Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheering for the Home Team

For the past two nights I’ve been watching the Rays and Marlins (no, not the sea critters, the Baseball teams) and I am watching the rain delayed game now. The Interleague games are being played at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Land Shark Stadium) in Miami. This is not a Baseball Park it is a Football Stadium which is adapted to look like a baseball field. It doesn’t look like a ballpark.

The seating for Football is in the mid 70 thousand range and cut back to around 40,000 for Baseball (the seating is expanded when the Marlins are in the Playoffs or in the World Series).

The Marlins are a marginally profitable Baseball team; they have very low attendance at most home games. Therefore they trade away their good players just before it comes time for them to become free agents. More than several of the best pitchers and hitters in Major League Baseball are products of the Marlin’s organization. They are no longer on the team because the Marlins could no longer afford to pay them. What do the Marlins get in return; some more top prospects, young players that will work cheap until they get a shot at the big money.

The Marlins average about 17,000 fans per game. Although the cameramen try not to, all you see in the outfield is empty seats. Also when you watch the game on television the (amplified) crowd noise is not that loud. Imagine how it sounds to players at this large stadium. The players tend to play better when there is a large crowd cheering for them.

I remember going to Wrigley Field on weekday afternoons in the late 1950’s with attendance under 10,000 fans and it sounding louder than what I am hearing on amplified television today.

A friend explains this phenomenon to me by saying old people cannot yell too loud (plus most are half asleep during the game – “Wake me up if someone hits a Homer”). Kids can yell loud and tend to cheer for their team much more than the older crowd.

When I was a kid I went to a lot of Cubs games at Wrigley Field. I would arrive there for batting practice and talk to the players. One of my all-time favorite players was Ernie Banks. Ernie would talk to all of the kids and sign autographs. He would genuinely thank us for coming to the game to cheer on the Cubs, saying that we should make a lot of noise for the home team. According to Ernie this made a difference to the players (he told us “we want to hear you”).

If I were David Sampson (President of the Florida Marlins) I would give 10,000 General Admission tickets (per home game) away to kids between the ages of 11 and 16 when accompanied by an adult paying for a half priced ticket (and fill up those empty seats). Not only are you building a fan base but you are also making money on concessions that you wouldn't have otherwise. Plus the players get to hear a lot more cheering for the home team.

The Beach Bum

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Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

The empty seats for the Marlins are largely the fault of just one man, Jeffrey Loria.

Mr. Loria is the splendid sportsman who ran the Montreal Expos into the ground... and for his reward, Bud Selig and Company turned him loose on South Florida. (If Selig couldn't get contraction one way, he'd get it another....)

Loria is the guy who didn't buy enough hot dogs for Opening Day a couple of years back.

The late Bill Wirtz had his faults, such as an hysterical aversion to showing his home hockey games on TV, but, however misguided, he seemed to genuinely like his team.

Mr. Loria, on the other hand, strikes me as the real-life incarnation of the fictional owner in "Major League." OK, so the owner there was a woman. The point is that they both seem to hate their teams.

And the real-life, would-be Miami fans know it.

Thu May 28, 11:52:00 AM  
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