“Where The Heck Is Everybody?”

playoff logo

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.

Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs


24 replies

  1. Part of the problem, too, is that kids are back in school and it was a school-night game. Still, I thought there should have been more people there to cheer on the ‘Pigs. It was a terrific game, even if ultimately very disappointing.

    • I thought it was an excellent game of baseball from a neutral perspective. A scoreless game into the 8th inning thanks to a bona fide Pitcher’s Duel. I share the sentiment that I thought that the Lehigh Valley might have done more to turn up at the Park on the East Side of Allentown and support the ‘hometown’ team that, traditionally speaking, does not go to the International League Playoffs … I think Ben Lively got ripped off by a crooked umpire in that pivotal 8th inning — and I think that the manager should have gone to the bullpen right there and then because Lively had already pitched out of ‘jams’ with a runner on base in the 4th, 5th and 6th innings. Only cats have nine lives. Certainly not IronPigs, as the next SWB batter was more than happy to confirm.

  2. I could not go last night but have tickets for tonight. I was there Sunday and did my walkabout when the Pigs scored the two runs to talk the lead. Unfortunately I sat down again and watched the Red Wings score 4 more. I should have kept walking. I tried to buy a playoff shirt Sunday but my size was sold out. I was told there might be more Wednesday but I am betting my size is gone again. Guess what? I’ll have $22 back in my wallet.

  3. Kram– another year of excellent info– thank You! If you look back at 2011, attendance was only around 5800 game one—– it seems like this year from what I hear, the bosses are just going through the motions. No real excitement, probably should of been a little fan friendly– maybe a deal on popcorn bucket— half price shirt when you buy a ticket, etc. Also remember that the ticket manager was let go with a week left in the season, along with the number two man in charge. The staff is definitely overworked as most are doing two jobs— once the college kids go back to school it’s nearly impossible to fill the concession stands, another reason I think it’s tough to put a 100% effort into the final drive.
    Thanks again Kram!!

  4. Wow. A 7-0 beat down for Bacon USA in Game Two of the playoff series. Zero runs in 18 innings of playoff baseball at home from the IronPigs.

    A great shame, really, because the IronPigs had a record-setting year in terms of wins and losses.

    I blame the Philadelphia Phillies for this IL Governor’s Cup debacle. Was it really necessary to take the productive Darin Ruf away from the IronPigs? No, it really wasn’t.

    • No, and it’s not like Ruf has been in the lineup much at all in Philly–they even had a relief pitcher hit last night instead of Ruf. But then, I’m not sure it would have mattered much with how spectacularly we lost these last two games.

      • “I’m not sure it would have mattered” — I’d have to say, “Probably not.” On the other hand, who knows what would have happened had Ruf played in Game One. Perhaps he could have come up with a huge hit to help the IronPigs strike first. No one can say for sure one way or the other. Perhaps a huge hit could have sparked the Ironpigs to victory in Game One and perhaps that triumph would have created a tidal wave of momentum for Lehigh Valley the rest of the series. Again, no one can say for sure one way or the other.

        The bottom line is the concept involved — the Philadelphia Phillies taking one of if not the most dangerous player from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs line-up right before the start of the International League playoffs. A player whom the Phillies clearly did not really need to have at the moment but, significantly, the IronPigs probably did. Hope the jokers in the Philadelphia front office are amused with themselves.

        • It’s really an odd situation… I think it’s pretty clear that Ruf will not be back with the organization next year. I’m trying to think outside the box on this one, but I wonder if this is more of a “Thanks for being a good soldier – here’s a month’s worth of MLB pay for your troubles.” Although I’m not 100% sure of his contract situation so perhaps he’s getting the money either way.

          I know we all like seeing our farm teams win in the playoffs, but I’m willing to bet if you asked Darin he’d rather be up with the big club on the bench than be an impact performer on the AAA team. I know it hurts to hear that, but it’s reality.

          • You’re probably right–those MLB checks make a whole world of difference. I don’t think it was a gift or reward so much as a “one last look” before they let him go to Japan next season. I’d say that’s almost a certainty, but we’ll see. He played well enough for IronPigs to deserve one last look. The fact that he hasn’t been playing much tells me perhaps they’ve already seen enough…

            While the Phillies are letting Quinn and Alfaro “get their feet wet” in the MLB this September, a lot of those guys up there right now are playing for their 40-man position. The waiver claims and such will all get DFA’d based on performance and option status over the next few months. The Phillies could afford to be aggressive here because they had the roster room and flexibility to do so–but with guys needing Rule 5 protection in the offseason,they’ll clean house. We’ve already seen Sweeney and Featherston removed from the 40..

          • @ Matt :

            If he has a two-way contract, then there is absolutely no question that Ruf, himself, would prefer to be sitting on a Major League than romping at the AAA minor league level for obvious financial reasons.

            Meanwhile, if Ruf does, in fact, has a one-way contract then what does THAT mean?

            In all seriousness, I think it’s time for the International League to seriously consider canceling the annual Governor’s Cup playoff competition. In part because the players would either rather be enjoying the extra cash from a September call-up or are eager for a long season to be over so they can get back to wherever “home” is and spend time with their families. And also because the recent historical record (no matter what teams are involved) says that the fans really are not all that interested in buying tickets.

            So what, then, IS the whole point of the entire exercise?

          • That’s an interesting idea, dE, about the playoffs. But at some point don’t you open yourself up to the slippery slope of “why don’t we just turn the scoreboards off and give everyone in the international league a participation trophy” argument? 😉

          • @ Kram :

            I’m all in favor of turning off the scoreboards. I think we could really improve things if we simply skip the actual playing of the game part of the program and, instead, go straight to the sacred ceremony of handing out participation trophies. This, of course, followed by two and a half hours of players signing autographs for the fans while children and dogs run the bases.

            By not actually playing the game, there would be no need to pay the salaries of the umpiring crew and, therefore, that money could be donated to charity. Talk about doing great things in the community? Here is the IronPigs’ big chance to make a real difference!


  5. A tough season for the Iron Pigs. But made it to the playoffs, which is what matters in the IL. End of Aug is a crap shoot for any AAA team. Next year!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Chris.

      It was certainly a tough way to go out. Imagine if the RailMonkeys still had Sanchez, Judge, Austin and Sevrerino? But still, we usually know exactly when our season is going to end (“first week of august” *rimshot*) so this makes it a bit sudden, and a bit tougher to take. I wouldn’t trade it though–a playoff run is a lot of fun!

      And the whole league is more fun when the Bulls are good. Best to you in the offseason and good luck heading into 2017.


  6. Wow. An eight-run loss stomping on the heels on a seven-run, shutout loss at home. I had no idea that the AA Trenton Thunder were such a powerhouse.

    Nothing like genuine organizational depth … (as compared to pie-in-the-sky propaganda and other assorted feel-good non-sense)

    Three consecutive losses. Outscored 20-3 and shutout twice in the process. Hashtag Results Definitely Matter.

  7. Note To Kram :

    It is now a matter of public record that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were able to draw crowds of 4,043 and 4,002 persons to their two recent International League Governor’s Cup playoff games at Coca-Cola Park over on the East Side of Allentown.

    With this in mind, I am now prepared to wager you a drink of the winner’s choice that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms would definitely attract an audience of more than 8,045 spectators to the PPL Center downtown for just one single Calder Cup playoff contest.

    Of course, it is a fact that the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate has missed out on the Calder Cup playoffs for the past seven years in a row — an ‘amazing achievement’ considering that more than half of all teams in the league qualify for post-season competition — so it is quite possible that Hamilton Street Heroes might never help us get this question answered.

    Nevertheless, consider the “IronPigs vs Phantoms Mecca Of Minor League Sports Playoff Challenge” to be have been formally issued!


    • I’ll happily accept the challenge which will undoubtedly have me purchasing the drinks–assuming the Phantoms eventually back into the playoffs one of these years–with two caveats:

      1. The drink of choice needs to come up somewhere short of Pappy Van Winkle. I know I’m the drink snob in the group, but this needs to be a smaller wager than Pappy–win or lose.
      2. If you really want a fair wager rather than a free Lager, the actual bet should be this: Hockey playoffs third game or later (because all season tickets and corporate have the first two “included” (read: sold)) and on a week night Monday-Thurs. They’ll certainly come above 4k, but maybe not as much as you think.

      • @ Kram :

        What are you saying — the Phantoms’ third playoff game at the PPL Center in any given season and said playoff game must take place anytime between Monday and Thursday? … Sure, I will agree to such stipulations. And I can agree that said drinks must be reasonably price -.no King Louis XIII cognac or anything like that!

        I’m saying that I think ANY Phantoms playoff contest under any circumstance will NEVER draw less than what the IronPigs drew to their TWO IL Governor’s Cup playoff games at Coca-Cola Park in 2016.

        Now, I am prepared to concede that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms might never actually qualify for the annual Calder Cup competition. And so we might never ever be able to settle this most important community issue affecting the quality of life here in the Mecca Of Minor League Sports. But that would be another matter entirely, of course.

  8. The Phantoms will have no problem at all getting over 8k for a playoff game. Id wager more than a drink.

    • See my response above. Needs to be third game or later and on a week night to really prove a point. Otherwise I’ll just buy the Lagers and be done with it. 🙂

      • Again, I agree to all of your conditions. Third home playoff game of any given season means that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are not getting smoked in whatever series they happen to be involved in at that particular moment in time and that will do nothing but drive attendance up even higher. Hockey fans ARE a different animal, no matter what part of the world one is talking about — the closer the Hamilton Street Heroes actually get to winning any kind of trophy that can be paraded around on ice, the more that local Orange Hockey Shirt Obsession stuff is going to start exploding in earnest.

        PS – School nights mean nothing at all because, quite simply, hockey kids have to be tougher than baseball kids.


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