Early Batting Practice Fan Access: What's Actually Common Around MLB?

Many fans (particularly ball-hawks) like to watch batting practice before the game. - USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota fans were outraged to hear the Twins' plans to charge $15 for access to home team batting practice at Target Field--but was their plan really that unusual?

Last Tuesday, the Twins announced plans to begin selling "early batting practice tickets". The idea was that, for an extra $15, fans who already had tickets to the game could enter Target Field 45 minutes before the regular gate time and watch the home team take batting practice.

Apparently, however, a good number of Twins fans took great offense to this idea. Just a few hours later, the Twins cancelled their plans.

The common argument from fans was what you might expect: "The Twins are being cheap!"; "Games are already too expensive!"; "The Twins are ripping-off fans!"; so on and so forth. Personally, my initial reaction was wondering how much interest there would really be in these tickets ("How many ball-hawks are there at Target Field?"). I was caught off-guard when I started to see some of the backlash the Twins were getting on Twitter and in comment sections.

I talked to one fan in particular, who was under the mistaken impression fans could previously see Twins BP at Target Field with just a normal ticket. When I pointed out that this was never the case, the fan protested that it should be the case. Why? "Because you could see home team BP in the Metrodome, and at most other major league ballparks."

I wondered: is this true? Are the Twins really out of step with the majority of MLB? After I did some research, I concluded:

No--in the majority of MLB stadiums, you cannot see home team BP with just a normal ticket.

MLB teams offer various levels of access to fans for home team BP. Based on my research, I found that:

  • 7 teams allow fans with normal tickets to see home team BP regularly (Indians, Mariners, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Cubs, Padres).
  • 4 teams allow only fans with season tickets to see home team BP regularly (Orioles, Mets, Diamondback, Dodgers).
  • 4 teams allow fans with season tickets to see home team BP on special days (Tigers, Rays, Astros, Nationals).
  • 10 teams sell special home team BP events/offers/tickets. (Red Sox, Astros, Angels, Rangers, Braves, Marlins, Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Rockies).
  • 13 teams allow fans with normal tickets to see some of home batting practice on limited days (Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Twins, Athletics, Rangers, Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres).
  • 3 teams provide no regular opportunities for fans to see home team BP (White Sox, Royals, Giants).
  • 1 team has such a bad website I couldn't figure out what they offer (Blue Jays).
(Note: All of my information was gathered from each team's official MLB website. There may be special opportunities and offers I missed [if you know of any, please leave a comment and I will try to update this article.])

When compared to the rest of MLB, the Twins "early batting practice tickets" were, in reality, not that unusual.

Team Summaries

Listed below are each team's batting practice schedule, gate opening times, special early BP offers, and summaries of the resulting amount of access fans have to home team BP.

All information was gathered from each MLB team's official website. Additionally, ALL teams' BP times are subject to change, and can vary between games by quite a bit. Some games--particularly early day games and Sunday games--BP might not even be held at all.

Baltimore Orioles

Batting Practice: 2 hours and 15 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: Fans can enter Gates A and H 2 hours before game time and have access to limited areas. All other gates open 90 minutes before game time.

Specials: Season ticket holders can enter the stadium 30 minutes earlier than others.

Season ticket holders should be able to watch Orioles home BP. Other fans can likely watch part of Orioles batting practice from a limited area.

Boston Red Sox

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday.

Specials: (1.) Fans can pay $14.95 to become special Red Sox Nation Fan Club members that allows them early access to Fenway in order to see Red Sox batting practice. (2.) Red Sox also sell special Center Field BP packages allow groups of up to 20 fans to catch balls on the warning track during BP. Packages are priced from $7,000 to $11,000, and include game tickets, pre-game catering, and a private concessions stand during the game.

The Red Sox website did not include a BP schedule, but apparently Red Sox fans can watch home BP on top of the Green Monster by paying $14.95 for the fan club membership. Other fans may be able to catch the end of Red Sox home BP on the weekends.

And, of course, if you want to fork over the big bucks you can "take part" in BP catching balls on the warning track.

New York Yankees

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time.

The Yankees website doesn't give any time schedule for batting practice, but does note fans who want to watch batting practice can sit in seats other than their own until 45 minutes before the game. Based on other teams' BP schedules Yankee fans might sometimes be able to catch some of Yankee BP.

Tampa Bay Rays

Batting Practice: Rays - 2.5 hours before game time. Away team - 1.5 hours before game time. Each teams BP lasts approximately 1 hour.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday.

Specials: Home Plate Club Season Ticket holders have access to some fort of Batting Practice event, but there are few details as to what this is.

Rays fans can catch part of Rays BP on the weekends.

Toronto Blue Jays

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: ?

The Toronto Blue Jays' website sucks.

Chicago White Sox

Batting Practice: White Sox - Starts between 2 hours and 45 minutes to 2.5 hours before game time. Away team - Starts between 1 hour and 45 minutes to 1.5 hours before game time.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time; 2 hours before game time on Kids Days.

White Sox fans are basically never able to watch the White Sox take BP at US Cellular.

Cleveland Indians

Batting Practice: ?
Gates: For 7:10 p.m. night games Monday through Saturday, Gate C opens at 4:30 p.m. allowing fans access to the Market Pavilion, Heritage Park and the Right Field Lower Reserved seats until 6:00 p.m. All other gates open approximately 1 hour before game time.

Fans have limited access quite early, allowing those who actually go to Progressive Field the chance to see Indians batting practice every day except Sunday (when teams generally don't take BP anyway).

Detroit Tigers

Batting Practice: ?
Gates: 1.5 hours before game time unless otherwise advertised.

Specials: On select days throughout the year Season Ticket Holders have an exclusive early entry allowing them in the ballpark 2 hours prior to game time to watch batting practice from left field behind the bullpens to the statues in left-center field.

Tigers fans with Season Tickets might be able to watch a good part Tigers BP on select days. Otherwise, fans basically can't see Tigers home BP.

Kansas City Royals

Batting Practice: Royals - 2 hours and twenty minutes before game time. Away - 1 hour and 25 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1 hour before game time Monday through Thursday. Gates A & E in the Outfield Experience open 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday.

Royals fans basically never get to see Royals home BP. Kauffman Stadium also has the latest gate opening times in MLB.

Houston Astros

Batting Practice: Astros - 2 hours and 20 minutes before game time. Away team - 1 hour and 20 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time.

Specials: (1.) Fans can watch the Astros take batting practice from behind home plate for $45. (2.) Season Ticket holders can attend special "Social Media Nights" for free that include access to watch Astros home BP.

Astros fans basically never get to see Astros home BP unless they pay extra, whether for special one-time tickets or season tickets.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Batting Practice: Begins 2 hours before game time.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time, except Home Plate Gate opens 2 hours before game time for night games.

Angels fans with home plate seats probably get to see at least part of Angels home BP for night games. Other fans most likely do not see home team BP.

Oakland Athletics

Batting Practice: 2 hours and 5 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday.

Athletics fans can probably catch at least part of A's home BP on the weekends.

Seattle Mariners

Batting Practice: Mariners - 2 hours and 35 minutes before game time. Away Team - 1 hour and 35 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: Two hours prior to game time with the exception of the Center Field Gate and The 'Pen Gate, which open 2.5 hours prior to game time for the first 1,000 fans for access to The 'Pen presented by ROOT SPORTSTM.

Most Mariners fans can most likely watch Mariners home BP from a limited area every game.

Texas Rangers

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: First and Third Base Gates open 2 hours before game time for night games and 1.5 hours before game time for afternoon games. Home Plate and Center Field Gates at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington open 1.5 hours prior to game time for all games.

Specials: On-field batting practice is apparently available, but little information is given on the Rangers website.

Unfortunately, the Rangers website gives little information on the BP schedule, but it does note that "guests are encouraged to come early to watch batting practice". Whether that means Rangers home BP or just the away team BP, I don't know. Based on other stadiums, Rangers fans might be able to see part of home BP for night games.

Atlanta Braves

Batting Practice: Braves - 2.5 hours before game time. Away team - 1.5 hours before game time.
Gates Open: 2.5 hours before game time for main gates; 2 hours for Bowl Seating Gates.

Specials: Batting Practice Experience allows fans to enter the stadium around 3 hours prior to game time and watch Batting Practice from a gated area behind home plate. The package costs $60 Monday through Thursday dates and $75 on Friday and Saturday dates. Does NOT include game ticket, which is required.

The Braves have one of the earliest gate times in MLB, which should allow Braves fans to see home and away team BP every day.

Miami Marlins

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time for regular gates; 2 hours before game time for Premium gates (premium gates serve suites and the most expensive seating areas behind home plate).

Fans with premium seats may be able to watch some of Marlins BP, other fans probably cannot. No word on whether BP takes place clothed or in the nude.

New York Mets

Batting Practice: Mets - 2.5 hours before game time. Away Team - 1 hour and 40 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: Rotunda and Hodges VIP Entrance open 2 hours before the game. All other gates 1.5 hours prior to the game.

Specials: The Rotunda and Hodges gates open 2.5 hours before weekend game times for Season Ticket Holders only.

Mets season ticket holders may be able to see all of Mets home BP. Other ticket holders might be lucky to catch the tail end of home BP.

Philadelphia Phillies

Batting Practice: Phillies - 2 hours 10 minutes before game time. Away team - 1 hour and 10 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; 1.5 hours Monday through Thursday. Ashburn Alley (Left Field Gate) opens every day 2.5 hours prior to game time.

Phillies fans can regularly Phillies home BP in a limited part of the stadium (Ashburn Alley).

Washington Nationals

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: Center Field Gate open 2.5 hours before game time. All other gates open 1.5 hours before game time. Website also notes: "Guests will have access to the Red Porch, Strike Zone, concession stands and select center field sections to watch batting practice."

Specials: High-end season ticket holders receive a "personal invitation to view batting practice from the field."

The Nats website is somewhat ambiguous, but it appears fans have limited access to the stadium allowing them to watch Nats home BP on all days.

Chicago Cubs

Batting Practice: 2 hours before game time. Batting cages removed approximately 45 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time.

Specials: Indoor Batting Tunnel: A viewing area was built under the Budweiser Bleachers in right field to provide bleacher ticket holders the opportunity to watch pregame batting practice.

Seems straight forward.

Cincinnati Reds

Batting Practice: 2 hours before game time. Batting cages removed approximately 45 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time.

Specials: Early batting practice tickets in right-field are sold $15 for children and $17 for adults. A separate game ticket must also be purchased.

Reds fans can purchase a special ticket to watch the Reds take batting practice in much the same manner as the Twins had proposed. Notice that these BP tickets are a couple dollars more than the Twins' offer.

Milwaukee Brewers

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time; 2 hours before game time on Saturdays in June, July, and August.

Specials: Season Ticket holders have a special opportunity to enter the stadium 30 minutes before regular gate time to view Brewers BP on 6 special dates during the 2013 season.

Season ticket holders get to see Brewers home BP on 6 specific days. Everyone else might be able to catch the tail end of home BP in the summer months.

Pittsburg Pirates

Batting Practice: Approximately 2 hours before game time, each team for 40 minutes.
Gates Open: 1.5 hours before game time; the Clemente Gate opens 2 hours before games Monday through Friday; 2.5 hours before games Saturday and Sunday.

Specials: Groups can inquire about watching BP from the field or dugout, but little other information is given on the Pirates website.

Pirates fans should be able to watch Pirates home BP via the Clement Gate on Saturdays (teams don't usually take BP on Sundays), and part of home BP on weekdays.

St. Louis Cardinals

Batting Practice: Cardinals - 2 hours and 40 minutes before game time until 1 hour and 25 minutes before game time. Away Team - 1 hour and 25 minutes before game time until 40 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time.

Cardinals fans might be able to catch the end of Cardinals home BP.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Batting Practice: Diamondbacks - 2 hours and 40 minutes before game time until 1 hour and 40 minutes before game time. Away Team - 1 hour and 40 minutes before game time until 1 hour and 5 minutes before game time.
Gate Times: 2 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday.

Specials: Season ticket holders can enter the stadium 30 minutes before gates open to watch home BP.

Season ticket holders always have access to D-Back home BP. Other fans might be able to catch the last part of D-Back home BP on the weekends. Home BP ends at gate time during the week.

Colorado Rockies

Batting Practice: 2 hours before game time.
Gates Open: Gates A (Rockpile entrance) and E open 2 hours prior to game time, but guests are limited to the Left Field Pavilion area. All other gates open 1.5 hours before gate time.

Specials: groups of 500 or more can qualify for an opportunity to watch batting practice on the field for the group leader and a guest.

Rockies fans can watch at least part of Rockies home BP from a restricted part of the stadium. And apparently on-field BP watching is an incentive for huge groups to buy tickets.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: Third base side Field & Loge Level and Left Pavilion gates open 2 hours prior to the start of the game. All other gates open 1 1/2 hours prior to the first pitch.

Specials: Season ticket holders with their MVP cards are allowed to enter the stadium via the left field turnstiles 3 hours prior to game time to watch batting practice.

Dodgers fans with season tickets should be able to catch Dodgers home BP whenever it is held. It's not clear whether other fans can see any part of Dodgers home BP.

San Diego Padres

Batting Practice: Padres - 2 hours and 25 minutes before game time until 1 hour and 25 minutes before game time. Away Team - 1 hour and 25 minutes before game time until 45 minutes before game time.
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time on Friday through Sunday; 1.5 hours before game time Monday through Thursday. The Park at the Park opens 2.5 hours prior to the first pitch and allow guest access to the Park at the Park and the Padres Power Alley.

Specials: Season Ticket Holders have special pre-game access to batting practice in the ballpark through the Park Boulevard Gate.

It appears Padres home BP is a perk for season ticket holders, although other fans may be able to catch the end of home BP on the weekends.

San Francisco Giants

Batting Practice: ?
Gates Open: 2 hours before game time.

Fans might be able to see part of Giants home BP? I dunno. Their ticket sales are at an all-time high (understandably), so it's not like they need the extra incentive to attend.

______________

So did Twins fans overreact, or in the face of poor performance and (extremely) high concessions costs are their complaints still fair? Share your comments.

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