Yankee Stadium drew an average of 46,491 fans per game last season (highest in the majors). Fenway Park drew an average of 37,610 (8th in the majors). How about Camden Yards? 21,662. 24th in the majors. And I would wager a bet that out of the 1,733,018 total over the year that showed up to watch the Orioles play, roughly 450,000 (~25,000 per game) of those were Yankees and Red Sox fans who traveled down for the nine games played against their respective teams. Throw in the Mets series that seemingly loaded up the yard with an extra 75,000 broken down over three days, as well as the loyal groups of Twins and Nationals followers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere around one third of ticket holders (575,000) at Oriole Park last year were present to see the team facing the Orioles. Keeping in mind the big executives that fill up suites of workers discussing business transactions, the wives and girlfriends dragged out on date night to a baseball game, and baseball scouts, we have to remember that there are many variables that diminish the number of actual fans showing up to games with the clear objective of cheering for the O’s. I easily may have low-balled some of those numbers, but I wanted to keep it reasonable while still pushing the point.
Can I push fans to go to games? Maybe a few readers and friends here and there. Can the Orioles PR department bring the fan base back? A promotion here or there may draw kids or collectors in that want a freebie, but that’s not a consistent factor. So who will fans listen to?
Let’s hope people will hear Orioles CF Adam Jones out and decide to come down to Camden Yards to root on the home team this coming season.
In the video interview below (put together by Baltimore Sun photojournalist Karl Merton Ferron), Jones sounds off about the appearance and overall look of the general fan groups that tend to show up at Oriole games. While the dying interest in Baltimore baseball has been a serious matter for the last decade, the young outfielder is only entering his 3rd season in an Orioles uniform and already recognizes the fact that Camden Yards really does become “Fenway South” or “Yankee Stadium South.”
Jones makes multiple clear points in this little rant:
On the “loud” times at Camden Yards: “Usually Yankees or Opening Day.”
“It’s annoying hearing ‘Let’s go Yankees’ and all our fans do is ‘boooooo’.”
He goes on to talk about all of the so-called Orioles fans that show up in their orange apparel asking for autographs, but then when New York or Boston are in town, these same people will break out their pinstripes or blue and red and jump ship. To these people, Jones says to them, “You’re not an example of what a fan should be. A fan is somebody who lives and dies with their team, no matter what.”
As an outsider looking in, it seems kind of obvious why the fan base has been driven out by the play on the field these last 13 losing seasons. Jones even remarks, “I know it’s been hard.” As a player like him, though, there is not much else that he can do besides play his game, do his part in the community, and do everything else that a genuine athlete should do.
With past controversies over Jones making comments when people think he needs to step back from the media as well as the recent stories with the published quotes from manager Buck Showalter putting down Yankees SS Derek Jeter and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, who knows how fans will react to what Jones will saying. Will people respond by coming to more games and giving the team a chance to prove them wrong, or are they just going to sit back and wait to jump on the bandwagon when the time comes that the organization finally does kick it into high gear and puts out a winning squad.
With season ticket sales supposedly through the roof for 2011, and Opening Day practically selling out before tickets are even open to the general public for purchasing, there is new hope in the fan base that used to be reckoned with on a national scale. We all know of the great names like Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr. and more that drew sellout crowds of flooding orange to see the Birds play. And while Andy MacPhail along with owner Peter Angelos have done their best to bring in a few stop-gap players like Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee to hopefully be a catalyst of jump starting a fan base gone missing, Jones hits the nail on the head when pinning down the key to overcoming the “Fenway South” branded stereotypes:
“If we beat the hell out of them on the field, more fans will come.”