How much does it cost to run a baseball league? Whether you are creating a budget for an amateur mens league or a Little League, we can help you plan the expenses for your baseball season.
If you want a baseball league that thrives, you need to invest. Managers and players will complain about the cost no matter what. However, if you provide a baseball experience that is top notch, your league will beat the competition. Provided are the costs you can expect.
Baseball Game Play Expenses
- Baseballs – This cost is variable based on the baseball brand. Rawlings and Diamond are the most popular, and can run from $50 to $75 a box of 12 balls, depending on the type you choose. Imprinting can also cost a bit more if you want your league logo and president signature imprinted. In bulk, our league pays $65 a dozen.
Custom baseballs typically can take 120 days to arrive after you order, as they often ship via boat from China. Plus, since baseballs need to be paid for in advance (not upon delivery), the league often needs to front thousands of dollars a year to cover this cost. This is one reason it is important to carry a positive cashflow year to year – just to pay for balls!
For a 24-game season, plus playoffs, we order 10 boxes of baseballs per team. Then we order about 20% overstock boxes in case teams need extra balls, for All-Star games, etc. Keep in mind, once your baseball stock is exhausted, you won’t be able to get more for another 120 days. Better to have extra balls left over for next season. Cost per team: About $650.
- Field Permits – You need baseball fields to play. Estimate a 3-hr block if you play fast games. However, if you want ample time for pre-game warm-ups and BP, you might feel safer with 4-hr windows. Town and school fields are often free for day games if a certain percentage of your team lives in the city or town where the games are being played. Otherwise, they may charge you $100 to $150 for a 3-hr block.
Privately owned fields typically will charge about the same, and sometimes a tad more. For night games, expect to pay about $75/hr for lights. Thus, a weeknight game could reasonably cost $225.
If a team plays 24-games, their 12 home games would be their responsibility. If you assume half are weekend for free (6), and half are weeknight (6) for $225, estimate $1350 a team for permits. Then, playoff games cost more. Typically, we let teams pay for their own permits so they can negotiate their own rates. But if all the teams share the same city fields, I’d build it into the league cost.
A few more notes. First, many cities and towns require permit requests be in as early as February, so don’t delay. Once a master schedule is done, your league will have a hard time squeezing in.
Second, get more fields than you need. If a team gets 12 slots for 12 games, when you do the schedule, it may not fit perfectly with the fields provided, and having some extra options would be helpful. Plus, you need extra fields as rain dates. Typically, teams are not charged for rained games. Yet, they typically are charged for slots that aren’t used – especially if the lights were used (when a team forgets to cancel with the city).
- Umpires – Men in Blue typically cost about $10 a scheduled inning. Thus, a 9-inning game will cost $90 an ump, even if a mercy rule is called after 5 innings or if the game is rained out in the 2nd inning. Ump costs are typically paid at the field before the game.
Also, it is reasonable for your Umpire Assigner to receive about $10 for each game they assign, payable at the beginning of a season. So if you play 15 home games a year including playoffs, a $150 per team ump assigning fee is reasonable.
- Insurance – For about $150 a team, you have unlimited access to insurance on all the fields you play on. Some cities and towns won’t even issue a permit without an insurance certificate. Sadler & Co. is great for sports insurance, and can handle most of what you need online. You need insurance to reduce liability to the league and managers. Note: Typically insurance does NOT cover broken windows from foul balls. Just sayin’!!
- All-Star Game – If you use a free city field on the weekend, your game may cost you nothing more than a box of baseballs ($65) and two umpires ($90 x 2). However, if you rent a university field, you can expect to pay $75 to $125 an hour. Assuming a 4-hr block (for pre-game and game), you should estimate $500. For a professional field, $5000 for a minor league stadium is not unreasonable. While this may seem expensive, a pro field split across 25 teams might only cost $200 a team, and could be worth the experience.
Baseball Administrative Expenses
- National Affiliation – If your league is part of a larger organization, whether Little League (for kids) or the Men’s Senior Baseball League, aka MSBL (for adults), expect to pay $125 to $200 a team. Your league will benefit from free marketing, which will help for recruiting to make your league stronger. Plus, you may get discounts on equipment (including baseballs), and access to local and national tournaments. Some leagues will toss in free scorebooks.
- League Website – The better your website, the better talent your league will recruit. To purchase and renew a domain name costs only about $10 a year, and an inexpensive web hosting from GoDaddy is less than $100 a year. If you have a webmaster who manages your site, posts the schedule, posts articles, and manages news about tryouts and other events, a stipend of $1000 a year is not unreasonable. Though some players will do this on a volunteer basis.
- Statistics, Standing & Schedule – Once you have a site, purchase a stats tool to manage the stats, standings and schedule. 400hitter is the best on the market. Plus, it carries player and team histories from year to year, even if players switch teams. Cost per team is about $75 for 400hitter.
Tools like eteamz and LeagueLineup are also popular and easy to set up, but don’t necessarily appear as integrated into your website as 400hitter does. GameChanger is also neat to stream live gamecasts. Similarly, it doesn’t integrate into a website beautifully.
- Email – You can send league communications from your gmail for free. However, if you want professional-looking emails where you can track performance, and send to hundreds of players across your league at once, MailChimp is a great solution. If you assume a list size of 2,000 players (which includes all your active players and prospects), it’ll run about $360 a year, or $30/month. We “pause” our account 6 months a year to cut this expense by 50%.
- Legal expenses, Taxes and Accounting – Becoming a non-profit will save you money come tax time, and a standard non-profit filing is one-time fee of $600 for a Form 1023. Estimate about $1000 (give or take) to have your business taxes professionally prepared each year. This is a worthwhile expense.
Most leagues that fail because their finances are not managed properly, and not necessarily because they don’t have teams that want to play. Sometimes a league member who is an accountant will offer to do your taxes for free, and just ask for the filing fee. This cost is typically about $200 depending on what state you are in.
- Year-End Awards Banquet – Renting a sports bar and getting a buffet can be about $25 per attendee. However, since only half of the league shows up, yet everybody pays as part of league fee, it may cost less per person if you bill upfront. If you estimate $5000 for 200 attendees, that is a safe bet. If you buy beer tickets for players, or allow players to invite a guest, estimate more. We find it much easier to include this cost in your fee upfront than to charge people at the end of the season. It’s one less thing to manage, and it reduces the cost per person significantly.
Get substantial awards for your championship teams, MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year. This is more than just a nicety. Consider this retention marketing for your top players and teams. Trophy Central does a great job, and includes engraving. While you can find cheaper, estimate $50 per award.
- Manager Meeting Facility Rental – If somebody’s office or a bar will work, there is no cost. But a professional meeting facility at a hotel like the Marriott meeting rooms will run you about $200 a meeting. Assuming two meetings a year, this will cost you $400.
Baseball Team Expenses
Typically, team expenses are paid for by the teams themselves, and are not part of the league expense. However, it is beneficial to let new managers know what to expect. First-year teams are the most expensive, as they need all new gear. Here is what a new team and manager can expect:
- Uniforms – Anticipate about $150 per play (e.g., $80 for jersey once named and numbered, $25 for baseball cap, $30 for pants, $10 for socks, $5 for belt).
- Groundskeeping Equipment – Managers without a rake and shovel will have several canceled games per year, guaranteed! Keep tools in your car. Bags of kitty litter are great to dry up wet spots in the infield and batter’s box. Estimate $125 a year, as rakes break on heavy wet dirt!
- Bucket of Baseballs – Get two, because balls get ruined, lost, and stolen. And of course, the bucket itself is the best seat in the house on game day! Estimate $250.
- Bases – While many fields have in-ground bases, many don’t. You can get cheap bases for $35 a set, but a good throw-down set will be closer to $100.
- Helmets – Make people buy their own helmets so you don’t need to lug them around!! Of course, if you want to buy them, I’d carry about 8 helmets of different sizes. Helmets cost about $25 each for adult or $15 for youth. Estimate about $200.
- Winter Workouts – We include batting cages as part of our team cost so all players pay equally, even if they chose not to attend. Two cages for an hour can run $90. With 12 sessions from January through March, estimate $1080. Of course, some teams charge players as they go, but I prefer to not collect money every week.
If you believe you will have 16 players, estimate cost as if you had 25% fewer players (i.e., 12 players). Why? Because players will quit, move, get hurt, and just not pay. Managers who do not ask for extra money upfront will almost always pay out of their own pocket if they don’t plan for this.
And of course, if you are skilled enough to get a sponsor, you can offset some (if not all) of the above costs. Just make sure you make it worth the sponsor’s while. For a sponsor, it is an investment. They typically are not sponsoring just to be nice. Give them naming rights, frequent their establishment, and use their products!
Hope this helps. Now get your season rolling. Did we miss any expenses? Add them to the comments below!
Brett Rudy lives in Boston, Massachusetts where he created Baseball Is My Life, and is co-founder of Charity Hop Sports Marketing, helping athletes raise money for their philanthropic initiatives. Brett helped launch Charity Wines with more than 30 professional athletes, selling more than one million bottles of wine. Brett is also the creator of the Corked Bat Collection, 100 Innings of Baseball Spectacular for ALS, the Cooperstown Classic at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Winterball for Toys for Tots. In his spare time, Brett plays outfield for the Winthrop Dodgers in the Boston Men’s Baseball League.