Ah, the familiarity Spring Training brings: the snow is melting, the birds are tweeting and the Cubs are still grappling with the Curse of the Billy Goat. Cactus and Grapefruit League play is in full swing and there are less than three weeks until Opening Day. Yes, baseball is finally back and ripe for the pickin. K-Rod may have stepped on a cactus, but everyone else is hoping to start the year off on the right foot before the month’s end. The MLB is brimming with so much excitement right now that Opening Day Games are nearly $50 more on average than regular season games. Fans nationwide are about to burst at the seams even before Vin Scully and his golden pipes can welcome us back for another season, so read on, cause we’ve got all the info you need to prepare for Opening Day!
The first Opening Series of 2014 will see the Dodgers and D-Backs renew their NL West rivalry (March 22-23) in Australia, followed by Opening Night on March 30 with the Dodgers at Padres, but for the majority of MLB, Opening Day doesn’t officially kick off until March 31. Across the league, Opening Day tickets are $47 more expensive than the average price of regular season tickets—and it’s easy to understand why. You get to see the best of the best out on the diamond; as White Sox manager Robin Ventura put it, “Your first guy, your best guy, you always put out first.” If watching the best players in their freshest form going head to head isn’t enough for you, most teams offer giveaways, specialty merchandise and fan fests for those in attendance.
If you’re not making the trip Down Under or down to San Diego for Opening Night, below you can find all teams actually playing on Opening Day (3/31). Of course, the top three priciest outings offer some of the best matchups of the season:
- Orioles vs. Red Sox for $223: Baltimore’s been on the incline in the last two years and should put up a great fight against the world champs.
- Rangers vs. Phillies for $262: An exciting inter-league faceoff that will debut Prince Fielder on the Rangers.
- Tigers vs. Royals for $205: With the dismal Pistons and Lions, the Tigers are definitely Detroit’s team, and the most well-rounded squad we’ve seen in a long time. They may take it all the way this year, but must first hit the ground running against division rivals.
|Date||Game||Venue||Avg. Price – OD||Avg. Price – RS|
|*03/30/14||San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers||Petco Park||$121.68||$62.99|
|03/31/14||Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants||Chase Field||$63.88||$66.12|
|03/31/14||Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||$222.87||$71.68|
|03/31/14||Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins||US Cellular Field||$92.85||$89.80|
|03/31/14||Cincinnati Reds vs. St Louis Cardinals||Great American Ball Park||$169.67||$68.04|
|03/31/14||Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals||Comerica Park||$205.94||$115.30|
|03/31/14||Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners||Angel Stadium of Anaheim||$78.04||$56.43|
|03/31/14||Miami Marlins vs. Colorado Rockies||Marlins Park||$92.47||$144.91|
|03/31/14||Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves||Miller Park||$117.46||$72.99|
|03/31/14||New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals||Citi Field||$125.53||$91.49|
|03/31/14||Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Indians||O.CO Coliseum||$79.93||$63.67|
|03/31/14||Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs||PNC Park||$135.70||$99.19|
|03/31/14||Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays||Tropicana Field||$80.99||$71.53|
|03/31/14||Texas Rangers vs. Philadelphia Phillies||Globe Life Park||$262.42||$107.08|
*OD- Opening Day, RS- Regular Season
Conversely, the cheapest Opening Day tickets are the Diamondbacks vs. Giants for $63 (we’re guessing this has nothing to do with Pablo Sandoval’s transformation into Skinny Panda) and the Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners for $78, both great games in their own right. The rest of the league will host their inaugural home game during the first week of April. The most expensive of this bunch are the Cleveland Indians for $217 (4/4) and the Boston Red Sox for an astronomical $373 on average per ticket (4/4)—the most expensive price in the league.
Since Derek Jeter announced his imminent retirement, New York Yankees tickets shot up to the highest average price per ticket across the entire 2014 season—a whopping $277 on average—even if the team underperforms, expect the skyrocketing prices to remain a constant. Everyone and their mother wants to send one of baseball’s greatest off into the sunset, and you can join the team on Opening Day for $214 on average. Teams that follow the Bombers as far as ticket demand for the season are the defending World Series champs ($135 on avg.), Miami Marlins ($144 on avg.) and Detroit Tigers ($115 on avg.).
Every year, all 30 teams start off as equals: each has a faint, albeit next-to-nil, chance of going 162-0, but some teams made the most of their offseason, while others hibernated right through winter. Here are some top storylines of the offseason to keep an eye on as things get underway:
- New Year, New Rule: The MLB has been testing out the expanded instant-replay system during Spring Training, and will debut it at the end of March. Say what you will about the time-consuming downside of the new rule, but being backed by baseball’s iconic managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, there’s no denying that its implementation will greatly enhance the integrity of the game.
- Injuries are always looming in this sport that demands a load from its players, and this spring we saw a mix of setbacks, early recoveries and random occurrences.
The good: Justin Verlander (back from hernia surgery), Manny Machado (back from dislocated knee), Mat Latos (elbow surgery), Grady Sizemore (no more knee problems!); Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are more or less on track for their So Cal teams. The bad: Kris Medlen (re-aggravated his elbow this week), Taijaun Walker (back and shoulder problems), Doug Fister (elbow), Cameron Maybin (biceps), Bronson Arroyo (herniated disk) and Cole Hamels may not be ready for Opening Day due to arm fatigue. The bizarre: Francisco Rodriguez stepped bare-foot on a cactus (this kind of irony couldn’t be written) and Jake Peavy nearly sliced through his finger with a fishing knife.
- Hot and Not: At this point, we generally know what pitchers will be taking the mound to represent their respective teams on Opening Day, and while things can always change through the end of spring, some obvious starters have emerged: Kershaw, Verlander, Darvish, Masterson and Scherzer. Some hot position players, like Russell Martin, Mike Moustakas, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Tommy Medica, and Jose Bautista have lit up the Cactus and Grapefruit games, while players like Domonic Brown, Jarrod Parker, Sergio Romo and Jose Reyes are still shaking off the offseason rust.
Spring Training has certainly brewed up some great storylines to get going, and our brains are in overdrive thinking of all the questions we have for this year: Will the White Sox release one of their outfield players? Perhaps moving Dayan Viciedo to the Seattle Mariners, where Robinson Cano has voiced his opinions about bagging another heavy hitter to support him (easier said than done after the slugger took the biggest contract in franchise history). Will the Cincinnati Reds miss Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo? How will the redemption of Ryan Braun fare after an ugly PED suspension? Will Mike Trout become the biggest player in baseball? How big of an impact will Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka have in New York, and how will Derek Jeter be remembered in his final season? Will Hank the Dog really travel with the Brewers this year? (don’t act like this isn’t a valid question).
Clearly we could go on and on, but instead of questioning every single player and every move front offices make, let’s just sit back, relax, and let the sun rise again on America’s Greatest Pastime.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, YankeeGirl.tumblr.com, OuttaThePahk.tumblr.com