My recent post titled "An Amusement Park With A Baseball Theme" discussed the apparently weak loyalty felt by many fans toward the Tribe. I’d like to use this post to address ways of creating stronger fans.
A number of people responded to my post by mentioning the importance of getting more children to go to games as a way of building a loyal fan base. I agree completely. In fact, I have been thinking for some time about writing a letter to the Tribe about why I think it is important for management to get more kids to go to games and what management might do to accomplish this.
Before I make any suggestion to management, however, I thought I’d ask the LGT readership—people who are already die-hard fans and know how they came to be such—to react to my proposed suggestion and to the fundamental assumptions underlying it. After I see some of your reactions and any suggestions you may have, I will try to take advantage of them in writing the letter.
So let’s start with my assumptions, and please don’t hesitate to let me know where and in what ways you think I am mistaken.
My fundamental assumption is that people become serious baseball fans at a relatively young age or they rarely become serious fans at all. It is also my sense that most people who become serious fans do so because their parents or some other older family member introduces them to the game—primarily by taking them to games. Admittedly, my only evidence for these assertions is anecdotal in nature, which is to say that I simply don’t know anybody who is a serious fan who wasn’t turned into one during childhood by an older member of that fan’s family. (In my own case, my mother started taking me to see the great teams of the mid-1950’s, and I became a Tribe fan for life.)
Incidentally, I do not believe that it takes as much family involvement at an early age to turn kids into football or basketball fans. Both of my children were athletes in high school, so I could see how the social life of their high school was built around football games and basketball games. The crowds at these games (consisting largely of students, including middle school students) were relatively large and highly social in nature. The students who came to the games were given the opportunity to learn basketball or football almost by osmosis. Moreover, the students seemed to develop a positive set of associations toward the sports because the football or basketball games were often associated with after-game dances or get-togethers.
Baseball did not have these advantages. My son’s baseball games were almost always on weekday afternoons and were attended by a handful of parents and by no one else. There was simply no social life built around the games and therefore no opportunity for kids to become attracted to baseball during the course of participating in the social life of their school. While there were youth leagues in all three sports in our community, these also lacked crowds and any context involving a kid’s social life.
So if I am right about the way in which and age at which kids are turned into baseball fans, baseball has to create its fans some other way.
The Indians already do quite a bit that is child-oriented at the ballpark. There is a play area for children, there are Kids Fun Days most Sundays, and the Dolans appear to me to be good at allowing school groups low-cost access to midweek day games. But, like many of the commenters, I still think more can be done.
My own suggestion to the Tribe would be a Grandparent-Grandkids Day every time there is a midweek day game during the summer months. (Unfortunately, there is only one such game this summer.) Because I’m retired, I go to a lot of these games, and there are vast areas of empty seats for every one of them. I’d make the grandparent pay full price but let him or her bring along several grandkids at a nominal price. I’d make good seats available for these people, and I’d be very lenient on the issue of who gets admitted to the park as a grandparent and a grandkid. If someone looked 60 or older and was with a couple of kids who looked about 14 or younger and they had purchased seats in advance which were adjacent to each other, that would be good enough for me. My theory is that grandparents are always looking for something to do with their grandkids, and this program would allow them to introduce their grandkids to the game in an enjoyable social setting. It’d also give overworked parents a way of getting their children to the ballpark under family supervision without having to plan and pay for it.
Before I write, I would appreciate having your responses to these basic questions:
· At what age did you first become an avid Tribe fan, and did your parents or other family member pay an active role in turning you into a fan?
· If you are also a die-hard football or basketball fan, did your parents play the same role in turning you into a fan of those sports?
· Also with regard to football and basketball, did your middle school or high school play a role in turning you into an avid fan of those sports?
I’d also like to hear any other suggestions you have for turning kids into Indians fans.