An Idea to Make Baseball Better

Nationals Marlins Baseball

You’ve seen it at every Marlins home game. Same with the Pazuzu Rays or most Dodgers games. Nationals games definitely have the same issue; empty seats all over the stadium. There is nothing more pathetic than watching a game and seeing whole sections with no one in them, and no section is worse with constantly empty seats than the area behind home plate. Now, bad teams–although the Rays are on the upswing and the Dodgers should be good but their fans are generally some of the lamest possible–are always going to have trouble selling seats, I get that, but it would seem to me that there would be some inherent advantages in making it seem like more people are at the game.

There is probably no single shot used in a baseball game more than that of the center field camera focusing in on the plate, it’s probably used 200+ times per game. Wouldn’t there be some inherent value for the teams to at least pad their broadcast a little by making it SEEM like there are more people actually at the game?

I understand that for baseball teams the money generated by the seats behind home plate and around the dugouts can be enormous, but here’s something I don’t understand. If there is no one in those seats by the end of the first couple of innings why not have staff move around the stadium and offer those seats to the other fans that are spread out across the stadium. The premium seats are either sold and no one showed up or remain unsold and would be otherwise empty, so why not fill them up? Sure, some fans will be more than happy to stay in the upper decks or whateves, but most will jump at the opportunity to get closer to the action. For many fans, it would probably be the closest they’ve ever sat to the game and would be a forever memorable occasion.

What good does it do to keep those seats empty the entire game? The team wouldn’t be losing money because those seats are going to remain unsold or unused regardless and the fans that would be offered the seats would have already paid for their initial tickets. Furthermore, the amount of positive PR this would acquire could only serve to help the team that did this. If I knew that every time I went to a game that there was a chance I could be upgraded for free to a premium seat why wouldn’t I try and go as much as possible and take advantage of such an opportunity?

Now some of these seats include drink and food service, I could see that this might cause a financial loss for the team, so, solution, make server service unavailable for those who are upgraded and didn’t actually pay for the premium amenities. The game alone from that close would be special enough and I can’t imagine fans wouldn’t be cooperative or understanding.

Not only will some goodwill be earned with the fans who are supportive enough to keep coming to otherwise empty stadiums but it will spread out exponentially. As fans tune into the games or see recaps they will see that shot of home plate again and again, if they see lots of people in the seats the assumption would be that the team is more popular and might entice those important casual fans to make a few more trips to the stadium. Again, if those same fans knew there was a decent chance they would get a chance to sit in such incredible seats they would be even more likely to return several times.

In addition, the national media, ESPN, et al would eat this story up. Big rich company gives back to the little guy? Sounds to me like some really great PR for whatever team decides to employ such a strategy (or employs the brilliant guy who thought up said strategy…)

Sure, this is mostly an optical illusion just for television, but think about how much that is already going on with tv. Have you ever seen a TV studio? On TV they look giant but in actuality they are really quite small, this is just a similar solution. I cannot imagine that it is good publicity for casual fans to tune into a game and see no one in the stands. So, why not concentrate some of the people who actually are there, offer them these great seats and have the team look good on television and within the community?

When stadiums have dollar hot dog nights or whatever, the fans arrive in droves, if people knew that their $5 bleacher seat might be a ticket to behind home plate don’t you think a lot more people would come out to the game?

Of course, this is merely a temporary, superficial solution. Once the fans are at the game the product on the field needs to be decent enough that they’ll want to keep coming back, but in the meantime, fans will have probably the best time of their lives at a ballgame. I know that if someone offered this type of chance to me at a game I’d jump on it in a second.

So, I would sincerely like to see some of these teams that are struggling with attendance try this out. Seriously, what is the risk or loss here? Those seats will otherwise remain empty, it’s not as though these fans would be taking other people’s seats, instead they are helping the team look better on TV and in exchange get to see the game better. The team isn’t losing money because the fans are already in the stadium, they are just more spread out and not allowed to move around because of vigilant ushers. Instead, some useful goodwill is earned, some great PR will be had and most importantly, the team will attract more fans to their games. Guaranteed.

Now whether any team is willing to actually do something that seems so reasonable is of course the big question, but frankly, I don’t see what they have to lose. Empty seats will never look as good as asses in seats. If fans don’t want to move they’ll have that option, this isn’t some massive relocation plan, merely some ushers offering better seats for free for the fans who care enough to come to games even when their team sucks hard.

As more people watch at home and see more people “at” the game, they’ll be more interested in coming to the games themselves. As more fans pay for tickets the team will earn more revenue. That revenue can then be used to pay players contracts and acquire better talent thus making the product on the field better, thus leading to higher profits, leading to this.

Oh yeah, and that picture at the top of the post, that’s from a real Marlins game last season. Yikes. Maybe they want to start doing this like immediately…

5 Responses to “An Idea to Make Baseball Better”

  1. 1 myummers
    April 24, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    whoa whoa whoa, sounds like someone here is anti-capitalism. and that’s a real shame.

    slanch, i agree with you. the first step is offering 2-5 dollar seats to actually get people IN the stadium. sadly, only a few teams have grasped that. but you can see with the a’s or even the mets (way, way up there), when they offer these cheap seats guess what? people actually fucking BUY them! because low and behold, people STILL like baseball. but beyond that, i don’t know what else they can do- i mean, what happens to all the food at a mcdonald’s, wendy’s, popeye’s, hell even arby’s when the doors get locked and they close up for the night? i’m pretty sure they’re not giving it away. nor are their faithful employees taking them home (at least not EVERY night).

    bottom line- in a capitalist society, you will not be getting anything for free. unless someone with a marketing major thinks it’s a good idea as part of a plan to get you hooked, or get your email address.

    i went to an expos game in montreal in 2001, there were about 7,000 people tops, we bought cheap tickets, went in, saw 3,000 open seats in multiple completely empty sections that were closer than the one we were in. so, we figured, it’s montreal, this place is a dump, they can’t draw dick, why not just move up? nope, cuz the expos and le stade olympique PAID people to keep out of the more expensive, massively empty sections.

    and don’t get me started on alumni donations- i’m pretty sure that paper, postage, ink, computers, manpower and telephone calls aren’t free. also all this “carbon-footprint” bullshit. but, you guessed it, i’ve gotten 4 requests in the last 2 months. 4. in this economy. great, so now we’re spending money to get people to donate money. viva capitalism!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 2 Mattraw
    April 24, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    “Again, if those same fans knew there was a decent chance they would get a chance to sit in such incredible seats they would be even more likely to return several times.”

    True, but then the people who had previously been willing to shell out extra money for the good seats would have less motivation to continue doing so.

  3. April 25, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I thought the same thing as mattraw- also, myummers is an idiot.

  4. April 25, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    I don’t believe “idiot” is the correct term for myummers (perhaps jaded, or maybe just a handicapped socialist). Anywho, none of these ideas work. We should actually just have a huge nationwide tax on baseball, and make sure that the rich are kept out (leave the rich alone, they’re busy swimming in a pool of giant lottery checks). That way everyone enjoys the past-time like they should, shelling out cash and complaining all the way home. America!!!

  5. 5 myummers
    April 26, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    i agree with jaded. “idiot” takes no effort, handicapped socialist is forced.

    i see your well thought out point though: why bother complaining about anything. it’s annoying to other people and serves no purpose. like when all those people complained about players being on steroids. they still won’t shut up about it. or when all those people complained why there aren’t more minorities in baseball. oooh or when people just jaded their nuts off and complained themselves silly about the ’94 strike and the near-strike a few years ago. geez, let the players union and bud selig figure it out. after all, they have the fans best interests at heart.

    garnold, i would love to hear your thoughts on the mets and yankees each lopping off about 10,000 seats in their new stadiums. i mean because, you know, they’ve always had such a hard time filling the current too-big stadiums they have. i’m sure it’ll be real easy for the average fan to get a ticket in citifield and adidas presents new yankee stadium.

    enjoy your $9.50 ballpark beers.

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