Goodness gracious, the trend continues. The top crowd of yesterday came on—wait for it—an Education Day promotion. This time the kids in Indianapolis took a break from school by filling Victory Field with 12,279 screaming schoolchildren. Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon.
Top 20 Attendance Leaders for May 22
The Durham Bulls hit the road following a 9-2 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, signaling the end of a six-game homestand but the beginning of a much longer stretch for the Bulls staff. Just how long? According to Bulls Vice President Mike Birling, the Bulls are in the midst of a 17-day, 50-game marathon.
No, the team is not playing around the clock; it only feels that way. Instead, Durham is playing host to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament beginning today, with 15 games scheduled over the next six days. This coincides with the National Club Baseball Association D1 World Series the team is hosting at their newly acquired Coastal Plain League franchise located in nearby Holly Springs. Combine those two events with the just-completed Bulls homestand, last weekend’s Division III Regional tournament in Holly Springs, and the upcoming Bulls homestand, and the number of games adds up to 50.
“We’re running around with our head cut off and spending a lot of money on the 540 tollway [between Durham and Holly Springs],” Birling said. “Once the final kid ran the bases last night, we went into full ACC mode.”
Just when it seemed like it could not get any better for the Frisco RoughRiders, after the Texas League franchise topped 10,000 fans on back-to-back nights over the weekend, they managed to out-do themselves on Monday.
During an Education Day promotion—are you sensing a trend?—the RoughRiders drew 11,844 screaming schoolchildren to Dr. Pepper Ballpark, good for the largest day-game crowd and the fifth-largest overall in team history. In total, Frisco drew 40,018 fans during its five-game homestand.
Smell the Change.
Laugh. Cheer. Oink.
Bacon is Better.
These are all mottos that Kurt Landes has embraced while bringing the zaniness of minor league baseball into the mainstream during his tenure as president and general manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Landes has established himself as one of the preeminent promoters in minor league baseball, beginning as a young GM with the Daytona Cubs and Hagerstown Suns before launching the IronPigs franchise in 2008. He has since become a trendsetter, building the IronPigs into one of the top draws in the minors while pushing the limits with creative promotions.
What follows is my conversation with Landes about his quick rise through the minors, how he approaches promotions and his philosophy for building a successful brand. His insight should be useful for anyone involved in marketing—whether in professional baseball or elsewhere. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
When did you decide that you want to work in minor league baseball? What about minor league baseball appealed to you as a career?
Like many high school kids, I was really involved in sports growing up, so I wanted to be involved in sports but I didn’t really know what that meant. I ended up going to Bowling Green State University in Ohio and doing a lot of different internships and practicums in different areas of sport, and one of those was with the Toledo Mud Hens. And I really enjoyed it and really gravitated toward using sport and entertainment collectively. I enjoyed that a lot.
The following year they asked me to come back full-time. And that was back in 1995. I cut my teeth and got my start with the Mud Hens in Ohio. I really understood how baseball and sport was a vehicle for entertainment and I really enjoyed that cross-section, and minor league baseball kind of hooked me at that point in time.
It was a busy weekend of minor league baseball and we’re here to help you get caught up by presenting the top draws from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
First, a few highlights:
- Fans turned out for baseball in the heart of Texas, as the Frisco RoughRiders topped the 10,000 mark on back-to-back nights.
- The Albuquerque Isotopes put up the biggest number on the board by drawing 12,330 on Saturday night, well up on their season average of 7,614. It was Little League Night at Isotopes Park, complete with postgame fireworks.
- Rochester doubled its season average on Friday night when Dustin Pedroia came to town with Pawtucket for a rehab start.
- Tim Tebow was in New Hampshire over the weekend, as were Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.
Now, on to the stats . . .
It was a big day for the International League on Thursday, with four IL clubs drawing the biggest crowds in the minor leagues. Toledo, Columbus, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Rochester led the way on today’s attendance tracker and followed a familiar theme, as three of the four hosted Education Day promotions.
The Lexington Legends created a bit of a Twitter controversy late last week when the South Atlantic League franchise announced their Millennial Night promotion in a poking fun kind of way that is a tradition in minor league baseball. The event, held Monday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, included free parking, participation ribbons for showing up, nap time, selfie stops and faux-outrage petitions.
Millennial defenders, at least those responding on Twitter, were neither amused nor the saw irony in their outrage. After all, a promotion intended to lightheartedly mock millennials for taking themselves too seriously resulted in them, well, taking themselves a bit too seriously.