Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Death Of The Ticket Stub

As a nine-year old boy going to my first big league game, I tried to soak in everything around me. The sounds of the game, the smells of the Metrodome, and the feel of the warm hot dog in my hand were all part of my exposure. This was an experience like nothing I had felt before and I wanted to cherish every moment.

When my family got back to the car, the first thing I did was grab everyone's ticket stub. Maybe they reminded me of the boxes of trading cards I had in my room at home. Maybe they were a cheap way for me to remember the events of the day. Either way it was the start of something more.

To this day, I have kept at least one ticket stub from every MLB game I have attended. However, the future is changing and the ticket stub is slowly dying. Ticket stubs are a physical representation of childhood and historical memories. Kirby Puckett's walk-off hit, Target Field's first game, or even the 2014 All-Star Game are all important Twins memories and they are all stubs I proudly display.

As technology has increased, the use of actual printed tickets from professional sports teams has declined. Fans can print out their tickets at home or have them sent to their phone. As the Vikings open US Bank Stadium this fall, all season ticket holders will only have electronic versions of their tickets.

Major League Baseball wants to see the end of the traditional ticket stubs sales. According to Market Watch, in 2012 "the traditional ticket stub accounted for less than a third of single-game seats sold this past season, down from 55% in 2011." This number will only continue to shrink as most fans have apps on their phones like Apple's Wallet or the MLB Ballpark App that make it easy to transfer tickets at the click of a button.

Bob Bowman, President of Business and Media of Major League Baseball, knows it will still take time for there to be a complete shift away from paper tickets. "It's been a tradition of 100 years, and some traditions die harder than others," he said.

In 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers all but did away with paper tickets. They called it a fan enhancement because fans could transfer tickets easily to friends, clients, or sell them on the secondary market. Some fans even started petitions to bring back their paper tickets. When Clayton Kershaw tossed a no-hitter later that year, the Dodgers printed commemorative tickets for their season ticket holders.

I recently interviewed Dave St. Peter, the Twins President, about the shift in the ticket market. He said, "Including 'Print at Home' capability, roughly 35% of our total tickets are in electronic form. Less than 10% of our current tickets are used via a mobile device." When I asked him if he sees a time when all MLB tickets will be electronic, he said, "That's certainly a goal, but it's going to take some time for it to become reality."

St. Peter went on to say, "The Twins will continue to migrate more fans to digital tickets in 2017 and beyond." However, "That being said, current plans call for 'Print at Home' capability to remain an option."

The owner of FAN HQ, a Minnetonka based chain of sports apparel and memorabilia, Shaun Hagglund told me, "It's too bad hard tickets are going the way of printer tickets or even electronic tickets." He continued by saying, "Not only did they serve as a personal memento for a game attended, they were also unique items to have autographed by players who made an impact in a particular game or had a milestone event- first game, 3,000 hit, etc."

Ticket stubs will always be part of baseball's history. They are a collector's item that continues to be harder and harder to find. Actual ticket stubs might be relegated to Cooperstown relics but that takes nothing away from baseball's past and the ticket's tiny slice of history.

I was at Target Field this weekend but my tickets were in electronic form. The nine-year old kid in me looked through the stands after the game to come away with a rare relic to add to my ticket collection.

The ticket stub might be on it's death bed but that doesn't mean fans have to forget about this important part of baseball history.

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