The 2014 Major League Baseball season is upon us.
To kick off the opening day of America’s favorite pastime, Mashable spoke with a man who knows something about making the most of a trip to the ballpark.
Last season, Matt Weil attended 26 games at 25 different baseball stadiums in the United States in 25 days — and only spent $692.80 for tickets, food, transportation and lodging. Below, catch up with Weil about his trip, including some of his best advice for traveling and saving money.
Mashable: What inspired you to visit 25 stadiums in 25 days?
Matt Weil: Every summer for several years, I would try to visit a few baseball stadiums, and I figured out that a really inexpensive way to do it was to take a bus that had discounted rates. With Megabus, for example, you can get tickets as cheap as $1.
This is a trip that a lot of people would want to do, and the goal became hitting all the Major League stadiums. I realized I could do that without spending a lot of money; I thought it would be an adventure. That’s how I came up with the initial idea, and from there, it became a bigger thing. I raised money for the Boys and Girls Club [of America], and something that started out as a simple idea ballooned into a bigger endeavor.
What stadiums did you go to?
I started in San Francisco because I live in the Bay Area, so that was day one. From there, I went to Oakland, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Minneapolis, Chicago … you want to know all of them?
So to Chicago, to see the Cubs; then Milwaukee; then Kansas City; St. Louis; to the White Sox in Chicago again; then I saw a minor league game in Toledo, Ohio; then Detroit; then Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; New York to see the Mets play; then Baltimore; Atlanta; Tampa; Miami, Philadelphia; Boston, New York again for the Yankees; Washington, D.C.; and finally, Cleveland.
Is there one stadium that stands out among all the rest?
Every Major League stadium has its own character, and each baseball game has its own story. I was able to see a lot of great things.
Probably the greatest experience was a double-header in Boston. Fenway Park is an amazing stadium with amazing fans, and there’s a lot of history there. It was pouring rain that day, and I ended up looking for cover to get out of the rain — I didn’t even have a ticket. So I got out of the rain in what I thought was a warehouse, but it ended up being a back entrance to the stadium, and I was able to watch the first few innings from there.
Then there was a rain delay, and maybe the rain gods were smiling on me, but I ended up finding a ticket on the ground for a seat right behind home plate. Then they made an announcement that anyone who was there for game one could stay for game two. And I got to see two games for nothing, in dream seats.
How many tickets did you buy ahead of time? How did you get tickets cheap for each game?
I only bought two tickets beforehand, and that was for Yankee stadium and for the Angels, because they were both rivalry games and they were close to being sold out. Otherwise, I’d get to the stadium early and look at Craiglist and StubHub, and sometimes I’d just wait outside the stadium and ask people for extra tickets.
If you’re by yourself, and only looking for one ticket, look for people in threes. I’d say four out of five times you can get an extremely discounted ticket — or a free ticket — by looking for threes. Most people buy tickets in even numbers.
In addition to finding dream tickets on the ground in the rain, how else did you save money?
There are a lot of different ways to save, but one way I was able to save a lot of money — and which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to the average baseball fan — is not drinking alcohol. I swore off drinking. It also was important because I was traveling so much, I didn’t want it to affect my stamina.
Transportation can be inexpensive if you find a good deal with Megabus or a Chinatown bus in New York. Lodging can be really expensive when you’re traveling, so often I would book a night bus. I would go to the game, then at 11 p.m. hop on a bus and arrive at the next town at 5 or 6 a.m. I was able to save a lot of money because not only was my transportation $1, but also because it was my lodging for the night.
Where did you stay?
When I wasn’t sleeping on the bus, I stayed with a lot of friends. The other thing I used was Couchsurfing, and I often stayed with other big baseball fans. I even stayed with people who had hosted other Couchsurfers on similar trips. I heard stories about them, and one person had hosted a guy who biked to all the stadiums in a year. Because of [staying there], I was able to meet that guy and exchange stories.
How did you pack for the trip?
I carried a small backpack and a big duffel bag, and I always wanted to root for one of the teams playing. For the most part, I had a shirt or hat for the stadium.
Other than the baseball shirts and the hats, I tried to do laundry as often as possible. For every three cities, I visited a laundromat. I probably know the laundromats better than the normal tourist attractions you usually think of with these cities.
Any tips for nabbing good seats?
This probably isn’t something the MLB would like, but if you get a cheap ticket, make friends with an usher. I had one guy who let me sit inside the dugout. I realized I probably wasn’t supposed to be there.
How can people make the most of a trip to the ballpark?
I think it really depends on each stadium you’re at. I mean that because every stadium offers their own kind of excitement and atmosphere you won’t find at others. So for example, when you go to Atlanta, listen to the bands that are playing beforehand; it’s this great atmosphere. If you’re in Milwaukee, you have to tailgate and have a bratwurst and have that whole experience, or you’ll miss out on a real Brewers game.
What was your favorite part of traveling to so many stadiums?
One of the things I enjoyed the most about my trip was the different people I met. I met so many people, whether on the bus or waiting for the bus at the game, and just the different people in the different cities I was going to.
In Pittsburgh, I met a grandfather, a father and a son — three generations. When I got home [to the Bay Area], I got a picture in the mail of the four of us with a note on the back. They were big Pittsburgh Pirates fans, and [the team] hadn’t made the playoffs in forever, so when they made the playoffs last year, I called to congratulate them. The people I met, I don’t feel like they were just passing through my life. A lot of them became real friends.
What stadiums haven’t you been to, if any?
I’ve been to every Major League Baseball stadium. I might need to find a new hobby.
Any recommendations for the 2014 season?
For anyone interested in taking a trip like mine, or even one game in a city you’ve never been to before, you should plan beforehand. If you’re looking to do it on a budget, you need to have a plan and a goal, and at the end of the day, have fun with it. If fun for you at a baseball game means having a hot dog and a beer, then do that, and do that in the best way possible.
Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited.