When will the fans show up?
I attended the Blue Jays game Sunday vs. the Mets with the announced crowd of 41,000 plus. The Dome had a good vibe, the fans were into every inning, and you could feel the buzz in the air. This got me thinking: why doesn’t the Dome have a similar atmosphere every night?
Leading up to the start of the season, the Toronto media was creating a sense of excitement and optimism for this year, promoting young, exciting players like Brett Lawrie and Henderson Alvarez and the power of Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia, and Jose Bautista. Toss in a little Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow and a rebuilt bullpen and this team deservedly so gained wild-card hype.
So where have the fans been? Minus opening weekend and this past holiday weekend, attendance has been low for a team playing this well and competing hard every night. I attended the Yu Darvish start and only 21,000 were there. This is the hyped-up Yu Darvish on the back-to-back American League Champion Texas Rangers and I was surprised by the low turnout. Tampa Bay was in this past week, a division rival, and only 15,000 showed up, which is less than the 20,000 that showed up Sunday just for a bobble head.
There are of course several theories as to why low turnout occurs. Traditionally, weekend contests attract more fans as they have free time and can bring the kids, especially for Jr. Jays Saturday. In April, especially in Toronto, the NHL playoffs start, and even with the Maple Leafs not in the playoffs, Canadians will watch hockey over baseball.
It could have been the strike of 1994. However, I think the biggest reason is like in all sports, it comes down to, like Charlie Sheen said, winning. The Jays were the toast of baseball with the back-to-back World Series wins in 1992-1993 and the Dome was sold-out nightly. But since then, there have been no playoff berths and the young fans who grew up with the World Series success have gotten tired of the mediocrity for almost 20 years and have moved on from the game.
The solution is to of course win and be able to sustain winning for a consistent period of time. The Jays have once again gotten off to a solid start, but fans have seen these starts go to waste in the past, so perhaps they are waiting until late July to truly decide if this team is worth their hard-earned money.
There is a pocket of die-hard Blue Jays fans that watch and go to games regularly, myself included. My hope is that if the Jays continue their growth as a team and their winning ways that many “casual” fans will become “die-hard” fans.
What do you think the Jays should do to attract more fans? TV viewership is up, so what can they do to get the viewer down to the park? Lower ticket prices? Beer prices? Just plain win?
Opinions always welcome.
From the couch.