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{Originally published at the Independence Institute July 2003}

I love the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. A day with my family at Sky Sox stadium is a real treat: great seats, beautiful scenery and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s a terrific way to spend a summer afternoon.

So when I heard that the Colorado Rockies might look for another affiliate, I got upset. I understand they don’t like our stadium. Fair enough. But now I hear talk about using public money to build one.

That’s going too far. When it comes to using taxes to build a ballpark, all true baseball fans should just say no. Let me take off my baseball cap for a moment and put on my think tank hat.

Public finances are supposed to finance public goods: things for which equal access is efficient and necessary. This might include law enforcement, national defense, and clean air, but it doesn’t include baseball. Taxing people is essential to build armed forces, but you don’t have to make people pay for a ball game. People can either buy a ticket or stay home. What’s the problem?

All right, so maybe fielding a team isn’t like fielding an army. What about jobs and growth? Maybe baseball subsidies create jobs: some people say so. But look who’s shouting the loudest: team owners who want a subsidy, politicians who want to get re-elected, and people who really like baseball. If you look at the scientific studies, the conclusions are very different. The impact of public subsidies for sports is either too small to measure, or in some cases even negative.

But good works are done with both the head and the heart, so let’s put our Sky Sox caps back on for a moment. Maybe we’re missing something.

Regardless of the policy issues, does taxing people for baseball feel right? Not to this baseball fan.

What makes baseball so terrific is its uniquely American emphasis on the individual. Sure, it’s a team sport, but it’s individuals who matter. Unlike football, you can see every player’s face clearly: that’s how fans connect with players.. And there is no other sport where individual performance is tracked so carefully. When a batter comes to the plate, his numbers are displayed on the scoreboard for thousands to see. When a pitcher takes the mound, the whole world knows his numbers.

Can you imagine having a job with that kind of accountability?

What would work be like if everyone knew how many deals you’d closed last month? How many successful surgeries you’d performed? How many houses you’d built? It boggles the mind.

That’s what I like about baseball: it reminds us that individual performance and accountability matter. Want to make it to the big leagues?

Give it your best shot. Put up the numbers, get some key hits, and make the clutch saves. It’s up to you. What great lessons for my kids to learn on a Saturday afternoon!

All that goes out the window when you mix public money with baseball. Why should investors risk their own capital, when they can soak taxpayers for it? Who cares about individual players and fans, if baseball now belongs to “society”? What kind of freedom-loving conservative could possibly support such blatant corporate welfare, the kind liberals so rightly criticize us for?

Maybe I’m fighting a losing battle. After all, sports stadiums are built with public funds all the time. Clearly America has far more pressing issues to worry about. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that these things matter.

Standing up and saying no to public funding, as my community has done, sends a message. It says my town is not afraid to make hard choices. It says my town will not take little from many and give much to a few. Just like baseball, my town values individual achievement and accountability.

It values them so much that it lets people make their own decisions about supporting the greatest game there is.

Great lessons for a Saturday afternoon. Or any time.