SARASOTA, FL – While watching the Gulf Coast League Orioles play their Tampa counterpart in the practice field behind glorious Ed Smith Stadium, a few ideas dawned on me. Forgive me, but my primary job is Quality Assurance. In other words, I criticize for a living.
Now I know that the Gulf Coast League is designed to be developmental in nature. And I recognize that having hoards of fans bellowing and chanting may not be the best way to use the game as an instructional facility. And I am keenly aware that Major League Baseball (and the nearby Bradenton Marauders) will never allow what I am about to propose. But I can’t help thinking that the Orioles organization can make “Camden Yards South” an exciting place that people want to visit more often than just in March of every year.
So with that in mind, here are a few ideas that should cost very little. In fact, properly done, it could either be revenue-neutral or even profitable.
Quit using the practice field. You have a beautiful stadium that is not getting used all that much. Why not open the gates? Charge $3. If a charity group, active military, veteran, or public safety official comes in, let them in free. Open one concession stand (I can smell the Esskay Orioles Franks already). Have a few ushers keep the fans in just a couple sections.
We don’t necessarily need the jumbo-tron, but putting up numbers, such as score, balls, strikes, outs, etc., would be a nice addition. You only need one person to run it.
Again, we don’t need fancy. Just plug in an iPod with bumper music. And then have someone tell the fans who’s up to bat, who’s been replaced on the field, and maybe even a few shameless promotions by local sponsors.
You’ll get more people in the stands if you have a few night games. Crank up the lights and watch the Orioles magic take place.
Forget radio and TV. Just have someone stream the play-by-play over the Internet. Only one person is needed to call the game, and maybe a couple to operate a camera and mixer board. In between innings, you can play more local sponsorship spots.
The Local Economy
From there, it’s up to our friends in Sarasota (twitter @VisitSarasota) to take the lead in bringing in sponsors for the webcast, promotional giveaways, jumbo-tron advertisements, and so forth.
Keep the other specifics the same. Free parking. Bring your own soft-shell cooler. Keep the focus on fundamentals, training, and evaluation. But bringing the fans into the stadium in droves will also help prepare the young players to get used to the lights, the sounds, the pressure, and (hopefully very soon) the future.
Besides, for a selfish northern Florida resident like me, I’d make the four-hour car trip more often.