In wrapping up my 2010 Shorebirds coverage, I’m actually going to borrow from the 2009 edition to see what was addressed and what was not.
Each year I talk about what I liked and disliked as a fan, and 2010 had a lot to like – except I’d have liked a little better team recordwise because things definitely fell apart in the latter part of the season. But those are things neither I nor the local Shorebirds management could have done much about. And they still drew about their average attendance over the last few years, drawing 221,051 and rebounding from an all-time low last season due to some nice weather. Too bad they weren’t in a pennant race or we may have reached 250,000.
The staff did its usual good job, although some of those who left were missed. Hopefully Stefan, the onfield host, has found a home since he’s survived here two years. Unfortuately, aside from my suggestion on the clam strips I don’t think the food was any better and the pizza vendor not as good. I do have kudos for Karin and the crew at that concession stand, though, they were very receptive and helpful (and most nights knew that I wanted my large diet Pepsi, light on the ice.) And while she didn’t care much for Thirsty Thursday, I do (more on that later.)
Unlike 2009, we did get back a couple of the local favorite national acts early on as I recall Myron Noodleman made an appearance and Reggy came a few weeks later. Certainly the kids liked Spongebob, although they probably liked the mid-game weather break that evening where the players were signing autographs waiting for the tarp to come off. But what happened to the Redskins cheerleaders? And it might be time to bring back that dog act from a few years back and also see if we can’t get Principal Financial to come back here (they did a parking-lot carnival here at the end of the 2009 season. It was fun.)
To me the giveaways were pretty good. One advantage of being a season ticket holder is that I automatically get each one – so I didn’t have to be there at 4:30 to get a Brad Bergesen bobblehead. (They actually took my suggestion from last year and picked Brad Bergesen. How about my soon-to-be-inducted newest SotWHoF member Brandon Snyder for 2011?) And I suspect we’re going to have at least one other water bottle giveaway; apparently those things went like hotcakes.
Oh, and bring back the Peninsula Home Care wheelchair races!
As for “pans”, yes, they haven’t changed much over the last several years. However, I’m told there will be action on my number one beef over the offseason since we’re hosting the 2011 SAL All-Star Game. And I deleted the fireworks music selection; they’ve done a pretty good job of mixing it up over the last couple years. The shows do seem to be a little shorter now than in past years, though.
Just as a review:
- New scoreboard and videoboard, along with a small alternate scoreboard along the first base line.
- A closed-circuit TV system for the concession stands so we can watch the game while standing in line.
- More player availabilities in the “Bird Pen.”
- No bands on Thirsty Thursday. It was a common practice in 2005, my first season here and I STILL miss it!
From what I understand, the offseason plan regarding the scoreboard is to maintain the frame but put all new “guts” inside. If they can upgrade it to an LED board like several other parks have (Frederick comes to mind since we went there in April; I think Lakewood does too) that would be acceptable to me. We did endure the better part of a homestand where some of the components would not work, so it’s obvious our current system is on borrowed time.
I suppose the drawback to #2 might be that the Ovations workers may watch the game on TV rather than pay attention to customers (and I’m sure creating a CCTV system from scratch isn’t cheap.) Perhaps as a compromise they can set up a zigzag system of queueing people (like you might find in a Wendy’s or a bank) so that people in line can face the field yet be in line, at least for the two main concession stands upstairs and perhaps the adjacent Sweet Shop too. Obviously you have to maintain a certain amount of egress width on the concourses and I think this may actually help.
I know #3 is up to the players and manager, but is doing this for at least the Sunday games too much to ask? Seems to me a number of teams have player availabilities as a Sunday attraction and it would tie right in with Sherman’s Sidekicks. We’re trying to get kids to be baseball fans for life, and I can pretty much guarantee you that you couldn’t walk into an NFL stadium on Sunday and get pregame autographs from the players.
In all honesty, all #4 needs is a sponsor. I’m sure the bands would jump at the chance to do a set or two (the sponsor is there to advertise and to pay the bands) and we could set things up the same way. I notice they sometimes do pregame concerts outside, but I think they are better served in the ballpark as a postgame activity (or shorten the pregame announcements for Thursday only and let the bands play from 5:30 to 6:30 – open the gates at 5:15 for those interested in checking them out. Depending on the band, I might be there about 4:45.) Outside would be good if people tailgated but we don’t do that for a Shorebirds game.
Most people don’t know that the Shorebirds are part of a group which owns several teams, including a third they purchased in 2009. The 7th Inning Stretch LLC family includes the Stockton Ports of the California League (a advanced-A team comparable to the Orioles’ Frederick affiliate) and the Everett (Washington) AquaSox of the Northwest League (a short-season rookie league team similar to Aberdeen.) And once again, of the three 7IS affiliates Delmarva had the best attendance – Stockton drew 198,016 for 70 games and Everett drew 90,079 for 36 openings. (I don’t think that counts playoffs – Stockton was knocked off in the opening round but Everett won their league title for the first time since 1985.)
So we have found that our fan base is relatively loyal, although it’s not as large as we had during the early days of the franchise. But next year they won’t have the hooks of it being the 15th anniversary season, a new logo, or new uniforms to draw people in. (On the flip side, we do have the All-Star hoopla, at least for the first two months of the season.) Obviously we can’t do anything about the players we get either, although I’ve heard we are dropping one of rookie league affiliates so that the overall talent level in the Orioles organization will increase. My polling (albeit a small sample) suggests we’d rather have a winner than an Orioles’ affiliate but perhaps we can get the best of both worlds with some tweaking.
As I said last year, the Delmarva Shorebirds can be the jewel of the 7th Inning Stretch empire. If they follow through on some of the key problems they encountered this year, next summer looks to be another fun summer at the ballpark. We’ll get to see the best of the other teams come here, but why not bring home a title while we’re at it?