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Ticket Prices Still Climbing, Survey Shows

The average price of major league baseball tickets rose 7.1 percent this season to $11.98 - the highest increase in at least six years - and the Boston Red Sox charge the most with a $17.69 average.

St. Louis, which won the N.L. Central last season, had the highest hike this year, 24.7 percent to $12.36, according to a study released Thursday in New York by the Team Marketing Index.

Montreal, which lowered prices by an average of 24.9 percent this year, has the lowest average price, the equivalent of $6.81 in U.S. currency.

Baseball’s average ticket price has risen 38.7 percent since 1991, when it was $8.64. Since then, the average price of an NFL ticket has gone up 41.8 percent, from $25.21 to $35.74. The average price of NBA tickets has risen 46.6 percent since the 1991-92 season, from $23.24 to $34.08. The average price of NHL tickets is $38.34 this season.

The Consumer Price Index rose 3.3 percent in 1996 and has gone up 16.8 percent since 1991.

Phils bag free agent fan

Baseball teams across the country courted Michael Volpe. They gave him hats, bats and autographed balls. He was wined and dined and even serenaded.

They didn’t want him to play for their team; they wanted him to root for their team.

On Thursday, the 45-year-old business consultant who became a “free-agent fan” made up his mind: The Philadelphia Phillies and minor-league Durham Bulls will be his teams.

He said they have the role-model players and fan loyalty he was looking for.

Volpe’s quest began in November when the San Francisco Giants, the team he had supported for 36 years, traded his favorite player, third baseman Matt Williams, to the Cleveland Indians.

Piniella sits some out

Lou Piniella, who underwent his second rectal surgery of the year Monday, won’t be in uniform again until Opening Night.

Piniella said he will accompany the Mariners to Las Vegas, Nev., for exhibition games today and Saturday, and also will go to Lancaster, Calif., for Seattle’s exhibition finale Sunday.

Coach Lee Elia will manage in Piniella’s absence.

Before leaving Arizona, Seattle outrighted right-hander Paul Menhart to Triple-A Tacoma and put utility infielder Dave Silvestri on waivers. Silvestri was picked up by the Texas Rangers.

Padres clout Mariners

Carlos Hernandez and Darryl Brinkley homered as the San Diego Padres beat Seattle 10-4 at Peoria, Ariz., completing Seattle’s part of the Cactus League season.

Edgar Martinez of the Mariners extended his spring hitting streak to 17 games with a second-inning single.

Braves make another deal

Two days after Atlanta’s blockbuster deal for Kenny Lofton, the Braves sent outfielder Jermaine Dye and reliever Jamie Walker to Kansas City for outfielder Michael Tucker and infielder Keith Lockhart.

“It’s our young, upcoming star for their young, upcoming star,” Royals manager Bob Boone said. “Dye’s right-handedness fits better on our club and Tuck’s left-handedness fits better on their club. Hopefully, it’s going to be something that works out well for both teams.”

Cubs may lose Tapani

Kevin Tapani, signed by the Chicago Cubs to be the team’s No. 2 starter, will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.

Tapani, who pitched last season with the Chicago White Sox, has a chronic sprain of a ligament in his right index finger. Surgery is one option after Tapani secures another medical opinion.