By Justin Bercovich
Ballpark attendance may be up around the nation, but nobody told the people of Santa Cruz.
The 2007 Major League Baseball season began when the New York Mets faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night, and record attendance is expected this year. MLB drew 63.6 million fans in 2003, and that number has grown each year, culminating last year with a record 75.9 million fans.
The San Francisco Giants had a down year in 2006, but still managed to bring in 3.13 million fans.
The UC Santa Cruz Sluggers, on the other hand, will be lucky to attract three hundred spectators in 2007.
UCSC does not keep track of the official attendance, but when there are only fifteen people in the stands, it is not hard to count.
In an era when UCSC students pack the West Field House for every men’s volleyball game, and baseball fans fill major league stadiums around the United States, why does the UCSC baseball team have such small crowds?
“Because volleyball players are hot,” one UCSC student told me.
Rodney Dangerfield would suggest that low attendance occurs because the Sluggers don’t get any respect.
But why would a team with such talented players not get any respect? It isn’t because of performance on the field.
Centerfielder Denny Delgadillo is batting .435 this season, which is the fifth highest average in the country (among club teams). He leads the nation in hits (27), triples (4), and runs scored (18). Pitcher Dylan Murphy is also one of the National Club Baseball Association’s statistical leaders. He is second in the country in both ERA (1.33) and walks per nine innings (1.67).
One factor in the horrific attendance is the field. The team has played the first half of its home schedule at Watsonville High School, a 25-minute drive from the campus. That isn’t the team’s fault.
The Sluggers’ normal home, Harvey West Field, was closed for the first couple months of the season, and there was no other suitable field.
Regardless of the circumstances, playing in Watsonville makes it nearly impossible for any freshman or sophomore without a car to get to the games.
Location is not the only cause of the empty bleachers. Advertising is a problem that the team needs to address.
UCSC students see fliers promoting soccer games and volleyball matches in residence halls and classrooms throughout the campus. Baseball posters are few and far between.
The biggest problem that the baseball team faces in its quest for better attendance is a lack of public knowledge.
You aren’t going to see a group of people standing outside the bookstore talking about the baseball team unless that group of people is the baseball team. The team needs to do a better job of getting the word out to friends, coworkers, and classmates.
One student suggested that a spectator sport like baseball just doesn’t fit in with the culture of Santa Cruz, but evidence suggests otherwise. This is a community that loves participating in team sports. The East Field is jammed every afternoon with everything from soccer to football to rugby.
Also, if the claim that Santa Cruz does not appreciate spectator sports were true, then other sports would have the same problem baseball has.
Minimal attendance is a problem unique to the baseball team. If team members want the problem fixed, they need to advertise. They need to promote. They need to be heard.
Put up a flier. Make an announcement before class starts. These are the simple things that UCSC baseball players should be doing if they want more fan support.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans are famous for arriving at games in the third inning and leaving in the seventh, but at least they are there for half the game. The Sluggers can only dream of that kind of support.