According to this article in the Post the Nats are drawing only 9,000 viewers a game for their televised games. That is pathetic. The Kansas City Royals, perennial losers, draw 28,000 a game as the next lowest team. I know the Nats are new in town, I know it takes awhile to build a solid base, but I still think the team isn’t really trying.
The owners needs to be doing more outreach. They need to be aggressive in getting baseball tickets to kids. The Orioles have a kids club that gives away tickets and sends kids free stuff. The Nats might have one, but I have never seen it pushed anywhere when I have been to games with my son. The Nationals organization needs to be working harder than other teams in the MLB to push baseball in DC, both its own organization and all other forms of baseball. They should be running youth camps in coordination with Little League and the schools focused in the city and the suburbs. Here is the community outreach page on their website, do you see anything there that will help build the base? It is all good stuff, but it is the sort of things that teams in established markets do, nothing there is about building baseball as a value in DC.
The players should kick in as well. I am sure they would say it is the ownerships job to do outreach but the long and short of it is that they get more money if the market here grows, and less if it stays in the gutter. Self interest should say that the players must be out there as ambassadors as much as they possibly could. That is hard work, especially during the season but a couple of hours a week from most of the players would go a long way to getting the community to appreciate them.
Overall I was shocked at the numbers but I guess I shouldn’t be. My family in the area are baseball fans, I admit I am an Orioles fan before I am a Nats fan, but I am one of the 9,000 when they aren’t playing opposite the O’s. One of my brothers in law has a ticket plan and goes regularly. I did hear some of the parents on my son’s little league team talking about how little impact the Nats have had on the local little league scene, no bigger since the team came to town.
The article mentions fielding a winning team can change the team’s local profile and that is true but the Devil Rays have had a 30% increase in viewership since taking first place this year, that would translate to 12,000 viewers for the Nats. The foundation is missing here in DC, the Nats would be investing wisely if they spent some time, care and money on the local baseball scene to help grow tomorrows fans or they may find they still have plenty of seats available even if they start to win.