How many ballparks are filled in 2009 depends at least partly on how Major League Baseball and its fans are able to cope together in these economic times, and Commissioner Bud Selig announced today the creation of a Commissioner's Fan Initiative that may go a long way toward helping it happen.
The Commissioner's Fan Initiative is designed to make fans aware of the growing number of affordable ticket promotions offered by the 30 Major League clubs and to increase baseball's considerable efforts in giving back to the community.
As part of the Commissioner's Fan Initiative, Major League Baseball is unveiling the MLB.com Fan Value Corner and the Jr. RBI presented by KPMG program. Additional initiatives will be unveiled throughout the season.
"Throughout its long and distinguished history, baseball has always served as a diversion for its fans in difficult times," Selig said. "These difficult times are no different, and Major League Baseball is stepping up its efforts to make the game more affordable and to demonstrate to its fans how important they are to us.
"Through a variety of ballpark promotions, fans will be able to stretch their entertainment dollar for an experience at the ballpark, as we will offer great value and the most affordable ticket of any major professional sport. Also, we will increase our already substantial community activities and continue to contribute valuable resources to important social causes during these difficult times."
After all, a filled ballpark is not only a beautiful thing, as the legendary former baseball executive and nonpareil promoter once said, but it is symbolic of a sport and its fans all together. That happens all the time away from the ballpark, too.
"Nothing is more important to baseball than its fans. We know our fans hold baseball to a higher standard than any other sport because of its values and because it is valuable to them and their families," said Los Angeles Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, an ardent proponent of the fan initiative. "We intend to show our fans and their families that we value their devotion to the game and hope to offer the kinds of ticket and event packages that will make baseball a memorable, meaningful, and affordable piece of their summer of 2009. This is more than an initiative; it is a commitment."
MLB.com has just launched the Fan Value Corner, which will display the numerous ticket promotions available to fans. In addition, each club's home page will have a Fan Value Corner to showcase the club's ticket promotions. Major League Baseball also will highlight the Fan Value Corner by directing fans to the site at the end of some of its television spots and in print ads.
In addition, Major League Baseball will be expanding RBI presented by KPMG with the creation of Jr. RBI presented by KPMG, which will offer children ages 6-12 the opportunity to participate in the program. The program has previously been available to boys and girls 13-18. Entering its 20th season, RBI is designed to promote interest in the sport, increase the self-esteem of disadvantaged children and encourage kids to stay in school.
Major League Baseball clubs will provide fans with a wide range of special promotions in 2009. Here are some key stats:
26 clubs (87 percent) will offer tickets that are $10 or less;
26 clubs (87 percent) will offer promotions geared towards families and/or kids;
23 clubs (77 percent) will offer price reductions for concession and/or merchandise;
20 clubs (67 percent) either maintained or reduced 2009 ticket prices in most areas of their ballparks;
16 clubs (53 percent) will offer tickets that are $5.50 or less on a regular basis.
Some promotions highlights this season include:
Baltimore Orioles Kids Night: A new offer for children 10 and under who can enter free when accompanied by an adult on Thursday night games. The offer is available for two children per adult.
Cincinnati Reds Straight-A Program: The Reds and Duke Energy provide two free View Level tickets to students in grades 7-12 with an A average. Friends and family can purchase additional View Level tickets at half-price for the same game.
The Detroit Tigers have increased promotional giveaways by 55 percent this season.
Minnesota Twins Market Mondays: Tickets will be sold in the Home Run Porch based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the close of business on Friday. If the Dow closes the week at 7,481, the ticket price for any Monday game will be $7.48 if purchased in the following week.
Pittsburgh Pirates Buc Night: A new promotion on April 15, where fans can purchase $1 seats, $1 hot dogs, $1 12-ounce Pepsi and $1 popcorn.
Those are just many of the examples. The D-Backs just announced the creation of their All-You-Can-Eat Seats -- 675 seats out in left at Chase Field. Pay one fee and gobble up the concessions from start to finish. Other clubs have similar increasingly popular value packages.
Major League Baseball also will increase its efforts to support the community by unveiling a variety of new initiatives this year. New programs will provide education and opportunities to play baseball for inner-city youth, expand fundraising efforts and awareness to fight a variety of forms of cancer, start a new campaign to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and celebrate the achievements and courage of its fans.
In addition, Major League Baseball clubs will continue expanding upon their unprecedented outreach in the community. MLB clubs will conduct more than 2,200 community initiatives during the 2009 season, as well as about 700 educational initiatives, health programs, community fundraisers and food and clothing donations.
MLB President Bob DuPuy said Wednesday on CNBC that the league believes it is "affordable family entertainment, and we're going to try to promote that. ... We are the cheapest major entertainment. Our average ticket price is about half of any other major sport. We are less than $25. Half of the teams have tickets for $10 or less. ... Every club has value packs and family values and is going to try to give the fans more for their money.
"We take our responsibilities, as an official institution, seriously," DuPuy added. "The Commissioner has preached that and the clubs are taking that seriously as well. We're going to respond."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.