It's for, you know, the kids!

Bill Shaikin on baseball and the economy and the kids (who are, as you might have heard, our future):

    The Dodgers now offer a small bottle of water for $3.75, not just a large bottle for $5.75. The Angels sell kids' tickets for $3 for some games, $5 for others, with $7 caps for every fan, every day.
    The Houston Astros sell kids' tickets for $1. The Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers sell $1 tickets for all. The Colorado Rockies sell tickets for $4; the Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals for $5.

    A tip of the cap, for these programs and many others. Yet baseball ought not go back to its overpriced ways when the economy rebounds.

    This should not be a recession-based initiative. This should be a fan-based initiative.

    "I think we can make a lot of this permanent," Selig said. "I'm fairly optimistic."

    Selig paused for a breath, shed his caution and added an air of determination to his voice.

    "We will make a lot of this permanent," he said.

    He said the right thing, and now he was rolling.

    "It's something we should do anyway," he said. "We've got to mean what we say. We really have to be the cheapest form of entertainment."

    Baseball lost that commitment, losing its way while celebrating each billion in record revenues. We spend far too much time fretting over whether the late starting times for the World Series keep kids from watching baseball on television, far too little time figuring out how to get kids into the ballpark, embrace the game in person, get hooked for life.

    It's too expensive for too many. A family of four should not have to pay $200 for a day at the ballpark.

    And yet, according to Team Marketing Report, the cost of four tickets at the average price, four hot dogs, four sodas, two beers, two caps and parking comes to $196.79 at the average major league park this season.

I'm so sick of the annual Team Marketing Report that every time I see it -- and I see it every spring right around this time -- I want to vomit my four hot dogs and my four sodas and my two beers and my two caps and my overpriced parking spot.
Two caps? Really? Four hot dogs and four sodas and two beers? I'm not saying our hypothetical nuclear family wouldn't enjoy all of those lovely items ... but can't a good time at the ol' ballpark be had without them? Perhaps I'm naive, but I believe that a family of four can enjoy a baseball game for well short of $100. Outside of New York or Boston, anyway (and maybe there, too).

There's one thing I do agree with, though: Major League Baseball does spend far too little time figuring out how to get kids hooked for life. This should not be a surprise. That payoff doesn't come for some years, and the people who run the game -- reasonably enough -- don't generally care about the long-term future, because by then they'll have sold their teams and be off fooling around with some other toy.

So, cheaper tickets and bottles of water and caps forever? I hope you'll excuse me if I'm not absolutely 100 percent convinced by the commissioner's optimism.