StubHub Hits Sweet Spot With Dirt-Priced Baseball Tickets

a batter hits his foot with the bat - spring trainingRepeat after me: Spring training is only practice. That's why you have to jump on the cheap Major League Baseball regular-season tickets already popping up on StubHub.

StubHub, the MLB-sanctioned ticket reseller for private parties, is offering single-game bargains hotter than a pennant race in August. Many major league teams have yet to begin formal sales of individual-game regular-season tickets, but StubHub is in midseason form.

The Yankees' single-game sales don't begin until March 26, but you don't have to wait that long. Season-ticket holders and other fans with early ticket access often want to unload some of their seats now.When we checked Friday and Saturday on StubHub, tickets were on deck for as low as $5 for the Yankees hosting the Minnesota Twins April 4, 5, 6 and 7, and trickled down to $4 for the visiting Baltimore Orioles April 12, 13 and 14. Even the defending AL-champion Texas Rangers, visiting the Bronx on the weekend of April 15-17, are a bargain at $11 a pop.

Tickets are going for single digits around much of the league, perhaps because season ticket holders fear that they'll be left holding the bag if their teams slink out of contention early.

Deep bargains for MLB games have become a rite of winter, thanks to Internet ticket clearinghouses. Baseball fever might be catching for spring training (where good deals that include air fare are almost nonexistent when I last checked), but it's not driving consumers to think about April yet. And when April comes, uncertain weather and competition from the NBA influence where the sporting dollar goes.

WalletPop says swing away!

There are some deals that will disappear faster than a spring phenom with a sore arm. The Los Angeles Dodgers entertain the world champion San Francisco Giants to begin the season, and tickets for their three games after Opening Day on April 1, 2 and 3 can be had for less than $12, as of Saturday. Then the Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals, who boast the best player, Albert Pujols, and tickets for all those games plummet to a low of $5. The deep savings generally continue through the season. Maybe you can't think ahead to July, but April and May aren't such a reach, are they?

Friday's 68-degree day in Gotham got me to leave my parka in the closet, put on an Orioles hat (my kids like the bird -- I have no allegiance), and start searching the Web for deals.

What I saw was encouraging for us cash-strapped fans. Even the Giants were offering relative steals in their cozy ballpark. Despite capturing America's heart last October, inexpensive tickets were available throughout the season. Prices remain relatively high for their first few home games, then drop as low as $11 a seat when the rival Dodgers visit April 11 and 12. The Giants are already selling single-game tickets on their website -- but at this point they're twice as much as seats that appear on StubHub. (Note that none of the tickets mentioned herein are premium seats -- but they are an economical entry into the ballpark.)

The Chicago Cubs, one of baseball's toughest tickets despite not winning the World Series since 1908, are a catch at this point, with many offerings in the low double digits. Tickets get scarce no matter how they're doing, so area fans might want to get off their late-winter duffs. Seats for interleague grudge matches against the Chicago White Sox on Jun 20, 21 and 22 at U.S. Cellular Field go down as easy as a cold Old Style at Wrigley, some going for as low as $55 (trust us, they won't last.)

Other annual interleague grudge matches, such as the Yankees-Mets, Angels-Dodgers and Astros-Rangers, also have reasonable double-digit prices that will seem like a parka sale in Key West by the time they play each other.

As the season progresses, packagers start entering the game. Travelzoo partners with Major League teams with empty seats to fill, offering great deals, especially midweek. Sometimes food is included.

Play for keeps now, baseball bargain fans. While others are sweating the goings-on in Arizona and Florida spring training, you'll be getting a jump on the games that count.

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