays keep winning, the price just keeps going up and up.

A downtown Toronto parking lot that used to charge $10 now wants $25 during games. We paid $90 apiece for tickets in the nosebleeds that normally retail for $15. And we shelled out $12 a beer for the privilege of booing the umpire and cheering the Jays with 46,000 other fans.

Everybody, it seems, wants to be at a Blue Jays game. So, naturally, everyone from parking lot owners to scalpers are cashing in. And since a playoff-starved city is willing to pay huge markups for the experience, there’s plenty of money to be made.

It’s been a long time coming. After 22 years of mediocrity, the Jays appear to finally be contenders, looking playoff-bound for the first time since 1993. The last time Toronto played meaningful games in the fall, I was a 12-year-old kid watching from my parents’ basement.

So it’s a nice change to be watching games that matter this late in the season. But think of the money we’ve all saved by tuning out the team every August and September and getting back to enjoying summer.

Never mind that one Rogers Centre beer costs $4 more than an entire ticket to see the Guelph Royals, the Intercounty Baseball League club that plays out of Hastings Stadium in Exhibition Park. For the price of admission, which includes free parking, you can sit wherever you like: behind home plate, beside the dugout or in the grass down the baselines.

That’s my kind of baseball. While the lowly Royals struggled on the field this season, they were first place in my heart in value-for-dollar.

Blue Jays fans everywhere will confess that a contending baseball team does strange things to people. I watched a grown man jump out of my car’s passenger seat and sprint to get in line for a bobblehead, one of those cheap, Chinese-made giveaways that never look anything like the player they’re supposed to celebrate.

But they’re free, which means the price is right for a fan like me. They’re one of the few things you can get at a Blue Jays game without paying for it.

Everything else inside the Rogers Centre costs far more than it ever should. It’s a bizarre, microeconomy where a small slice of pizza costs $6.75 and a bottle of water is worth $5.50.

The cheapskate in me still grumbles at those prices. But for now, my baseball side is winning this battle. So I’ll suck it up, open up the wallet, and enjoy the ride.

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