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Teams looking closer at secondary ticket market

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Teams looking closer at secondary ticket market

CHICAGO (AP) Chipper Jones was down to the final few games of his distinguished career when the Atlanta Braves opened a series at Pittsburgh last month. The Pirates, who play in one of the majors' most picturesque ballparks, were closing out their best season in 15 years.

And a few hours before Michael Bourn stepped into the batter's box for Jeff Locke's first pitch, there were 23 tickets listed on StubHub.com for 15 cents or less.

There were lots more bargains on that Oct. 1 slate of games. Two seats at Wrigley Field were available for six quarters, but you had to watch the Chicago Cubs take on the lowly Houston Astros. Miami's new ballpark had 881 tickets listed on StubHub for less than $5 apiece.

``For baseball games, it has been great because I spend a lot less money than I would if I was buying the tickets from Cubs.com,'' said Josh Shpayher, an attorney from Skokie who recalled paying more in taxes and fees than he spent on four tickets in one purchase on the website.

Such bargains have been a joy to fans but are drawing increased attention from sports teams concerned about the effect of the cheap tickets on their ability to sell their remaining inventory. It could mean subtle changes that impact how fans get into their favorite stadiums, ballparks and arenas across the country.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media and StubHub are in negotiations over the website's role as the official secondary ticket market for MLB after their first deal expired following this season. The NBA partnered with Ticketmaster to create a website which went live last month and is both a primary and secondary ticket outlet.

``The secondary market isn't going away,'' Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter said. ``It's always going to be a significant part of the ticket procurement process and an option for fans. As we focus on the primary market, we also have to look for ways to make sure the secondary market will not be a hindrance to the primary market.''

Baseball's agreement with StubHub essentially means the website provides a secondary online platform for any team that wants one. Both sides seem to want to continue the partnership, but have yet to announce a new deal.

Matthew Gould, a spokesman for MLBAM, said talks are ongoing and detailed some of the positives of the partnership to date.

``We have seen benefits,'' he said. ``While some of those are economic, the most important benefits have come from the amount of data that we have been able to have both on the buying and selling side, which will be very important as we formulate our future plans for the secondary ticket market.''

StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman said Wednesday the San Francisco-based company has enjoyed a ``great relationship'' with Major League Baseball and is ``cautiously optimistic about continuing that relationship moving forward.''

One of StubHub's central tenets is a free market, with no ceilings and floors, and baseball could be pushing for more control over ticket prices, possibly complicating the discussions between the sides.

``It's been talked about, some type of a floor,'' St. Peter said. ``Whether that will be a reality, I don't know. Some of the timings of offerings as well, maybe establish a window by which offerings for game tickets at certain levels are taken down. A lot of this is a promotional issue.''

``We don't have a relationship with Ticketmaster because Major League Baseball's preferred ticketing method is through tickets.com, which it owns. So we wouldn't likely do a deal with Ticketmaster. We'd be more likely do a deal with StubHub.''

StubHub struck one of its first major sports deals with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and has separate partnership agreements with about half of the 30 major league teams, covering everything from signage to promotions. It signed a five-year deal to become the ``Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace'' for MLB.com in 2007.

John Davis, the vice president for ticket sales for the Cincinnati Reds, said the relationship with StubHub ``provides valuable insight and data into the secondary market that we wouldn't have otherwise.''

``Teams are provided a clear picture as to nuances of the secondary buyer by pricing categories, proximity to the ballpark, and timing in regards to time of purchase and the actual game,'' Davis said. ``All these factors are extremely helpful in understanding our fan base, how best to message to them, and how to properly price our tickets.''

Any new deal between the sides could have a much different feel without one of baseball's most popular franchises.

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the New York Yankees are planning to opt out if baseball signs another deal with StubHub. The person said the Yankees would announce their own arrangement at some point soon.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing contract negotiations.

The Yankees groused about StubHub when they had some empty seats for some of their home games in the playoffs. The actual effect of their absence from any new arrangement is uncertain, since fans still would be able to buy and sell Yankees tickets on the site - the consumer may not notice much of a difference.

StubHub.com declined to release team-specific ticket sales, but acknowledged the big-market clubs generate the most business.

The NBA announced its partnership with Ticketmaster in August, and they opened their new website before the season started. Billed as the official ticket marketplace for the league, NBATickets.com provides access to tickets sold by the team and by other fans. The league says teams can set minimum ticket prices on the site.

``I think that you're going to see it move more toward where the NBA is,'' said Bill Sutton, who is the director of the sport and entertainment management program at the University of South Florida and spent four years as the NBA's vice president for team marketing and business operations, ``where it's going to be instead of rivals you've got to be partners, because neither seller is going away, so you've got to figure out a way to partner.''

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AP Baseball Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati and AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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Jay Cohen can be reached athttp://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.

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Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."

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Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.

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