Start spreading the news. He’s leaving this fall.
Derek Jeter’s final season—like most farewell tours for aging, beloved entertainers—will be supremely lucrative. As the Hall of Fame-bound shortstop sets out on his final season in baseball, fans and aficionados are already scrambling for tickets and jerseys.
He is scheduled to play his last regular season game in Yankee stadium on Sept. 25 against the Baltimore Orioles. Tickets to that game were going for $26 early Wednesday, according to SeatGeek. By this morning, after news of his retirement plans, the cheapest seat now commands $308 on Stubhub.com. If all goes according to plan, Jeter will close out his regular-season career on Sept. 28 at Boston’s Fenway Park, and seats to that game are already fetching $325 and up.
“When the announcement came out, people were buying tickets so quickly, the broker systems couldn’t even keep up,” says Will Flaherty, a spokesman for SeatGeek, a search engine for sports and concert tickets. The Yankees, meanwhile, have not started directly selling individual game tickets yet.
If history is any guide, prices will spike in every American League ballpark late in the season as fans turn out to bid Jeter farewell. Detroit will scoop up some last-game bounty on Aug. 28, Toronto four days later, and Baltimore on Sept. 14, while fans will flock to Tampa on Sept. 17.
Sports writers are already stretching for superlatives to describe the hype that will grow around Jeter’s final games. The folks at Grantland likened the season-long sendoff to a Viking funeral. “It’s only day one in the year of Jetes, and we’re already remembering him like Baseball Gandhi,” they wrote this morning.
In recent years, a lot of baseball pundits have claimed that the Yankees’ collective age has kept them from going deep into the playoffs. While that may be true, a parade of legends bowing into retirement has no doubt bolstered autumn revenue. In 2012 it was catcher Jorge Posada, one of the “Core Four” Yankees who helped the franchise win five championships between 1996 and 2009. Last year Mariano Rivera put up even better farewell stats; his jersey was the top seller in the second half of the season, and he sold out Yankee stadium for days long after the club fell out of playoff contention.
Just a few months ago, there were whispers of Jeter ending his career without pinstripes. He had hobbled through only 17 games in a season of leg injuries, and all the Yankees owed him was a $9.5 million option, which could have been picked up by another team. The club, however, signed him to a one-year, $12 million contract. It doesn’t take many ticket sales or #2 jersey sales to cover that $2.5 million—an extra 25,000 tickets sold for $100 each, which isn’t a stretch in a ballpark that seats 50,300.
The Yankees have never been shy about paying up for talent, but Jeter’s final year is looking like a particularly wise investment.