This is a great time to be an Orioles fan. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the absence of expectations coupled with the success of this team has created a perfect storm of circumstance that’ll make this (regardless of the way that it ends) likely the most exciting season of Orioles baseball since 1989 at least. And given that it took 14 years of futility to sap this fan base of its enthusiasm and optimism we can only hope that another season like this will never happen again.
That said, the excitement that is Orioles baseball 2012 hasn’t seemed to get the turnstiles at the stadium moving, at least not to the degree that many would have expected so far. That’s led to a spirited debate about what can and should be done to get back the fans as well as a number of divergent theories about what’s keeping them away now despite the successes of the team to date.
So, for what it’s worth…here’s mine:
The first and easiest reason why fans aren’t flocking to the ballpark right now is because they can.
On any given night, it’s easy to head to the ballpark without planning or preparation, pick up tickets for any seat in the house and enjoy the show. Therefore, there’s simply no urgency about having to do it today. For as long as that remains the case, fans will take to the ballpark whenever they’re good and ready and so far they just haven’t been ready.
While many expected that winning would bring back the fans, expecting it to happen overnight was just wrong. It’s my best guess that if the excitement of this season is going to get more folks out to the park, the real impact won’t be felt until next year with the purchase of new season tickets. My other best guess, and the tougher pill for fans to swallow is that this won’t happen by the team appeasing or satisfying the “regular fans”. As ticket selling priorities go, “regular fans” are and will remain at the bottom of the pecking order. If the Orioles are able to take care of the top end of that pecking order, the regular fans will simply fall back into line because they’ll have little choice.
Think for a second about why or how Oriole Park ever sold out regularly in the first place. Think about why or how any Major League ballpark sells out regularly. It starts with a firm base of season tickets sold. Since this season began with no expectation of success or of ticket scarcity, it stands to reason that there wasn’t a whole lot of urgency for anyone to buy or renew their season tickets. No reason, that is, except to avoid the game day surcharge.
Without getting off on too much of a tangent here, this is also why the surcharge is viewed by the team, as a necessary evil. We’ve already established that on any given night a fan can show up on a whim and buy pretty much any seat in the house. Therefore why would fans ever buy any tickets in advance, much less commit to 13, 26, 81 or some other fixed number of games in a season ticket package when they can simply show up and buy tickets whenever they want?
Thursday September 13th against the Rays looks to me like a nice day to take in a ballgame. But if I buy those tickets today, and my wife winds up sick, or it rains on September 13th, I’m stuck with them. If Wei-Yin Chen is pitching against David Price on the 12th, I might rather go to that game instead. If I can wait until the day of the game to decide, there’s no reason to buy in advance except to avoid the surcharge, there are however plenty of good reasons not to buy in advance.