Attention minor league teams of North America. Keep doing what you were doing. As you were. Do not change a thing.
People might say they are tired of the antics. The circus-like atmosphere of some semi-pro sporting events often rub old-school fans the wrong way. Some, like an uncle of mine, yearn for the old days. All he wants during stoppages of play is an ambience of organ Cracker Jack hawkers. And that is fine.
But sports is a business. And at the minor league level, it’s tough to create good business. Fans have a difficult time attaching themselves to a roster that will lose and gain a handful of players per week. Many teams, such as our fair Falcons of Springfield, belong to parent organizations that play in a different region or time zone.
So how do they herd people through the turnstiles? The Portland Sea Dogs have a lobster toss during the third inning. The Manchester Monarchs have mullet night, saluting the king of the hairstyle, Barry Melrose.
The Worcester Sharks get “Gronk’d.”
When Eric Lindquist, Public Relations Director of the Worcester Sharks, heard that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was fined for a touchdown celebration, a light bulb went off. The Sharks offered to pay the fine if Gronkowski would perform his customary touchdown spike celebration at center ice with a burnt biscuit, in place of the customary puck drop.
Ten thousand dollars was raised for charity; any attendance record that stood before was instantly shattered by the 10 thousand plus present. Lindquist jokingly mentioned a possible raise in his future. Or maybe he wasn’t joking.
At the same time, Worcester added to a fan base that they have been building from scratch since its inception six years ago. With all NHL-bound players headed to the other side of the country, Worcester was able to localize their product.
In less than a season, Gronk toppled formidable followings of Red Sox and Celtics, and became a local folk hero. And here he was saluting Sharks fans, bragging about breaking the ceremonial puck in their building. For at least an evening, New England’s spotlight shined upon the DCU Center and the Worcester faithful.
Who knows where to draw the line when it comes to the promotions? At what level do you keep kids from racing Marvin the Marlin around the bases during the ninth inning? Double A, Triple A, or is there even a place for it in the Major Leagues? Bill Veek and the Chicago White Sox managed to destroy Comiskey Park on “Disco Demolition Night.” It might have been regarded as a colossal failure, but looking back in the rearview mirror, would you want a front office to lack creativity and innovation?
The old timers are right. There is too much music that is often heard during play at D-League games and too much tireless screaming of emcees over the stadium loud speakers. But is the team striving and begging for your attention? And when Rob Gronkwoski shows up in town, for ten bucks a seat, its almost impossible to look away.
Ryan Matlack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org