By Katie Drummond
The Daily Meal
An estimated 73 million Americans attend a major league baseball game every season. Indeed, for many of us, it just wouldn't be summer without spending at least one afternoon in the stadium stands -- foam finger, foamy beer, and stadium hot dog in hand (though hopefully not all three at the same time).
But with big-league games come big-league costs -- especially where food and drink are concerned.
The average ticket for a 2012 major league bout will run you $26.98, according to a study from Team Marketing Research, and compared to the typical ticket prices for other professional sporting events, that's a bargain.
Pairing that cheap baseball ticket with nine innings worth of nosh, however, can slam that reasonable expense right over the fence. Major league teams have, in recent years, introduced a bevy of tempting specialty items with sky-high prices. Fenway Park, for instance, sells a $15 prime rib sandwich, while vendors at the Marlins' Sun Life Stadium want you to spend the same amount on a plate of nachos -- served inside a baseball helmet.
|The Daily Meal: Tips and tricks for saving on food at MLB stadiums|
Even keeping it simple can get pricey: An average stadium hot dog will this summer cost $4.13, and a 16-ounce beer with run you $6.10, again according to Team Marketing Research. And let's be honest. How many of us are going to eat, or drink, just one?
Fortunately for thrifty baseball fans, it doesn't take much effort to scarf snacks and save cash while reveling in a major league ball game. Check out the following 15 tips for ideas on eating on-the-cheap this baseball season.
Chicago's Wrigley Field might be a more esteemed ballpark, but the White Sox' Cellular Field is well-known for its superior dining options, including a nacho dish that's notorious for its enormity, and its value.
Soggy chips and Cheese Whiz? Hardly. For $11.50, fans at Cellular Field can nosh on "Nachos in a baseball helmet" instead. The gargantuan dish is loaded with beans, meat, veggies, sour cream, and guacamole -- surely enough to get any fan through all nine innings -- and comes with another added bonus: A souvenir baseball helmet.
It's a stadium secret that plenty of ballgoers don't know: The majority of major league teams will let you bring nearly any food, whether homemade or restaurant takeout, into a game.
Policies vary from stadium to stadium, but most allow food that's carried in a soft bag or cooler, along with water toted in clear, sealed plastic bottles. But take note, because there are some standard no-no's to the BYOF rules: Security won't allow anything hard -- like aluminum cans, glass bottles, or firm-sided containers -- that might break or be thrown at players (or other fans) by rabblerousing game-goers.
This season, the Cleveland Indians are sending their social media outreach into overdrive. And for fans who get involved online, the move means major food savings.
The team has an exclusive "Social Suite" -- complete with waiters to cater to your every culinary whim (in other words, no waiting in line). Around a dozen fans will be selected for gratis suite access each game, with entry selections based on one's involvement in Indians-oriented social media. The food isn't free, but comped tickets and table service more than make up for that $6 hot dog.
The Washington Nationals boast some of the best discount nights among major league teams nationwide. And many of them, to the delight of D.C food fanatics, are oriented around cheap grub.
This season, fans can enjoy regular Beltway Burger nights, which include a burger, fries, and soda with a ticket purchase. Family fun days include a hot dog, chips, and soda with each ticket, and Miller Lite Party Nights mean two free beers included in every $25 ticket.
Major League Baseball's "At the Ballpark" app, introduced this year and available free on iPhones, offers plenty of perks, including interactive stadium maps and team records.
Most importantly, the app allows game attendees at five stadiums (including Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park) to order their food remotely, and have it delivered to their seats. Not to mention scrumptious savings: The app offers a rundown of discounts for any given game night, exclusive food coupons, and a listing of available foods and their prices -- making it easier to find the vendor shilling the cheapest pretzels in the stadium.
The San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park has one of the most impressive rosters of theme nights across the league, and most of them boast major appeal for wallet-watching food lovers.
Nearly every theme night includes cheap or free food -- and game admission -- in the ticket price. A few of the best: The Garlic Fest will include discounted portions of the stadium's famous Gilroy Garlic Fries; Brewfest offers fans three hours of beer tastings, along with a free commemorative mug; and Off the Cove Night lets you sample the delicious offerings of myriad San Fran food trucks.
rugal baseball fans in California, take heart: Last year, ESPN ranked Angel Stadium third overall for ticket affordability, and first for inexpensive concessions.
It might have a little something to do with the beer. When new owner Arte Moreno took over, he slashed the price of draft beer, which will this season run $4.50 per pint. And this year, there's yet another bonus for brew fans: The stadium has now introduced a host of specialty craft beers as well.