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Red Sox Fans Hit the Road

Because tickets are scarce at Boston's Fenway Park, roadies are traveling from Toronto to Tampa Bay to see their favorite team.

June 19, 2005|From Associated Press

BOSTON — Ken Nigro's phone kept ringing, and fans filled his voice mail, when the Boston Red Sox announced they were organizing a trip to a three-game series in Baltimore.

Nigro was in charge of setting up airfare, hotel rooms and game tickets. And 60 lucky callers would get to see the World Series champions play the AL East leaders at beautiful Camden Yards in July.

Not a bad deal for fans who don't want to shell out exorbitant prices for scarce tickets at the team's home, Fenway Park.

"You know how many calls I got? Not 200, not 500. I got about 1,000," said Nigro, a Red Sox consultant who also runs the team's fan cruises and fantasy camp. "The Red Sox fans take over the city because they can't get tickets here."

Baltimore's not their only destination.

Red Sox roadies also are flocking to Toronto, Tampa Bay and New York. Many traveled this month to St. Louis, the team the Red Sox beat in the World Series, and Chicago for Boston's first regular-season games ever against the Cubs.

For some, the attraction is seeing a ballpark for the first time and touring a different city. For many, it's a matter of supply and demand. Tickets to Fenway Park, the smallest stadium in the majors (with 35,095 seats), are hard to get -- and those that are available, on the Web or the street, are very costly.

Every home game has been sold out starting with Pedro Martinez's 12-3 win over Texas on May 15, 2003. The Fenway box office still has tickets available for 11 games this season, but those are either single seats or in seats behind the park's notorious girders that obstruct views of play.

The face value for Fenway tickets range from $12 for the bleachers to $85 for field boxes -- but scalpers hawk them for much more on the streets outside the park.

Of course, you can check ticket agencies' Web sites. One lists more than 700 tickets available for Boston's home game against Toronto on July 1. Prices range from $70 to $575.

Alex Allberry, 20, saw the Red Sox play the Blue Jays for only $40, and she had a good seat in the second deck behind home plate -- in Toronto's Rogers Centre on May 25, just 545 miles from Fenway.

"At Fenway Park, for what we paid for these seats we'd be way out in the outfield," said Allberry. "I've been a Red Sox fan since like 5 years old. I don't mind driving."

Neither did plenty of motorists with Boston accents.

"Depending on the day of the week, we'll get anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of our fans who actually come up from Boston," said Patrick Elster, vice president of tickets sales and service for the Blue Jays. "The most expensive ticket is $62, which is about $50 U.S. As a guy selling tickets, give me the Boston fans. They can cheer as loud as they want."

He learned the high cost of tickets as a customer when his brother, Kevin, was an infielder for the New York Mets in their 1986 World Series victory over Boston.

"I went up to watch all the games at Fenway because it was a lot less expensive to get tickets there than at Shea" Stadium, he said.

These days, fans go from Fenway to Tropicana Field, where ticket prices for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays range from $5 in the outfield to $85 for a field box. The team's three biggest crowds this season were for Red Sox games.

To see the Devil Rays in Boston on July 18, one Web site has tickets ranging from $70 for standing room to $690 for a seat next to the visiting dugout.

No wonder Boston fans head for Florida, where they can take a side trip to Disney World.

"I think we've probably heard more of that happening with Red Sox fans than with any other team," said Rick Vaughn, the Devil Rays' vice president of public relations. "It's kind of been a phenomenon that we've all been sort of aware of, but it's definitely grown this year."

That's probably because of another trip many Red Sox fans made last year -- to St. Louis for the third and fourth games of the World Series that completed Boston's sweep and its first championship in 86 years. One fan went after trying to buy tickets to the first two games in Boston.

"When he heard the price, he said, 'Forget it. I can't do that,' " said Tony Minichello, owner of Saugus Travel north of Boston. "So I said to him, kiddingly, 'Why don't you go to St. Louis?' "

The customer agreed, and attended the games in St. Louis with six others.

"They could fly out to St. Louis -- hotel, air fare, transfers, game tickets for two games -- and pay less than what you could buy tickets for here in Boston," Minichello said, "and we did have quite a few people do that."

Some Red Sox roadies have other reasons.

Many traveled to Chicago's Wrigley Field and St. Louis' Busch Stadium, where the Red Sox faced two of baseball's storied franchises in three-game series.

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