Spring training attendance down 12%

The McPaper has a feature today about how the bad economy is affecting baseball.

Spring training attendance is down, and this has teams worried about the regular season.

Empty spring seats spawn creative regular-season deals

Major League Baseball clubs, concerned by a 12% drop in spring-training attendance, already are trying to find ways to avert a similar downturn in the regular season.

"Baseball is comfort food," says Bob Crotty, founder of the private Green Diamond Gallery of baseball memorabilia near Cincinnati, who has traveled to Florida and Arizona this spring to watch games. "And people can't afford that comfort right now. Every industry is down 20%, and baseball is no different. Baseball has got to get creative to compete."

Teams have begun offering lower-priced — even free — tickets to help attract cash-strapped fans. Faced with the worst economic climate in decades, some clubs are dropping prices for cheap tickets below the $7.18 average cost of a movie ticket.

The Cactus League is suffering more than the Grapefruit League:

Spring training attendance down at Arizona sites

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Derrick Hall, CEO and president of the Arizona Diamondbacks, couldn't believe what he was hearing or seeing last week.

He was at HoHoKam Park, spring training home of the Chicago Cubs, and instead of the sound of Cubs fans, there were loud roars for the Diamondbacks.

"We're beating the Cubs, and the place is erupting," Hall says. "It was so strange. I know we're in our home state, but during spring training, you usually can't get a ticket in Mesa, and they're all Cubs fans. This time, the place wasn't sold out, and the majority were Diamondback fans.

Teams are offering some creative deals to lure fans:

Ticket deals tied to birthdays, stock prices

Difficult times call for creative measures. Many Major League Baseball teams are offering discounted — even free — seats to lure cash-strapped fans to the ballpark when the regular season starts in April.

Want a free ticket for your birthday? As part of the club's Birdland Stimulus Package, the Baltimore Orioles are inviting fans to celebrate their birthdays for free at Camden Yards.

How about a $1 ticket? Several teams, such as the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, are selling buck-a-game seats. The Braves even invite fans to bring their own food and beverages to Turner Field, says Derek Schiller, executive vice president.

The Twins' "Stock Market Mondays" may be the most interesting promotion:

The Twins will price tickets in their Home Run Porch according to the close of the Dow Jones industrials the previous Fridays. If the Dow closes in the 6000s, tickets will cost $6. Tickets in the section had gone for $21.

(But what if the Dow drops below 1,000? Will tickets be free then?)

Uh, boy. Given that Arizona is suffering more than Florida, I'm thinking maybe the Reds picked the wrong time to move.

On a lighter note...if anyone's wondering what Chris Dickerson is up to...the second of his videos has been posted. It shows him taping things for the video board. (I don't know about that eye closeup thing. That could be pretty spooky on a Jumbotron.)

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