Thursday, July 09, 2009

Always Good Seats Available Here!

For me, going to a live Major League baseball game is the ultimate in entertainment. It can be, in turns, fun, funny, scary, stressful, depressing, tragic. Perhaps I appreciate it all the more because I don't have a major league team here in town. Yes, we have the Dodgers' AA team, and it's entertaining to go see them play occasionally, but it's not the Majors. And it's not the Red Sox!

If I had a team in town, I feel certain I would go frequently. I think that's part of the reason I don't move to Boston, because I suspect that my entire life would revolve around getting to a game.

So I get a little ticked when I watch the morning baseball highlights (thank you MLB Network!), and see a half-full stadium. I forgive the local fans somewhat if it's a middle of the week day game. And I am sometimes forgiving if the team is scuffling (I'm looking at you, Washington Nationals!). But when a game is between two contenders in the powerful American League East, I'm scornful.

Such was the case last night in Tampa. The Rays were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. In case you've forgotten(!), the Rays are the defending American League Champions and went to the World Series last year. I had hopes that this would boost their attendance, which has always lagged. Last night, they played a thriller of a game, which ended with a walk-off hit by All-Star Ben Zobrist. Yet, it looked like a small crowd at Tropicana Field. A glance at this morning's box score shows the attendance at 15,252

Now, I've been to the Trop, and it's my least favorite park thus far in my tour of the stadiums. It's not near the population center, and there's not much around it to attract pre- and post-game fans. It's like watching a game in a hockey arena, the field itself looks awful, there are those catwalks to contend with, and it's filled by all those cowbell-wielding carpet-baggers. Still, on a hot, humid Florida night, what better escape from the heat?

So, while I had the box scores at hand, I took a spin around the two leagues, to see how some of the other teams are faring in attracting crowds. The economic news has been full of gloom, and many predicted low attendance figures for the teams. So how did they do on a middle of the week game?

American League
Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners: 27,040
Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers: 29,104
Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox: 26,772
Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox: 37,981
New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins: 38,115
Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays: 15,252

National League
Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros: 29,243
Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies: 44,179
Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs: 40,531
Florida Marlins at San Francisco Giants: 34,157
San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks: 20,791
Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies: 23,098
Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets: 40,027

Do you see what I see? The lowest attendance - aside from the Rays - was at the Diamondbacks game - and they still drew over 20,000. Even the Washington Nationals attracted a large crowd to the Rockies' game.

So what is wrong with the people in Tampa? How can they ignore their exciting young CHAMPIONSHIP team? Some claim that a new stadium will attract more crowds. Perhaps - but the folks down there need to build their fan base, fill the stadium, show the people with the purse strings that their money will be well spent. I, for one, hope this happens!

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