What Baseball Taught Me About Tipping

by AJ Pettersen · 15 comments

As a baseball player, I have to deal with many different people. They all serve a different purpose in the grand scheme of the sport. Tips are part of the game, and we pay those who help us out.

Just like in the rest of the world, deciding how to tip someone is important, and good service is rewarded. These lessons can be applied to your life, as well.

Tipping in the World of Baseball

In baseball, clubhouse managers are important. They’re in the service business: they cook, clean and do just about anything necessary to make the players feel comfortable. We pay them a daily fee, plus a tip based on how well we feel we were treated.

Their most important job is providing us with a good “spread.” This is the food we get pre- and post-game. Good clubbies will provide lunch meat for sandwiches, an array of fruits and vegetables, snacks, and occasionally, something hot. If they do well, they’re tipped generously; if they do poorly, they may not be tipped at all.

Clubbies can also earn tips from favors; this includes cleaning dirty cleats, hanging up clothes in lockers, or providing something we forgot.

My rule of thumb is to tip clubbies around 20 to 30 percent. I go up from there based on how I felt they did. Our home clubbie is always the same, so being generous to him is important. We’re always interacting with him, and he treats us well.

On the road, however, anything goes. It’s less important to be generous, because while tips are for a job well done, they’re also for a future job well done. And, we may only see a road clubbie once.

Tipping in Your World

In everyday life, you encounter people that you tip. This could be at a restaurant, in a taxi, or when getting delivery pizza.

The amount you tip will most likely depend on the same factors that I use when tipping clubbies — current service and possible future service. I tend to reward good service, because I enjoy encountering people who excel at their jobs. Rewarding that is important to me.

If you use the same service often, you may encounter the same person more than once. This is when tipping is very important. If you want quality service the next time, it’s a good idea to be especially generous. Everyone responds to incentives.

My wife recently visited a self-serve sushi restaurant. If a customer wants a server to come, they press a button located on their table. This meant that my wife only had the server visit the table once to deliver drinks, and once to give the check. This presented a predicament for tippers.

How Much Should You Tip?

Tipping situations present an interesting decision for consumers. How much to tip clubhouse managers is a decision I have to make frequently. Like me, you should base your decision on the quality of the service and likelihood of future interactions.

How do you decide what to tip?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • chuck says:

    Well, I guess it’s good to know that for $15-$20 a day you get your work clothes washed and some decent food in you. There used to be horror stories from my buddies (I am 37, so it’s been 19 years since they were 18 riding the bus in rookie ball for the first time)….lots of PBJ for those guys. And in some organizations, it was up to the manager at that level to get stuff done.

    Lots of times I’ve read that AA is the closest level to elite D1 ball. Obviously the wood bat makes a ton of difference. Do you find that comparison to be accurate, since it said on your Baseball-Ref page that you were a Gopher?

    I went to VT, and walked on in hoops, and was going to try to do so in baseball… I was a very instinctive CF with a very good arm, my bat was weak…but once I realized the games started so early (practice in Feb) I was wondering how in the world we’d get enough work in to compete with southern schools, and it conflicted with basketball coming to its season end…. so it was a no go. Do you think that playing at such a cold weather school put you at a disadvantage developmentally? When you see the 1st round of the draft, it’s always HS kids from GA, FL, TX, CA…..and warm weather college kids.

    Minnesota is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the fall…. I was in Minneapolis and I just wished it would stay that way year round. I had some buddies in grad school up there.

  • chuck says:

    So, it’s $11 a day in AA. Do you have to literally show up with $15 a day in your pocket to pay this or do they do a payroll deduction for the home games?

    I am in the restaurant business….chef….and i treat my dishwashers like gold, because they are the backbone. Waiters come and go, and i don’t say i treat them like crap, but i don’t even bother to remember their names til they’ve been with us like 60 days.

    Big transition from High A….where you finished strong. What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make at the plate now that you’re in AA? You don’t look like you get the ball up in the air with backspin much from your slugging %, OPS #s….which as a former ballplayer, i must confess i could never do with the wood bat, just not enough of a sweet spot….what are you working on right now to get past this hurdle?

    Also, they’ve moved you around in the field some. Is this due to your comfort levels? Or are you just being malleable for the org’s purposes?

    • AJ Pettersen says:

      We pay at the end of home stands and road trips. So we have a total amount of dues and we tip from there. The per diem is typically used to pay because cash is easiest.

      It’s funny how those that are more important to us get treated better. We all respond to incentives.

      It is definitely a big adjustment. Learning how to control the strike zone is important. Pitchers feast on guys who chase stuff out of the zone here.

      My game is keeping the ball out of the air. Occasionally I’ll get one to the gap or leg out a double, but I mostly try to hit groundballs and low liners. I work hard to stay on top of the ball.

      My best chance to get to the big leagues is as a utility infielder, so I move around to better my opportunities.

  • chuck says:

    My fault! I did gloss over that somehow. Not sloppy…consider it rescinded.

    OK….so the daily fee is for road clubhouses only? And the tip at the end of the year for the home guys is more of like a salary bonus?

    Can i ask how much they charge on the road? And does the club take care of it and you just tip? Seems like that’d be classified as per diem if you’re on the road.

    • AJ Pettersen says:

      The daily fee is at home and on the road. In the league I am in currently it’s $11 a day. That includes everything. Clubbies make things much easier for us. It’s obviously more important to tip well at home because he is the guy we deal with most frequently.

      We get per diem on the road and use some of it to pay clubbies.

    • Mike says:


      How about an apology? Saying, “My fault,” and rescinding the comment doesn’t cut it.

      You insulted his writing when the only sloppiness was on your part.

  • chuck says:

    20-30% of what? Is there a bill in the clubhouse? I wouldn’t think so. That makes no sense. Sloppy writing.

    • AJ Pettersen says:

      See this paragraph:

      “In baseball, clubhouse managers are important. They’re in the service business: they cook, clean and do just about anything necessary to make the players feel comfortable. We pay them a DAILY FEE, plus a tip based on how well we feel we were treated.”

      I capitalized the part you seemed to miss.

  • zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com says:

    I usually tip $5.00 if the bill is anywhere between $15.00 and $30.00. Once the bill goes over $30.00, I will usually make the tip about $7.00. I have once left a tip for $10.00 for a $40.00 meal but ended up thinking about it for days. It is official, I am very cheap.

  • Debt Blag says:

    I’ve decided I don’t really like the tipping system. It’s bad for workers who don’t know what they’re going to get paid, bad for customers who are never sure, and bad for owners who don’t know how much they should pay their employees.

    • chuck says:

      Workers know they should expect about 18% of total checks.

      Customers know they should tip about 20%. 10% if service is poor…or food is no good. Yes, waiters pay the price for poor kitchen.

      And owners pay their employees $2.13 per hour or whatever the law dictates, unless the server doesn’t make minimum wage hourly on tips, in which case they get at least the minimum wage.

      You may not like the tipping system, but don’t pretend its because the system is complicated!

  • mark from personalfinancely.com says:

    I always leave 25%

    I live in a small town so the rules are different I think.

    There is a good chance I will see my server again at a school function, or a town function, or sometime.

    I used to think if I’m worried about the tip then I probably shouldn’t be eating out in the first place 😉

  • Christine says:

    I, too, make a decision for each interaction based on a number of factors. If it’s someplace I frequent and have a usual server, etc then I’m definitely likely to tip a bit more. Some for the good service provided and a little extra for continued great service. However, if I’m in a self serve restaurant, I’m probably going to tip very little, if at all. If I place is COMPLETELY self serve, I don’t tip. If there is some server interaction I will tip accordingly.

    • chuck says:

      If they bring you waters, clear your plates, you need to leave about $.50 per trip they make…if they’re prompt….usually this is about $3.00 figure 2 people, 2 refills, 2 dirty plates from the buffet….then they bring the check.

      In Europe they look at Americans like we’re twisted if we try to add gratuity, waiters over there make nice livings.

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