Game 2: The most accurate measuring stick of attendance for a major league baseball team.
Nearly all 30 teams sell out Opening Day tickets, but unless your favorite team is a perennial playoff contender with the league’s current superstars on its roster, most likely the attendance drop off between the first and second home games of the season is huge.
I haven’t been to a Cleveland Indians home opener. Yet. But this year, the Tribe’s opening weekend schedule coincided with Gannon’s Easter vacation. I convinced my parents to attend opening Saturday with me.
Despite watching the Tribe set an Opening Day record with a 16-inning loss two days earlier, I felt pretty excited to sit back in my seat at Progressive Field and watch the Indians take the field.
Going into the game, I knew the 40,000 plus who filled the seats for Opening Day wouldn’t show up for the second game. I accepted that. The total number of fans at the game was less than half the maximum capacity, but for the last few years the Indians haven’t exactly inspired new fans to wear the Chief Wahoo.
Absent superstars, trades of cornerstone players and a below-average payroll have frustrated Clevelanders and left a majority of the home seats vacant.
The Toronto Blue Jays opposed the Tribe that opening weekend. The Blue Jays entered the 2012 season feeling confident after a stellar spring training, but that confidence didn’t prepare me for the blanketing feeling I experienced from the Toronto fans in attendance.
My parents and I had scored some premium tickets behind the plate, but throughout the afternoon I couldn’t help but notice how many Blue Jays fans were clustered around us. And they were loud, too, as they made their cheers for their team heard.
It made me think how unpleasant it would be as a player to seemingly hear more voices rooting against you than for you on your home field.
The “Let’s go Blue Jays” chants every other inning became annoying after awhile. But then I reflected on whether the Toronto fans bothered me solely because they had swum across the lake or if their cheers were just louder than mine.
It was hard to swallow, mainly, because I knew the potential of Tribe fans to show up at the ballpark to support their team.
After all, these are the same fans who broke the regular season sellout record by filling the Progressive Field seats for 455 straight games in the mid ‘90s.
As I flashed back to the present, the nagging thoughts of absent Tribe fans brought on by frustration at the miserly front office dissipated as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth. In that moment, I high-fived every Indians fan around me. The Blue Jays fans were silent, and for a few seconds that stadium felt alive again.
I’m certain that the Indians will rebound eventually, and that the vibrant fan base will stock the seats when it’s Tribe Time once again.