Tagged: the economy

Not Deterred by the Downturn

color bars.jpgBefore moving onto today’s post, I must make the following announcement:

Over the past year, MiLB.com’s “At Home With” team profile column has been a weekly feature on the site. In that time I have contacted nearly every club in affiliated baseball, some of whom were gracious enough not to ignore it completely.

But once the 2009 season starts, “At Home With” will go on hiatus. This hiatus might be permanent.

Therefore, if you work for a Minor League team, and would like to be featured — ACT NOW! There is ONE slot available, to run on March 26th. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Email benjamin.hill@mlb.com. I will review all correspondence related to this matter before coming to a fair and balanced conclusion. 

But if you don’t get in touch at all, you will regret your inaction for the rest of your time on this mortal coil. Every morning will start with the heartfelt lament of “Oh, what could’ve been.”

We now join our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

…I promise, that will be my fourth and final joke about the lax regulation of industry during theBoise_Hawks.jpg 19th century. Because I have much more important things on my mind. Things such as this:

Earlier this week, the Boise Hawks announced that they will be offering “free tickets this season to those adversely impacted by the current economic downturn.”

More specifically, “unemployed members of the community” will be able to attend for free on Mondays. Let’s let the press release take over from here:

“Frankly, we’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do,” said Hawks President/GM Todd Rahr
“Yes, we’re a business and we have an obligation to our owners and
stockholders.  But at the same time, we’ve been a partner in this
community for over two decades and we have an obligation to lend a hand
and act responsibly in the good times and perhaps even more so in the
tough times.”

ticket.jpgTo qualify for the free tickets, the recipient will need to show an
unemployment pay stub that was issued at any time during the previous
four weeks.  Up to four tickets will be available for each out of work
fan and the tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served

The Hawks’ promotion is one of many economic downturn-inspired initiatives that have been announced throughout the Minor Leagues this offseason, and many more are sure to come. As I’ve written before, the goodwill generated by such actions should outweigh the damage done to the bottom line.

Have a good weekend, everybody. I’ll be back on Monday with a most intriguing announcement, one that will actually involve me leaving the warm embrace of New York City.

Gray Lady Grim about the Minors' Economic Outlook

nyt.gifOn Friday, the New York Times ran an article on the state of the Minor League economy entitled “As Money Tightens, Scaling Back on Jobs and Fun”. It was written by one Michael S. Schmidt (who is like me in that he is a sportswriter who must share his name with a far more famous individual), and can be viewed here.

Schmidt wrote the piece at the Las Vegas Winter Meetings after talking to a variety of Minor League job seekers and front office executives. While I can’t argue with any of the facts in the article, it nonetheless seems to me that Schmidt went out of his way to remain negative throughout, like he was unable or unwilling to deviate from the main premise of “the economy’s in bad shape, therefore the Minor Leagues must be in bad shape too”.

We learn that some teams are skimping on equipment costs, in-game entertainment features,stretch.JPG and concession stand portions, that it is harder for job-seekers to attain employment in the industry, and that sponsorship dollars will be increasingly hard to come by. This is most certainly the case, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of myopia when it comes to the difficult economic situation that Minor League Baseball (and by extension, our country) currently finds itself in.

However, Schmidt does his readers a disservice by failing to mention the ways in which the Minor Leagues are relatively well-positioned to weather the current economic storm. First, many of these clubs have deep-rooted relationships with their communities, and have therefore accumulated a tremendous amount of fan loyalty. These fans are making economic sacrifices along with everyone else, but many will find a way to remain ballpark regulars while spending less on other, less deeply-ingrained entertainment diversions. This is America’s Pastime, after all.

milb_logo.gifSecondly, when compared to other entertainment options, the Minor Leagues provide a lot of bang for the buck. A family of four can attend a game for anywhere from $20-40 total, while taking advantage of frequent giveaway items and food and beverage prices that are far lower than most any other professional sports event. And let’s be realistic…while the Major and Minor Leagues have a symbiotic relationship in many respects, fans who live within reasonable distance of both options may find themselves drifting more and more toward the Minor League side of the equation. In the Majors its often difficult to find a ticket for less than $20 (and let’s not forget about $12 parking, $8 beer, and $5 hot dogs) and there is also the increasingly off-putting disconnect of watching ludicrously well-compensated individuals compete within an overall morbid economic environment.

Finally, industry-wide creativity is one of the Minor Leagues’ greatest strengths, and that istheflag.gif something that can’t be measured in purely economic terms. I think one of the reasons the 2009 season will be very interesting is because teams across the country will come up with their own unique ways to deal with the crisis. Whether its by staging promotions that poke fun at the situation (I’m guessing there will be a wave of “Fan Bailout” nights) finding new ways to lure previously unreached customers to the ballpark, or cutting costs without dramatically altering the upbeat environment, the industry will adjust. It always has and it always will. This is real-live professional baseball we’re talking about. It has survived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, innumerable natural disasters, the designated hitter, Nixon, and astroturf. It will survive this as well, and Michael S. Schmidt should have taken the time to at least acknowledge this more nuanced big-picture view.

soapboxed.jpgOkay, I’ll get off of my soapbox now. It’s been a while since I’ve been on this thing, and in fact my right leg broke through one of the slats and ripped a hole in my jeans. I promise to be more careful in the future.

Also, thanks to regular reader and longtime touring NBA stand-up comic Tom Lorenzo for alerting me to this article in the first place. If YOU would like to alert me to anything, please send an email —