07/13/2004 8:08 PM ET
Ticket prices soar on game day
Baseball fans travel far to soak in the excitement
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Think the only thing hotter than the temperature outside Minute Maid Park on All-Star Tuesday was a ticket inside?
|Some fans were in line for their tickets for more than four hours before Roger Clemens' first pitch. (Pat Sullivan/AP)
"It's terrible," said ticket broker Mike Hendrix of a local company called Ticket Center, which had a prime location but was not exactly swamped with business.
Bad news for brokers like Hendrix. Good news for fans like Derek Larson.
"I'm the biggest baseball fan ever, probably," said Larson, whose stepfather shelled out last week for a $500 ticket in section 428, way in the upper deck. It was a gift for Larson's 24th birthday.
"There's so much history. I love it," Larson said. "Like walking over to the John Hancock FanFest and seeing Babe Ruth's jersey. To me, that's what baseball is all about. The history. The playoffs. The World Series."
And the All-Star Game. Larson took his place at the front of a line along Texas St. at about 2:45 p.m. CT, more than an hour before the gates opened and more than four hours before Roger Clemens' first pitch.
Around the corner on Crawford. St., an unlikely trio was waiting for their tickets. Cubs fans Bryan Strawbridge and Betsy Henke were wearing Cubs blue while Betsy's brother, Brad, was decked out in Cardinals red.
Dad Steve Henke surprised the trio over the weekend with a trip from their home in Caramel, Ind., to Houston for the All-Star Game. Brad said his mom grew up in Chicago as a Cubs fan and Dad grew up in southern Indiana rooting for the Cardinals.
"We just flew in this morning, and we're staying for about 30 hours and going back," said Betsy Henke, 19. "It's a pretty random, spur of the moment thing."
Brad Henke, 16, said he was excited to see starting third baseman Scott Rolen, an Indiana native who now plays for the Cardinals but played as a teenager for the Indiana Bulls.
"I play for the same team," Brad said. "He donates a bunch of money to the league each year. I've met him a couple of times and he's real cool. Our dad has played golf with him."
Betsy Henke and Strawbridge said they wanted National League manager Jack McKeon to work Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano into the game.
What about Sammy Sosa?
"I've lost a little faith in Sammy," Strawbridge said. "I want to see Zambrano."
Across the street, Hendrix was still frustrated by the slow sales. He said 90 percent of the people who stopped at his booth were looking to sell their tickets, and only a small percentage of the remaining 10 percent were serious buyers.
"There's so much history. I love it. Like walking over to the John Hancock FanFest and seeing Babe Ruth's jersey. To me, that's what baseball is all about. The history. The playoffs. The World Series."
-- "Baseball's biggest fan" Derek Larson
The buyers had plenty to choose from, if they were willing to pay a price. For $250, Hendrix could get them inside with a standing-room-only ticket. Lower-level seats way down the foul lines started at $600, and Hendrix had seats available behind the dugouts for $1000.
Dave Wilken, who works in Houston's petroleum industry, brought a client downtown and was scouting out some tickets on the club level. At about 4:15 p.m. CT, Hendrix quoted a price in the $700 range.
"Brokers bought up a lot of the tickets and they're just expecting too much," said Wilken, who set a ceiling of $250, $50 above face value. "My client might sweat it out a little, but I'm willing to wait and see what we can get later on."
At least he had a good backup plan. Wilken had a reservation for two at Vic and Anthony's Steakhouse, a half-block away on Crawford St.
Across from the steakhouse, Officer C.B. Nickerson of the Houston Police Department kept an eye on the parking situation. Spots were going for $25 early in the afternoon, but as game time approached the price steadily climbed.
"It's good for the city because it brings in a bunch of revenue," said Nickerson, whose favorite sports memories were of the back-to-back Houston Rockets NBA championships in the mid-1990s. "This doesn't seem as big as the Super Bowl, but people are having a good time."
Houston played host to the Super Bowl in January.
"This is working out a whole lot smoother," Nickerson said. "The Super Bowl was good practice for us."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.