Tigers fans making mad dash for outfield seats in anticipation of Miguel Cabrera's 500th homer
Detroit — Miguel Cabrera has Tigers fans reaching for their closest credit card.
In the hours since arguably Detroit's greatest slugger ever belted career home run No. 499 in Baltimore on Wednesday night, and after manager AJ Hinch announced Thursday that Cabrera wouldn't play in the series finale, setting him up to possibly hit No. 500 this weekend or next week at home at Comerica Park, ticket prices, particularly for outfield seats, have surged amid demand the rebuilding Tigers haven't seen in years.
Tickets for seats in the outfield — where fans can be in position to possibly catch the 500th ball, which could prove quite lucrative, or at least very valuable barter to get some swag from Cabrera in a trade — for Friday, Saturday and Sunday games against the Cleveland Indians were running between $45 and $55 as of Thursday afternoon. Normal prices are in the $27 range.
The Tigers, like many sports teams, use dynamic pricing when setting ticket prices, meaning they rise when the demand is strong, and fall when demand is low — as it typically has been in 2021 and the last several years, excluding the fan-less 2020 season.
Tickets in the right-field outfield sections — so many of Cabrera's homers are hit the opposite way — seem to be most coveted among fans. As of early Thursday afternoon, for the four sections closest to the foul pole, there were no tickets available in the first 20 rows, only four singles available in the first 23 rows, only two singles available in the first 17 rows and only 10 singles available in the first 18 rows, respectively.
The story was similar in right field, where in the five sections that figure to be Cabrera's tickets, there were four singles through eight rows, four through 13, four through nine, three through 10 and six through 10.
Besides Cabrera's spray chart, right-field seats offer better odds of a fan getting a ball, because the left-field seats are located behind the home and visiting bullpens. It takes a much bigger blast to find the seats there.
Tigers fan Wayne Davis of Davison bought two tickets for Friday's game on Wednesday night, shortly before Cabrera's 499th homer. He paid $27, plus fees, for the two seats in Section 104, in right field. On Thursday morning, he went to check on tickets for Saturday's game, and they had shot up to $55.
Meanwhile, tickets for typically prime areas, like box seats from the first-base dugout to the third-base dugout, are readily available, and in some cases, not much more expensive than the outfield seats.
Case in point: Chris Davis of Howell. He just wanted to see Cabrera's historic moment, even if he doesn't catch the baseball. So he bought tickets for Friday in the Tiger Den, Section 128A, behind home plate, on StubHub for about $80 apiece.
"I bought tickets for (Friday) night's game as soon as I saw the ball go over the fence (Wednesday)," Davis said. "Just was hoping he sat (Thursday)."
Cabrera's home-run chasing is moving the Comerica Park box-office needle much more than, say, the annual Fiesta Tigres celebration this Saturday, or really event in recent history — outside of the always-sold-out-in-non-pandemic-times Opening Day —for the Tigers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2014 and haven't even won 70 games since 2016.
Besides witnessing history — Cabrera will become just the 28th member of baseball's 500-homer club, and the first to join since Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz in 2015 — actually catching a milestone ball like that can pay impressive dividends for a lucky fan. The fan who catches the ball immediately becomes its legal owner, and can decide what to do with it. Some fans keep it. Some fans give it back to the player. The fan who caught Alex Rodriguez's 500th in 2007 sold it for $103,579. The fan who caught Albert Pujols' in 2014 gave it back to him, in exchange for a meet-and-greet and some memorabilia. In exchange for a memorable baseball, players often trade autographed bats, balls or jerseys, or sometimes all three, depending on the negotiating chops of the fan who caught the ball.
The tug-of-war between keeping a ball and giving it back came into focus in 2019, when Detroiter Ely Hydes caught a Pujols homer that also marked his 2,000th career RBI. Hydes was sitting in the left-field seats at Comerica Park, and was immediately swarmed by Comerica Park security, who asked for the ball back. Hydes felt unfairly pressured, and so he kept it, turned down offers from others and eventually donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in memory of his late son, Cyrus Arlo Maloney.
The Tigers, who started the season with attendance capped at 8,000 because of the pandemic, saw their biggest crowd of the year Saturday, July 17, when 31,624 showed up for what the team was billing as the summer's biggest party — marketing's way of making up for the 8,000-fan Opening Day.
After the Indians series, the Tigers have an off day Monday, then host the Los Angeles Angels for three games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Cabrera will become the first player ever to hit a 500th homer in a Tigers uniform. Eddie Matthews did it before he was a Tiger, and Gary Sheffield after. Cabrera also will become, this year or next, the third player to collect his 3,000th hit as a Tiger, joining Ty Cobb (1921) and Al Kaline (1974), the latter who got his in his hometown of Baltimore. Hinch said Wednesday night he would play Cabrera on Thursday as the Tigers go for the sweep, but, on his own, changed his mind overnight and sat Cabrera on Thursday.
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