Full disclosure: I am a couple of years short of my 60th birthday, and some of the views here are consistent with those of an American man of that age. Considering during my career I made considerable use of computers and other electronics, so I would classify myself as tech savvy, and I understand the importance of progress from a technical standpoint. That having been said, I do believe that some things could remain the way they were, at least as an option in a world where technology changes quickly.
As the title stays, the blog entry deals primarily with baseball tickets, and how access to the ballpark has changed during my years as an avid baseball fan. Unfortunately, I was not aware enough in my younger days to keep the ticket stubs from baseball games, as I did not then understand the importance they would play later in my baseball life. My brother and I went to MANY ball games together during the 1980s, but none of the tickets from that time survived. We did collect yearbooks and scorecards from the 1980s, but tickets were an afterthought.
During the 1990s, we did have enough forethought to keep some of the tickets from the games we attended. At that time, we were attending only Major League (MLB) games, so that was the whole of our knowledge of baseball. Most of the tickets we had while attending games in New York City or Philadelphia were rather mundane (like the image of tickets above), but the ticket I received in Kansas City was very colorful (for the time), featuring an image of the iconic scoreboard and fountain. As was the case back in the early 1990s, this ticket was torn, as the ushers kept a portion of the ticket to verify the attendance for that game.
This simple transaction piqued my interest regarding tickets as memorabilia, and I became more vigilante keeping my tickets stubs. In the 1980s and 1990s, purchasing tickets at the gate or directly from the team ensured a genuine ticket. Buying tickets from a third party vendor (like Ticketmaster) almost guaranteed a drab, corporate looking thing that was hardly worth keeping once the game was complete. In fact, that is what happened to many tickets during this era, as many tickets were procured tickets from vendors and not the teams themselves.
We started traveling a bit more in the mid to late 1990s, when circumstances (and finances) allowed it. Whenever possible, I would buy a ticket at the box office, which was a risky proposition depending on how well the home team drew. Coming back from a work trip, I passed by Boston just before the evening commute, when one of my colleagues indicated that the Red Sox were home. Not yet as popular as they would be in the upcoming years, we diverted to Fenway Park to see the game. It was my first trip to that hallowed ground, and I was able to get a ticket from the box office. That trip to Fenway Park also opened my eyes to the exorbitant amount people were charging for parking, as we paid $30 to park in a Sunoco gas station lot.
Crossing into the new millennium, technology for ticket taking was undergoing change, and some ballparks were embracing the future by no longer tearing tickets. This change first caught my eye when we were in San Francisco in 2002. Buying the tickets ahead of time, I was concerned that the tickets would be drab documents from a third party provider. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when we received the tickets in advance of our first West Coast trip.
Our tickets had barcodes at both ends, making it unnecessary to deface them. The tickets themselves were beautiful, and it was clear that the Giants organization not only brought their services into the new century, they took some pride in the artistic flare the tickets exhibited. Though these tickets were much longer than typical, my brother and I took great care to keep them intact, as they were as much a souvenir as an admission to a ballgame in the newly minted Pac Bell Park.
How tickets were handled at MLB ballparks was still widely varied, as we went to Montreal to see the Boston Red Sox take on the Expos. Clearly the Montreal front office was caught in the past (which may not have been their fault, as the team was rumored to be sold and moved for years), sending us tickets that were torn at the gate. Though the game was played in Quebec (where French is the official language, and the locals were unwilling to deal with English speakers), luckily there was enough English to help us get to our seats. The ticket from that game was printed primarily in French, but the vital information was discernible. Those tickets were keepsakes not only because that might have been the last season in Montreal for the franchise (as we thought it might be; the move to DC did not occur until 2005), but because they were our first tickets displaying a foreign language.
As the number of MLB parks we needed to visit started dwindling, we added minor league (MiLB) and Atlantic League (ALPB) ballparks to our schedule. Like the MLB, there was a variety of ways to obtain tickets, with some parks still tearing tickets, and others using the barcode approach. Moving to the DC area in 2013, I adopted the Bowie BaySox (the Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles) as my home team, seeing as many as 30 games a year. In my entire tenure there, the BaySox did little to change they way they handled tickets, tearing at first, and then scanning. All the while, they had turnstiles, even as some ballparks were eliminating from the process.
Other MiLB teams, perhaps taking a page from their MLB team, began to make their tickets more artistic, something that could be treasured as much as any other souvenir. It took some time for that change to occur, but we started noticing the change when we traveled further from home. By this time, printing tickets at home had become a preferred way to obtain tickets when ordering online, I had to make certain I chose a physical ticket, even if it cost more.
Though the online tickets had the same artistic images, it was not the same as holding the ticket in your hand. Almost all print at home tickets we used managed to find their way to the trash, as the ticket itself was much less durable. Barcodes made sure that these tickets were unadorned, and we took great care to keep them that way. These were memorabilia in my opinion, and should be treated as such (perhaps my age is starting to poke through here).
By the late 2010s, getting physical tickets, especially for MLB games, was becoming more and more difficult. Even print at home tickets were being discouraged; teams preferred fans load their tickets on their phones for easy scanning. Bringing a ticket to a game on my phone presents no problems for me, other than the fact that I miss an opportunity for a souvenir from the game. This approach however, is far from infallible, even to this day. There have been times I needed to step out of line to make sure my ticket was displayed on my phone, and even doing this was no guarantee of admittance. In Houston during 2018, my brother had serious issues attempting to enter Minute Maid parking because of persistent scanning problem at the gate.
Last, and not least, the technology can be formidable for aging fans, particularly if they are uncomfortable with the mobile devices. As I mentioned at the start, I consider myself tech savvy, but I understand that not everyone is, especially if connectivity is a problem at the venue. This is why I would like to see getting physical tickets remain a feasible method for seeing a ballgame.
In the US and Canada, baseball tickets are fairly easy to decipher, even in French, but we experienced something much different in our travels to Japan. Though there is generally enough English to help you navigate the urban areas in Japan, outside of these areas things become a bit more difficult. Visiting the TokyoDome presented no challenges, as there were plenty of English speakers and the tickets were relatively easy to read.
However, our next stop in Nishinomiya (near Osaka), getting to our seats proved more problematic. My brother used a QR code (which was still fairly new to me) to print out our tickets. Unlike our Tokyo tickets, little of the information was printed in English, and it took some time and help from the stadium personnel to finally arrive at our seats. Even with the mild inconvenience, it was worth it, as the ticket we received was a physical ticket, a beautiful souvenir from the event.
We had roughly the same experience in Hiroshima, where tickets are exceedingly difficult to secure, as the entire season sells out mere hours after going in sale. A disappointing transaction meant that the tickets were ordered were unable for the game, and the general admission tickets we had in hand did NOT guarantee us seats for the game. Like the tickets for Koshen Stadium, the tickets for Hiroshima were also quite beautiful, even if ultimately useless to us at the ballpark.
Encouraged by some of the tickets we received for our Japan trip in 2018, I looked forward to our 2019 baseball trip. We used a highly regarded ticket broker in Japan to secure seats for our trip. While the seats themselves were quite good, they were disappointing visually. In Japan, tickets can be purchased at any 7-11 store, but you need to understand Japan to retrieve them. Our ticket broker used the 7-11 approach for the tickets, which looked much like the vendor tickets we have received in the US (minus the Japanese writing, of course). In addition, the 7-11 tickets can be very difficult to read, so most of the time we relied on the ushers at the ballparks to get us to our seats.
This has been a short history of our history with tickets going to baseball games over the past 40 years. While the current prevailing method of distributing and using tickets has proven to be mainly hassle-free, there is something missing. Hopefully, getting and using physical tickets will remain a viable option for as long as I go to see games.