Looking at pictures of an empty Pittsburgh Pirates ballpark this afternoon, part of me hopes/wonders if our little-engine-that-could operation of the Long Beach Armada can rid ourselves of days like this next season. After working three years in independent baseball for the Golden Baseball League, stadiums with this look of a sold out "dress as a seat" night theme may be a bit too common. On the plus side, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now's the time where we get to
From now until the first pitch of the season, all efforts revolve around finding ways to get people through the gates of Blair Field here in Long Beach. And I get the feeling it's happening. Personally, I've already set up 10 meetings coming up in the next week with either local little leagues or sponsors. Gettin' an earlier start than last offseason. It's not a situation where we can just give tickets away (as much as people often suggest), for two reasons: 1. We've gotta make some money, and 2. If you do that, you lose all possible value of what you actually have.
This offseason I'm trying to find a way to build some value in what we can do for the community. Maybe it's get our players out to talk to the little leaguers more often, or getting the mascot to be the guest-umpire for a tee-ball game, or have guys out to dedicate the new local playground or something. Whatever it is, there has to be some sort of focus that we're doing is something to give back. If not, if we're just in it to sell tickets, then you end up with a stadium like the one pictured above. People know when you're just out to try to sell them something, and it's an extremely off-putting feeling when you get those phone calls.
With eight months until our season starts anew, we've got a find a way to make people want to answer the phone when we call. It's all about the baby steps. Last season the local newspaper finally covered every one of our games. No exception. Each game had a write up in the paper. Now if only they would publish the GBL standings so people can see where we rank (actually, after the sluggish season we had last year, maybe it's better that they didn't).
This is when the difference is made. The offseason.
Just as players work year-round to improve their on-field abilities to improve year by year, now is the time when our organization must improve. I get the feeling we're doing it. And the motivation? To not end up as an attendance punch-line that gets outdrawn by little leagues. Looking at that picture of the Pirates game says that somewhere along the line, someone has lost that drive (and lost a lot of baseball games). In Long Beach, we can't fall victim to those same traps. It's great motivation for us here. Geez, I'd hate to be like that.
Sure we had some lighter attended games this past summer, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of what things looked like at Blair Field in 2008. And with as much progress as (I felt like) we made from '08 to '09, to reality is I know there is plenty more to get done. Now is the time when we can make that sort of thing happen. We are making it happen. Mascot visiting schools. Meeting with little leagues and churches and others. The hype has already started.
Worst case scenario, at least we're not stuck in Pittsburgh.