Saturday, June 20, 2009

Marlins Should Thank Those "Damn Yankees."

What's the Best Thing to Happen to Florida Marlins Ticket Sales? The New York Yankees.

With an average attendance of 16,918 through 33 home games, the lowest in the Majors, the Florida Marlins' ticket sales and marketing departments must be scurrying to come up with new ways of attracting fans to the ballpark, or in this case a football stadium masquerading as a ballpark. Perhaps the best thing to happen to the marketing and ticket sales departments thus far this season will come when the New York Yankees (best home attendance with an average of 45,089 fans) bus pulls into South Florida this weekend.

With the Yankees come two of the biggest names in international sports today: Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Rodriguez has quite a few fans in Miami, having attended Westminster Christian High School in Miami and having donated a significant amount of money to the University of Miami, who named its baseball stadium Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park. Rodriguez remains a fan of the Hurricanes to this day and maintains a residence in Coral Gables. That said his fan base in Miami remains strong.

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South Florida also has a large population of relocated New Yorkers, adding to the popularity of the team among citizens of South Florida. And of course, with their impressive, storied history, the Yankees now enjoy probably the largest fan base in the country (sorry Red Sox Nation) and see a strong turnout of supporters at all of their away games. In South Florida, though, with the large population of Yankees fans and a weak turnout among Marlins fans, Landshark Stadium must seem like home to the Bronx Bombers.

South Florida baseball fans will come out in droves to see their beloved Yankees take on the hometown Marlins Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Helping matters are the Yankees pitchers taking the mound in the series. Pitching for the Yankees this weekend will be, in order, Andy Pettite, A.J. Burnett (a former Marlin) and C.C. Sabathia. (Marlins ace Josh Johnson will be pitching Saturday against Burnett.) If you happen to stumble across the game flipping channels this weekend, listen for a minute to who receives the loudest ovations or the strongest oppositions from the fans in attendance. It's a good bet you'll hear some of the usual Yankees chants belted from the seats.

The Marlins are pulling out all the stops to persuade their fans to come out to support the hometown team this weekend, even giving away a cowbell donned with Marlins insignia on Saturday night to any fan wearing Marlins gear (I pity anybody sitting near a group of adolescent Marlins fans on Saturday).

Don't fret Marlins fans! The Marlins are surely not some sad, hopeless ball club. Their record this season is far from impressive, but the team has won two World Series titles in their short 16 year existence, both times as the Wild Card team. Additionally, the Fish have a new state of the art ballpark to look forward to in 2012 and the scouting team in Florida is constantly praised by members of the sports media for finding diamonds in the rough like Dan Uggla, and for making deals to improve the team in the face of stark criticism and fan disapproval. Some of the game's top players have played in or come up with the Marlins organization like Burnett, Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Derrek Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Robb Nenn, Charles Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Edgar Renteria, Mark Kotsay and Carl Pavano.

Still, something has to change in South Florida if the team wants to build their fan base and see a larger turnout for their home games. The personnel department is seemingly doing their part to attract fans to the ballpark, providing Marlins fans with a young, exciting team virtually every year. Part of the problem, though, is that the team throws a lavish fire sale the year after they win the big one and the fans are forced to get to know a whole new roster the next season. A lot of this heat falls on the team's various owners throughout their existence. Fans must also deal with countless relocation rumors to places like Las Vegas and Puerto Rico. This puts a lot of fans off to the team, which contributes to the low attendance. With a new ballpark in the works, these rumors should hush up and attendance will surely rise.

Playing in the same stadium, the Miami Dolphins attracted an average attendance of 65,489 fans in 2008. That was good enough for the 18th largest average attendance in the NFL last season, sort of middle of the pack, but a far cry from the measly 16,918 fans the Marlins have attracted on a daily basis this season. This weekend, team officials expect an attendance of 30,000 fans for each of the three games. Good news for ticket sales; bad news for a young Marlins team who must face three hostile road games in their own ballpark. The Fish have been good at overcoming adversity throughout their short history. They'll need to overcome screaming New Yorkers and a few future Hall of Famers this weekend if they want to come away with some wins.

UPDATE: Alex Rodriguez will sit for the first two games of this series due to fatigue. His absense has not seemed to deter the droves of Yankees fans who packed Landshark Stadium Friday night and it is unlikely that Saturday's game will be any different. In response to missing two of the three games of his homecoming Rodriguez said, "I was looking forward to this day, honestly, for five or seven years. It's a big disappointment."

Written By Danny Hobrock

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