For the last five months or so I’ve talked a lot about my adopted hometown team’s players and how they’ve done on the field. But as a way of putting the subject to bed for a long, cold winter’s nap (unless events warrant of course) tonight I’m going to look at the organization from a fan’s perspective. I suppose I’m qualified in that respect, I made over half the home games this season.
First of all, team GM Chris Bitters and his staff do deserve congratulations as attendance was up this year. The Shorebirds drew 220,219 for 64 dates – only 2 SAL teams had fewer openings. This worked out to an average of 3,440 per game. While I don’t have last year’s number in front of me, if memory serves it was right around 215,000 and they had a couple more dates (fewer rainouts) in 2006.
There were some things the new team did really well and were an improvement over the previous management.
- While it’s actually Ovations that handles the food service, I thought they did an excellent job this year. In past seasons it seems like they ran out of stuff quite a bit, this year all was well-stocked. And staffing generally was sufficient.
- It seems like the new regime managed to secure a lot more in giveaways and such, plus they made a really good effort to keep admission affordable.
- Once they had a few bugs worked out, the sound system truly was a lot better. It was a good initial investment by team owner Seventh Inning Stretch, LLC.
- This has more to do with next season, but I’m sure our management complained to the SAL office this season and got results. Instead of playing long, long stretches against the same three teams (Lake County, Lakewood, Hagerstown) next season Perdue Stadium fans will only see those teams 10 times apiece. Instead, we get rare appearances from the teams in Charleston (SC) and Savannah next August and a few more games against some other foes. In all we’ll host 11 of the other 15 teams in the SAL and only miss out on playing two.
- Finally, I have to say that the staff seemed a LOT more fan-friendly this past seeason starting from the top down. Something tells me that the attitude will pay off in future years provided they can keep the same friendly staff and put an entertaining product on and off the field.
The team did a lot good in 2007, so these friendly suggestions are my five biggest for improvement as we look forward to the 2008 season. What, do you think I’ll not show up anyhow if they don’t do them?
- I’ve been told that it’s “on the radar” but the stadium really, really needs a new scoreboard and videoboard. From what I understand they were purchased second-hand for the stadium’s opening 11 years ago so I’m guessing these components are close to 20 years old. If we had to split the deal the scoreboard needs to be replaced first – it would be nice to have an operator who would update player stats and the like too. Along with that it would also be helpful to get an auxiliary scoreboard (just balls, strikes, outs, score) to be placed on the first base side.
- In a way this is related to suggestion number 1. Because of the nature of the stadium’s setup, a fan has to constantly turn around to watch the game while standing in line for food or drink. Why not a CCTV system with a camera in the pressbox following the action? As a trial basis I’d suggest the main first base and third base concession stands be equipped. You already have the TV’s at the third level concession stand, they would just have to be hooked in.
- There was some of this during this season, but it would be nice to have more player availabilities during the year where kids (and guys who pick Shorebirds of the Week) could get autographs and pictures. Maybe it could be a regular Sunday feature as well as the daytime games during the week. (Since I’m working on those dates maybe you do this already and I just don’t know it.) Seems like the “Bird Pen” was underutilized this season.
- About fireworks. Yes, I realize they are a huge draw and with only 10 Saturday games next season you may only have about 16 shows. But can we work it out with whoever bought the Clear Channel stations to let some other radio stations pick the music? Personally I think 96 Rock should pick but I know Froggy and Q105 have a batch of listeners too. (Can’t figure out why but that’s just me I guess.)
- Since we’re on music, you know I’m not letting this go by without my pet peeve. Thirsty Thursday is my favorite game day of the week but it’s just not the same as it was in 2005 when they had the local bands play pregame/postgame concerts. I suppose the one drawback is that there’s only two Thursday games (opening night and May 1st) before SU lets out, but I recall it being a decent draw once the weather warmed up and there’s 8 Thursday games May through August.
On the whole, the thing I hope most for is something that’s pretty much beyond the control of Chris Bitters and his staff, and that’s a winning team on the field. But win, lose, or draw, I’m still looking forward to cranking it up all over again April 3, 2008. Guess that means I’ll have to write my Shorebird of the Week the night before.
Now, when do tickets go on sale?
Late edit: Tonight I came across a bit of player news thanks to one of my Shorebirds Fan Club cohorts. Shorebird Brandon Tripp was named as the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year while fellow Shorebird Brandon Snyder was named as the organization’s top comeback player. Both were honored last night before the Orioles’ game against the Los Angeles Angels.