KISSIMMEE, Fla. —
Big league exhibitions began on Feb. 22 and averaged 5,789 fans through March 12. They started on March 2 last year and averaged 6,703 by that same date, with several teams on their way to setting attendance records.
Major League Baseball drew 30,895 per game during the regular season last year, its best mark since 2008.
Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin noticed the empty seats in Phoenix.
"It seems like it's down some," he said last weekend. "The schedule seems more spread out this year. A lot of people come to games with certain dates in mind."
Better be ready to spend money, too.
It costs more than $25 for a good seat at most spring parks. Several teams vary their prices depending on the opponent or the day — a ticket behind the third base dugout to see the World Series champion Giants host Colorado this Sunday sold for $68.75 on San Francisco's online site.
The Cardinals are among the most popular teams every spring. Like other clubs, they expect bigger crowds throughout March.
"I think in general we were kind of chalking it up to, it's kind of cool, we started so early. You are not going to get a whole lot of people showing up in February," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., with the Miami Marlins. Mike Bauer, who runs the ballpark, said the attendance pattern is predictable.
"Anytime we start in February, we start off a little slower than usual," said Bauer, the stadium's general manager.
"If you compare this year to last year, it's going to be a decrease because they had the World Series championship on the Cardinals side and a new facility on the Marlins side. But it's been right about where we expected," he said.