Something I read in ESPN the Magazine this morning has really gotten me thinking about generosity and philanthropy by individual professional baseball teams in these tough economic times and how there isn’t enough of it.
The magazine reported on how the Arizona Diamondbacks are giving 18 needy families full rides for season tickets totaling almost $100,000. It’s their version of fan scholarships. And get this: the brainchild behind the idea is D-backs CEO Derrick Hall.
This has me wondering if the Wilpons or the Steinbrenners would ever think to be as generous. My guess is no. But I would challenge them to do something similar, especially at two stadiums whose average ticket prices are among the highest in the nation. The new Yankee Stadium has now surpassed Fenway Park that has the most expensive non-premium tickets in the country. Citi Field is right up there as well.
So, in an economy and a New York City metropolitan area where thousands of people have lost their jobs and their homes, what did the Wilpons and the Steinbrenners do? They raised ticket prices.
For the Yankees, it wasn’t just a cost-of-living increase that many people didn’t even get in their paychecks this year. According to my calculations, the Yankees jacked their average non-premium ticket prices by 43 percent. The Mets, in comparison, only raised theirs by just under 8 percent but are still in the top five of most expensive ticket prices in the nation.
Now I’m a realist. I know the economy was a lot better when ground was broken on the new stadiums and that the new structures have to be paid for. I know people generally get paid more in the tri-state area than in Phoenix, even though most of that is probably cost-of-living adjustments. I know the Mets and Yankees are businesses.
But New York City is the cultural heart and soul of the country. It leads the way in so many things. Its baseball teams should also lead the way in philanthropy, in giving back to the community that supports it. I’m not ignoring all of the other philanthropic things both organizations do, but I think they can do more and should do more.
So, if you’re listening out there, Steinbrenners and Wilpons, I implore you to follow Derrick Hall’s lead and provide some fan scholarships to those who have lost so much. The good will and publicity you gain from these acts of kindness will be worth more than their weight in gold, or even a few dozen season tickets.