And here's the pitch: Hotel/baseball deals

Even if you are not a fan of the national pastime, it can pay to ask for special baseball rates when booking a hotel room.

Hotels in most Major League Baseball cities offer discounts or cost-savings packages related to their local teams during the regular baseball season, which runs March 30 through September.

Some packages offer savings only if you buy game tickets. Others might even pay off if you don't go to the ballpark. The discounts might require advance payment or have a strict cancellation policy.

Major League Baseball doesn't maintain a list of hotels with baseball-related discounts. And only sometimes can local teams be much help. But rooms can be booked by calling a hotel or visiting its website. Click on "hotel offers" or "hotel specials." Or go to Google.com and search for "hotel package" along with the name of a team.

The savings can be substantial, according to a mid-March survey by USA TODAY of teams, convention and visitors bureaus, and hotels in 28 cities.

In St. Louis, for example, at least five hotels offer baseball discounts.

Say you want to stay at the Sheraton St. Louis City Center Hotel & Suites on April 6, when the hometown Cardinals host the Washington Nationals. The lowest rate on the hotel's website for a room with a king-size bed and a queen-size sofa bed is $189.

But the baseball package rate for the same room at the same hotel is $30 cheaper and includes parking, continental breakfast for two and free transportation to and from the game. Hotel parking ordinarily costs $17, and continental breakfast for two is $20, so the baseball package can save at least $67 for a single night.

Because none of the Sheraton's baseball packages includes tickets to a Cardinals game, the rooms can be booked even when the team isn't in town. On April 7, when the Cards are playing 840 miles away in Houston, for example, the hotel offers the same deal.

Looking for a package that includes a hotel room and two tickets to a game? The Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark has a deal that offers a $20 savings over booking the room and buying the tickets separately. Similarly, in Washington, D.C., the Fairmont hotel offers a room-tickets package that can save $28 for fans. The Hilton St. Louis also gives guests a Cardinals souvenir, and the Fairmont gives two round-trip subway passes, valued at $10, to the Washington Nationals' new stadium. Both hotels have the packages for every regular-season game, depending on availability.

Determining how much you're saving with baseball discounts is not always easy. Room rates, including those for baseball packages, can change daily. And major-league teams have numerous prices for different seating locations and different prices for the same seats, depending on the opponent or the date of the game.

Baseball discounts are usually provided directly by hotels, but there are exceptions. In Texas, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau (arlington.org) offers Texas Rangers packages at 16 hotels. Many, but not all, of those packages offer substantial savings.

For April 30, for example, the visitors bureau offers a room at the Sheraton Arlington and two lower reserved seats for the Rangers game against the Kansas City Royals for $242.67, including taxes. That's a $60.08 savings. Plus, the bureau throws in two tickets for the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum — worth $24 — and discount shopping and dining coupons.

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