It’s been a loooooong two years since I last wrote some of these, and to be honest I thought a lot about it would change. But the funny thing? My first pick was the then-new concourse, but I never made it out there this season. Perhaps because it’s still underutilized despite my suggestions.
It was no surprise that attendance was down this season: no benefit of a “normal” offseason, having a somewhat shorter schedule overall, and getting a lot of questions about COVID restrictions after beginning the season with limited capacity all took their toll on the gate, which tumbled to a franchise-low 110,281 for the 60-game home season. Yet even the best six-game week only brought 14,249 to the park, which was about 4,000 fewer than an average pre-COVID six-game week would draw.
But I can’t really pan the staff this season, because if ever a group deserved a mulligan it was this one. Here’s hoping that, with the pandemic beginning to recede, 2022 will become a good comparable to 2019 – albeit with four fewer openings as the low-A schedule compressed to 132 games, 66 home and away. That makes a difference of about 12,000 fans. Drawing 200,000 once again next season would be an achievement but it’s doable. Getting back to full staff will also be a big help.
Because of the lack of staff, I can’t really pan the food too much – however, if I were to make a suggestion (and integrate my other idea) it would be nice to have a select-your-own sub (as in hoagie) station out on or near the concourse. It could even be cold subs or something not requiring a great deal of cooking, but I think it would be a nice idea for variety. Also, I wouldn’t mind them bringing the supreme pizza back – not that I ever recall eating it when it was here a couple years ago. (These guys make a surprisingly good pizza, even if it is just cheese or pepperoni.)
And now that we have some assurance that the team will be here, perhaps it’s time for more of those back-of-the-house improvements. (They did update the restroom at the entrance level concourse this year, refinishing it.) But even better, I think there could be a lot more done with the lobby and entrance to the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.
In looking at it over the years, I think the original intent of the stadium was to have most of the people enter by going up the stairs to the upper concourse where most of the concession stands are, then work their way down to what used to be the general admission bleacher seats. The lower center entrance was probably envisioned more for the box seat holders, but it’s become the predominant entrance over the years to a point where the upper entrances were barely used this year. (Maybe once or twice.) I’m not sure how to do it without looking at a plan, but it seems to me that they could make it a better experience than just walking down a nondescript hall. If you get the kid’s perspective of going up the stairs then reaching the top, smelling the smells, and then crossing the concourse to see the green grass of the field – although that view is unfortunately blocked by the elevator tower – maybe you’ll understand why this is something that interests me.
But looking forward to 2022, it will be nice to have the full amount of time to prepare promotions for next season. We did manage several fireworks shows, Scrapple Night, and a Gallos de Delmarva night at the tail end of the season, so it wasn’t a lost season by any means. Get the giveaways to be available on their appointed night and we should be all right.
Speaking of picks, instead of predicting the 25 players we were going to get (which would have been nigh-upon-impossible given this spring’s situation) I predicted how the league’s teams would finish. Here’s how that turned out:
- Down East Wood Ducks (Texas) (72-48, 2nd overall, lost championship series)
- Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore) (68-52, 4th overall based on tiebreaker*)
- Charleston RiverDogs (Tampa Bay) (82-38, 1st overall, won pennant)
- Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland) (58-62, 7th overall)
- Columbia Fireflies (Kansas City) (48-71, 10th overall)
- Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs) (59-61, 6th overall)
- Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Houston) (55-85, 8th overall)
- Salem Red Sox (Boston) (71-49, 3rd overall, won our Northern Division)
- Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee) (68-52, 5th overall)
- Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox) (40-79, 12th overall)
- Augusta Greenjackets (Atlanta) (54-66, 9th overall)
- Fredericksburg Nationals (Washington) (44-76, 11th overall)
(*) We defeated Carolina in the season series, 8-4.
Given these numbers, I would say the surprises were Salem and Carolina, which didn’t look like they would have very good teams based on their systems but turned out to be two of the teams in contention until the final days. Lynchburg and (especially) Columbia, on the other hand, seemed to be the real underperformers. Aside from those outliers, though, teams tended to finish a position or two off where they were expected to be (except Myrtle Beach, who hit their 6th place target by a game over Lynchburg.) So maybe I’ll try again for next season, with the added bonus of knowing each team’s schedule.
So there you have picks and pans. I’m going to take it easy for a few days.