Sports Marketing

I don’t understand sports marketing, specifically the AirHogs. They changed mascots this year, from Ace Bacon (a fighter pilot pig) to Scout, a blob that’s supposed to be a fighter pilot pig. Apparently, a realistic fighter pilot pig scared children. WTF?

Scout looks like Dodger, the Ft Worth Cats old mascot. Allegedly, it’s the same person inside. He is an asshole. He seems to think people come to the game just to see him. While this is probably a requirement if your job is to look like an idiot in a blob suit, it is contrary to reality.

Sports should not need additional attractions – it is the attraction. I understand baseball is a lengthy game, and there are many details, but that’s what baseball fans expect. If your kids get bored, there should be attractions for them away from the action. Out of sight, out of mind.

Scout is for the children. He needs to take the children Pied-Piper style out of the way. However, since Scout’s human inside thinks he is the center of the universe, he leads the children by running up and down the home dugout with a t-shirt. All the children are screaming for the t-shirt. Scout is the center of attention. His life is fulfilled.

There’s only one problem. It’s the bottom of the ninth, and the home team is behind. This is when the fans want to watch the game. The most expensive seats? Just behind the home dugout. The seats where you can’t see or hear? Just behind the home dugout.

This is obviously a disconnect. The front office is trying to get people to the game, and then prevents them from actually enjoying it.

If you think a blob chasing children is required to sell tickets to a baseball game, you either spent too much time in marketing classes, or you have no faith in your product. Either can be deadly. It’s why Shreveport has had so many teams fail.

The Metroplex has the Texas Rangers, the Frisco RoughRiders, the Grand Prairie AirHogs, the Ft Worth Cats and probably more smaller teams.

How do you sell minor-league, unaffiliated baseball in a town that has a pro team that’s been to the World Series twice lately?

Here’s my thoughts:

Can you meet Rangers manager Ron Washington after the game? Probably not. The AirHogs manager will be in the bar by left field after the game. He lives baseball. Ask him what you want to know.

Want to meet the players? Frisco players sign autographs at given times. AirHogs players (and many opponents) eat dinner in the bar after games. They’re very gracious with their time. Buy them a drink.

Can you sit in a front-row seat for less than $15? You can in Grand Prairie. Try that in any pro sports in the area.

Grand Prairie has affordable, accessible professional baseball. Nobody else (except the Cats) has all three.

Why isn’t that the marketing plan? Why aren’t baseball games being marketed to baseball fans?

I never went to major league games with any regularity because it was too expensive to get good seats, and getting in and out of Arlington is painful. We went to a RoughRiders game and it was fun, but the traffic was horrific. In Grand Prairie, we found a team that was accessible both personally and geographically.

The whole point of playing unaffiliated ball is to get moved to affiliated, then to the majors. So, they actually play ball. There are more triples than in any other level of baseball because its all out.

So, accessible, affordable, professional baseball played by people with something to prove.

Why again do I need a blob to excite me?

Season Tickets … At last

Things not to do ever again:

  • Never leave town for two weeks vacation just before the start of baseball season.
  • Never have multiple deaths in the family at the beginning of a year (or anytime, really.)
  • Never change managers at work just as you’re trying to figure out if you made the right career choice in 1982.

If you do, you may suddenly realize the day after the Meet & Greet that you haven’t actually paid for your season tickets yet. Oops.

That’s done,  now. We thank the team for their patience.

We’re paid up. We’re ready. Season opener is May 17th – as in, a week from tomorrow. That was closer than usual.

50 home games again this year. Same seats, same manager, mainly different team. It should be interesting. It always is.

Yu almost made it

Wasn’t there an unwritten rule that you don’t talk about a possible no-hitter in progress? Did nobody tell the press? ESPN had a no-hitter watch on their crawl. Sheesh.

8 2/3rds of a perfect game. Unfortunately, it’s like winning 4/5ths of the lottery. You have to close it out. You have to get them all. Still…

111 pitches and only one Yu Darvish probably wants back. I guess that’s why a pitcher that plays good defense is such a find. Has anybody found one?

Still, an amazing outing and a win. Wins count, no matter how many hits you give up.

Next time, for sure.

Day three – Is this really cricket?

So, today is day three of Friday’s AirHogs – Diablos game, and hopefully, it will get finished this afternoon. Unfortunately, we have the same umpiring crew, so it could be a long afternoon. Friday’s game was under threat of spraying for West Nile virus (actually, against West Nile virus), so there was a hard stop in place – no inning could start after 10:15pm. (The usual curfew for the American Association is midnight, and I think we’ve hit that twice in four years.) As the game went on, I thought “What a stupid announcement. I haven’t seen a game go past 10pm all season and I’ve been to almost all the home games.” Oops. This was not a good thought to have.

AirHogs are leading going into the bottom of the seventh, 9-8. There’s lightning in the sky. We’re about to have chemicals dropped on our heads by our local government. Surely, the umpires will just call the game due to poison. Nope.

AirHogs are leading going into the bottom of the eighth, 9-8. There’s still regular lightning. The poison planes are in the air, according to WFAA’s text message. Surely, the umpires will call the game. It was legal a long time ago, and the home team is winning. Nope.

Top of the ninth. Diablos have men on base, two out, two strikes. Justin Dowdy throws strike three. Game over!! Wait. The umpire says it’s a ball. WTF? Then, it happens AGAIN. Apparently, you need five strikes to get some batters out. The tying run comes in. Dowdy makes a gentle suggestion that the home plate umpire might want to visit PearleVision (I’m assuming.) He’s ejected. Hmm. Maybe he wasn’t talking about glasses.

Then, AirHogs are set down in the bottom of the ninth. Tie game. Still, we have a bit of momentum going. Oh, wait. The 10:15pm rule. Game suspended.

No problem, the Diablos are in town all weekend. So, continue game at 5:00pm Saturday to get it finished before the 7:00pm game is scheduled to start. On the bright side, it should be easy to park, since nobody will know that baseball starts at five and not seven.

Saturday, the heavens over Dallas open. Rain. If it were raining frogs, I would assume the umpires were just the first plague of many, but this is just rain.

The bar does good business. The snack stands do good business. Just after 8pm, everyone is told, “By the way, we’re not playing tonight.” Thank you, Captain Obvious.

The last time this happened, the team got a really nasty letter sent to them, the league and posted on their Facebook page. Apparently, some fans don’t know that baseball is not played in the rain, but they will wait until the absolute last moment to announce this. (The absolute last moment being about an hour to an hour and a half after the scheduled start.) If it is sprinkling, they may play. If it is pouring, have a beer and head for the exits. Trust me.

So, this afternoon at 1pm, the AirHogs and Diablos are finishing Friday’s game. Then, they’re playing Saturday’s game. Then, they’re playing Sunday’s game. Even Ernie Banks would say that’s a bit too much.

Let’s hope they get them in before the spraying (also suspended) starts up again. I would hate to see umpires melting as the pest spray rains down on them. No, wait, I wouldn’t mind that much, at all.

Diablos vs AirHogs, day three. A unique phrase, indeed.

One piece in place

Although some of us have known this for a while, the AirHogs finally announced this week that Skipper Ricky VanAsselberg has signed a two-year deal to continue managing the team. So, the skipper will be back from the championship team. Now, we just have to wonder how much of the crew will return. The transaction log has been relatively silent (for the AirHogs, anyway), but I assume that will be changing as the countdown to the start of the season begins in earnest.

Underwater

Saw a photo of the ballpark underwater this morning – well, the dugout, anyway. Had a flashback to earlier storms during games, watching players head for higher ground. If the bench is under water, it may be a wee bit wet on the field.

Rain delays were always a good time to meet the players – the only dry areas are usually where the crowd would be.

I miss baseball. It’s almost time to start the final countdown to the home opener, May 21st.

World Series Bound

The Texas Rangers are going back to the World Series. Who would have thought anyone would type “The Rangers are back in the World Series” before they typed “The Cowboys are back in the Super Bowl”?

The Rangers declawed the Tigers 15-5 last night to win the AL Championship. The turning point was the 9-run third inning where the Tigers used a good portion of their bullpen and the Rangers hit around the order. Michael Young hit two two-run doubles in the same inning. I’m sure there were people in Detroit thinking, “Maybe baseball should try that “Play for an hour and stop” rule like other sports”, but the Rangers just kept hitting.

It was the first Rangers game I saw in person this year, and I think I picked the right game.

That’s two championships clinched while I was in the stands this year. It’s interesting sharing a ballpark with 51,000 other people instead of 900. The crowd’s emotion level is similar when the final out clinched the victory for the home team, but it’s a different level, partially because of the crowd size and partially because of the relationship of the fans to the players. I know the Rangers – I see them on TV all the time. However, I know the AirHogs – I talk to them, I have dinner with them, we’re connected online. So, as happy as I am for the Rangers (and this team deserved the victory and I think they may be the ones to bring a World Series victory to Texas), it’s different.

Now, the wait to see who the opponent will be, just like the end of the AirHogs season. At least the Rangers don’t have to stay in a hotel in Wichita.

The series provided the beauty of baseball for me – you can win in dramatic fashion on offense (a walk-off grand slam) or you can win on defense (a first baseman’s glove cradling a pop-up for the final out.) It doesn’t matter what the score is, the visitor gets their at-bats, and the home team gets their chance to respond. You can’t run out the clock, you have to get the outs.

The Rangers got the hits, then they got the outs. Now, it’s on to the World Series.

An interesting scheduling note – the Cowboys will be playing at home next week while a potential game 4 of the World Series is next door at Rangers Stadium. I hope Jerry Jones won’t gouge the baseball fans that park in his lot when the Ballpark lots fill up. Baseball will never break the stranglehold football has on the Texas psyche, but I think the Rangers may be a slightly better team than the Cowboys.