Taking Back The Yards?

March 05, 2009 | Thyrl Nelson

Is Catering to Yankees and Red Sox Fans at Camden Yards Another Reason For O’s Fans To Be Embarassed? Or Is It a Slick Way To “Steal” Money From the Competition?


I plan on going to more O’s games this season. The team is finally heading in the right direction, or so it would seem. They’re making an effort to reach back out to the fans through a variety of promotions, and they have some young players that should be worth the price of admission.


If they intend to compete in the AL East, for the long haul, then they’ll need to maximize every revenue stream that they can, and getting fans back to the ballpark is imperative to that effort. More fans at the games not only means more ticket and concession revenue, it also raises the value of advertisements inside the stadium. Furthermore, if ticket demand is high, then TV ratings should be high too, again increasing the O’s advertising muscle. And finally, the O’s seem intent on attracting fans back to the park.


It’s arguable that last season there were dates that feasibly cost the O’s money to open up the turn styles. Considering the price of staffing parking lots, ticket booths and concession stands in addition to other related game day expenses, there has to be a number of fans at which the O’s simply break even. I’d guess that they flirted with that number on more than one occasion last year.


If they’re unable to revamp their ticket efforts, then maybe they could take out a few rows of outfield seats and expand the size of the field instead. Camden Yards doesn’t seem to be a ballpark that’s easy to tailor a team to. It’s bandbox dimensions and generic features don’t lend themselves to creating a distinctive home field advantage. Perhaps instead, given the speed and arm strength of the O’s outfield, as well as their modest overall power and propensity to hit into the gaps, tailoring the ballpark to fit the team would be more in order. Especially now that the O’s look like they’ll be keeping the nucleus of this young team together for a while.


Since no one is sitting there anyway, the monetary loss would be nil. And taking out 4 or 5 rows of seats for the good of being competitive, would justify raising prices on the remaining seats too. If it worked, then when ticket sales rose again as a result of better play, more money per seat, for fewer seats could be more profitable too.


If nothing else, the O’s can count on Yankees and Red Sox fans coming out in droves to Camden Yards, whether O’s fans make it or not. I’m still not completely sure how I feel about them. Ideally, I’d like things to be like they were when the park first opened. The demand for tickets from O’s fans alone was enough to keep the visiting fans out. Those fans haven’t disappeared, they’ve just gone away, and getting them back should be the ultimate goal.


Instead, in recent years, the O’s have been accustomed to having their stomping grounds taken over several times each year with hordes of Yankees and Red Sox fans. Given the recent state of the team, it’s not only easy to see why that is, but it’s also seen as a necessary evil, as without them, the O’s would have few dates on the schedule where sellouts would be likely.


As an Orioles fan, it’s embarrassing, and I’m sure that most of you feel the same. It’s shameful to see Oriole Park erupt as the O’s blow a heart breaker in the late innings against either of these foes. It’s demeaning to the fans, and probably to the players too, although playing in front of a packed house, hostile or not, has to be better than the empty wasteland that Camden Yards is on most home nights. And as an organization, if you have to count on out of town fans as much as the home towners to make your ticket revenue goals, then so be it, as long as that goal is made. But as a fan, I just can’t sit out there amid a sea of opposing fans in my own stadium, it’s simply asking for trouble.


So I’ll probably stay home when those teams are in town. The team would probably rather have me do that too. Those tickets will sell, regardless of who buys them so the team would rather I buy tickets against the Royals and A’s, so that as many Yankees and Red Sox fans as possible can be here when their teams come to town. Local business owners love it too, as those are the only big nights that they can typically count on as a result of ballgame traffic. Any ticket that I buy against either of those teams represents a potential hotel room rental and/or dinner downtown, if I simply allow an out of town fan to buy it instead.


It hurts my small town complex just a bit though too; not that simply sharing a division with the Yankees and Red Sox isn’t a constant enough reminder of that. But when the club itself goes out and deems certain games more important than others, it’s an indirect way of saying, “Look, we’re not worth the price of admission”. Isn’t it?


I understand that they charge more for tickets on those dates simply because they can. I also realize that even at premium prices, it’s cheaper for some to come to Baltimore for a weekend and take in a game or two and stay in a hotel, than it is to stay at home and attend a game at their local park. Still, when you charge one price for the Yankees and Red Sox, and another price for everyone else, aren’t you essentially saying that your own team is B-level or worse? The home team should be worth the price of admission, period. When you charge one price for good teams and another price for bad ones, you are calling yourself a bad team. If you were good, you’d charge the premium price for every game.


It’s also interesting that last season the only series that were broadcast in HD were the ones against the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals and Cubs. Again, indirectly stating that only games involving those teams merited HD broadcast. Furthermore, since those were local fans’ only chances to see games in HD, it was almost in inducement to stay home and watch, and save a trip to the ballpark for a game that’s not in high def.


With all of that said, there’s only one reason why I won’t go out to see those games, and it has nothing to do with price or broadcast options. I just don’t want to go out there and sit with a bunch of Yankees or Red Sox fans, that’s all. I was there when Dennis Martinez made his return to Baltimore, and the Nicaraguan flags were everywhere, they took over the park. At the Cuba game, things were a little scarier, and again Camden Yards was overrun. Those were nationalists though, those line cross teams and politics and multitudes of other issues. It was actually fun to be in an atmosphere like that. When it comes to Boston and New York pride, I’ll pass.


I’ll be back at the park this season, but I’ll be there for fun, Yankees and Red Sox games don’t sound like much fun. I’ll watch those from home and hope to see the O’s send them home disappointed. For those going out and representing, I applaud you, but don’t kid yourselves either. It would seem that the team would rather you stay home on those nights too. Bring your money against the Rangers and Twins, and let the rest of our division contribute to the kitty, to the tune of 18 sellouts per season.


When we’re ready to sell out every game again, then it will be time to encourage the O’s to institute some policies to keep those tickets in home fans’ hands. Until then, we’ll take all of the money that they’re willing to give us. That’s life in the AL East these days.