The Astros are gouging their fans

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From the Department of Things I Did Not Know:

As
Major League Baseball does all it can to get recession-strapped fans
through the turnstiles, a day at 29 of 30 MLB ballparks includes the
option of bringing your own sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, soft
drinks or, in some cases, all of the above. That leaves the Astros, and
their stance on the matter is stated in their A-to-Z fan guide for
Minute Maid Park.

“Visitors may not bring food or beverage items into the ballpark,” it says.

I
was shocked to read that the Astros are the only club that does not
allow outside food. I was even more shocked at how pathetic the Astros’
justifications for this policy truly are. Owner Drayton McClane says
that banning outside food at Astros games “has been kind of a tradition
in Houston.” Yeah, it would take someone with some real power to change
such a beloved and time-honored tradition like that. Someone like, oh,
I don’t know, THE TEAM’S OWNER.

But maybe McLane is just a big
picture guy who was caught off guard by the question. Maybe there
exists some real business justifications for such an out-of-step and
fan un-friendly policy. Let’s hear from the Astros’ President of
Business Operations, Pam Gardner:

As for the Astros, Pam
Gardner, the team’s president for business operations, said the team
has opted to provide less expensive tickets rather than following suit
with other teams regarding food and beverage rules. “Our financial
model, dating back to the Astrodome, was dependent on a number of
revenue areas, including food and beverage,” Gardner said in an e-mail.
“We elected to make our appeal to fans in the form of a $7 and $1
ticket every day. I don’t think you will find many teams offering a $1
ticket.”

And she’s right about that. What she leaves out, however, is that according to the most recent Team Marketing Report,
the Astros actually have the tenth highest average ticket price among
all Major League teams at $28.73 a pop (the average, pulled up by the
Yankees, is $26.64). That represents a nearly 4% increase over last
year, despite the bad economy and the lackluster roster. It’s also
worth noting that the Astros sport above average prices for soft
drinks, hot dogs, parking and programs. So sure, cherry pick those few
cheap seats you’re offering, but you’re still charging people more on
average for their tickets and higher prices for the hot dogs and Mr.
Pibb you’re peddling.

What else ya got, Ms. Gardner?

Gardner
also noted that the Astros’ relationship with Aramark, which operates
concessions and/or premium food services at 13 MLB parks, including
Minute Maid, “is predicated on their exclusivity on food and beverage.”

Actually, the article is wrong about that. Aramark operates in fifteen Major League stadiums.
And they have no problem working in fourteen that allow outside food.
Sure, I’ll grant that the seemingly powerless Mr. McClane might cave to
Aramark on this point faster than the savvy Peter Angelos in Baltimore
or John Henry in Boston, but he does have the tough and decptive Ms.
Gardner working for him, so I have to assume that if they really wanted
to push back on the terms of the Aramark deal they could.

A weak
showing all-around, Houston. Quit being cheap and let your fans bring
in a bottle of water or a peanut butter sandwich for crying out loud.

Amanda Hopkins is the first full-time female baseball scout in over 50 years

Associated Press
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SEATTLE (AP) Nearly two years ago, Amanda Hopkins’ phone rang. It was a call she dreamt of receiving, one that broke barriers and made her a part of baseball history.

Almost immediately, her competitiveness took over.

“She put a sign up on her bedroom door saying, `Stay out, we’re opponents,”‘ recalled her father, Ron Hopkins, a special assistant to the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “In other words, my bedroom is off limits to you, there is info in here. I got a kick out of it.”

The 24-year-old Hopkins is now about to complete her second year as an area scout for the Seattle Mariners. Her responsibility is the Four Corners area of the Southwest, taking her to destinations like Greeley, Colorado, and Hobbs, New Mexico, two of the more challenging places to get to from her base in the Phoenix area.

She is also the first full-time female baseball scout in more than 50 years, breaking through a barrier that required diligence on her end and willingness by the Mariners organization.

Yet, Hopkins does not view herself through that prism or want to be viewed as a trailblazer. She’s a scout . That’s it.

“I think if anything people are more shocked sometimes when I will go meet with a player in the office or something like that. Maybe they just know, hey the Mariners’ scout is coming in to meet with you today and they walk in and they’re like, `Oh.’ That kind of thing,” Hopkins said. “It’s usually more of like a shocked look. But then they’re more curious, they’re like, `How’d you get into this?’ And they kind of like want a brief rundown of how I got to where I am. All the players, all the coaches, are incredibly respectful to me.”

While she is believed to be the first woman to work as a full-time baseball scout since Edith Houghton in the middle of the 20th century, Hopkins has been around baseball since she was a child.

She traveled with her father to games, regularly making trips to the Alaskan Summer League or the Cape Cod League in summers. She would run the radar gun and pass along the speeds to her dad when she was as young as 8. It was obvious early on she possessed the same critical eye as her dad.

“She learned at an early age the difference between a curveball and a slider. As she got older it just sort of grew on her,” Ron said.

“I’d go out with my dad and they’d be like `Oh what do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I’d tell them, `I want to be a baseball scout,”‘ Amanda said. “It’s like this little girl telling them that and it’s like, `Oh that’s cute. She wants to be like her dad.’ But really, I think it was kind of like she’ll grow out of it. That’s kind of what everyone thought.”

Instead, her passion for the job only grew. She majored in psychology while playing softball at Central Washington University, yet that failed to satisfy her desire to be around baseball.

“The whole time I was in there I wanted to be a baseball scout,” Hopkins said. “And I remember probably my freshman year, sophomore year, I was like I really don’t want to do anything but that. So why am I trying to almost talk myself out of it and find a different path?”

Hopkins served as an intern in Seattle’s baseball operations department in the summer of 2014, but worked mostly with amateur scouting. A year later, she was sponsored by the Mariners to attend scout school and about a month after returning she got the offer.

“I was a little nervous myself because I knew she was going to be breaking a little bit of a barrier and she was pretty young,” said Tom McNamara, who hired Hopkins and is currently a special assistant to the general manager with the Mariners. “I went into Jerry (Dipoto’s) office and I had a lump in my throat and I said, `This is what I want to do.’ And he was all for it. He didn’t even hesitate.”

When she was hired in December 2015, Hopkins was reluctant to talk about her place in baseball history. She wanted more experience as a professional before talking about a career that was just getting started.

“She was down in Arizona in the beginning and I would check on her and finally she said, `Tom, I’m OK. You don’t need to check on me every other day,”‘ McNamara recalled.

Hopkins was part of a panel earlier this week about women in baseball organized by the Mariners. She is starting to get comfortable with the history she has made. But she doesn’t want that to be her entire story in baseball.

“I have so much to learn still. This is such a profession that takes so many years to fully understand and you’re continually learning,” Hopkins said. “My dad, 40 years into scouting, is still learning something every time he goes to the park. So I definitely think that I just want to be the best area scout I can be right now. But I love the scouting aspect of it. I really think that I want to stay in the scouting side of the game.”

Derek Jeter is a Dad

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I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about this — actually, someone in the comments the other day was wondering about it — but the wondering is over: Derek Jeter and his wife Hannah are now the proud parents of a baby girl. Her name is Bella Raine Jeter. She was born yesterday. The delivery, sources within the New York press corps tell me, was “classy.”

You’ll be shocked to learn that the news broke via the Twitter feed of The Players Tribune, which Jeter owns. I eagerly await a ghostwritten column from the baby in the next couple of days. Something like “Being Born Was an Amazing Experience, by Bella Jeter.” Or maybe one of those “Letter to My Younger Selves” feature they do sometimes.

Anyway, congratulations, Captain. Now get to the business of proving your sister wrong.