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“It seems like it’s down some,” he said last weekend. “The schedule seems more spread out this year. A lot of people come to games with certain dates in mind.”

Better be ready to spend money, too.

It costs more than $25 for a good seat at most spring parks. Several teams vary their prices depending on the opponent or the day _ a ticket behind the third base dugout to see the World Series champion Giants host Colorado this Sunday sold for $68.75 on San Francisco’s online site.

The Cardinals are among the most popular teams every spring. Like other clubs, they expect bigger crowds throughout March.

“I think in general we were kind of chalking it up to, it’s kind of cool, we started so early. You are not going to get a whole lot of people showing up in February,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

The Cardinals share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., with the Miami Marlins. Mike Bauer, who runs the ballpark, said the attendance pattern is predictable.

“Anytime we start in February, we start off a little slower than usual,” said Bauer, the stadium’s general manager.

“If you compare this year to last year, it’s going to be a decrease because they had the World Series championship on the Cardinals side and a new facility on the Marlins side. But it’s been right about where we expected,” he said.

The Braves aren’t too concerned, either.

“We got a bump with the Daytona 500 falling the weekend we opened. Then attendance fell off, as you would expect with the first games so early,” Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. “Crowds always pick up with the start of spring break in March, especially here at Disney.”

Among those at the Braves’ park on Tuesday were Bill Heuvelman and son Patrick, who drove from St. Louis to see their team. For a week at spring training, they didn’t mind the prices, even with Cardinals stars Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina away at the WBC.

“This is something we do. It’s worth it,” Bill said.

A sign outside the box office that listed lower level reserved seats for $54 _ tickets cost $5 more on game days _ caught the attention of four college-age friends from Auburn, Ala.

“I noticed it right away. Seemed pretty steep to me,” Nick Goudreau told buddy Chase Hoyle.

But Brett Frizzell said he’d already warned pal Brooks Cowing.

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