I tried to tell you.
I even did my best to help sell the tickets–posting links and encouraging the good seats available.
I even pimped to the Philly fans who have been whining about their product at Citizen’s Bank Park.
So, you had to know it was coming.
That’s right, playoff baseball is a tough sell in the semi-pros.
Minor league teams–the IronPigs chief among them–sell the summer ballpark experience over the baseball product. It’s not that teams haven’t tried to sell the baseball product, but if you want the 600,000+ every year like our ‘Pigs do, you’ll have to sell the whole experience. That means pork races and aw-shucks corn and bacon on sticks and happy hour and bobble-heads and all that.
Now, it’s the playoffs, and we’ve had a whole summer of the minor league experience. We’ve supported that team to the tune of 600,000+ for the ninth year running–every year of existence. At a time when fan attrition should be creeping in (and maybe it is, a little) the IronPigs just keep on going. They’ve fine-tuned the product and they’ve re-invented, and added new seats and urine games and food on hats and then food on hats again…
They work very hard. But now it’s about selling the baseball. And to do it with the kiddos back in school, on a school night, with fall sports in full swing. That’s a tough sell. There’s no time to sell groups–and very few groups to sell to, at this juncture–and the playoff tickets are a separate fee for all the corporate packages and season ticket members out there. It’s hard to push too hard before the playoffs are clinched or you can look silly. I thought it was a great idea for the IronPigs and the RailRiders to cross-market the tickets. In the past, the IronPigs haven’t played nice with things like that–but there are plenty of IronPigs/Phillies fans in the Wyoming Valley just like there are plenty of Yankees fans here in the Lehigh Valley. They’ve got tons of seats to sell, so why not get the baseball fans out to the park? It just made sense.
Yes, the Phantoms add those games into the season ticket packages right away–but then end up “refunding” when they don’t make it (seven years in a row–in a league where more than half of the teams make the playoffs). That’s tough to do in baseball. You could give the tickets away for free. That’s what Columbus did, and they drew 9,000 last night. The thing is, that cheapens the product and the brand. Yes it puts fannies in the seats and sells beers and hot dogs, but in the end I think it’s not repeatable. If they don’t give away playoff seats for free forever from now on, they’ll see even worse support. They’ve set the standard for their product: Free. Not worth anything.
So that’s why the crowd looked so sparse last night. It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you in the run-up, here. But worry not, those of us who are there wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’ll put down our beers and cheer. We’ll wear our red. And then we’ll go up to Scranton on Friday and do the same. Some of us will be in Reading where the playoff crowds are similarly limited, and a little more laid back. But, we’re still supporting our team.
So relax about the attendance. What you’re seeing is the real fans. And it might be slightly worse tonight with football on TV, but we’ll still be there!
See you at the park,
PS: Note to Kurt: I was in my seat for the entire game. The only reason I was at the bar in the 9th inning was to pay my tab. You do want me to pay my tab, right? Plus the change of seats was maybe a way to jump-start some hitting on the night for the superstitious part of me?
PPS: Should have printed more T-Shirts. I know you didn’t want them to go to waste, but by giving them to all the staff and players there weren’t enough left for the fans to buy! Majestic should work with you on this. Do not underestimate how ravenous the IronPigs fans are for gear. This isn’t Scranton.
One last thing:
“I’m a big believer in trying to win the game.” –Cam Perkins, as told to Greg Joyce.
Me too, Cam. Me too.