The above is an old mantra intended to keep everyone motivated while not becoming too complacent. At times, we all tend to let up.
Phil Dangel, owner of the Forest City Owls, believes fans have become less than enthusiastic for his baseball team, a wood-bat collegiate summer league, featuring college players recruited from throughout the nation. For the past two playing seasons the Owls have finished last in the league in attendance.
Sports attendance is often linked to the play on the field, more specifically their record. Only Dangel’s Owls have made the playoffs every year he’s owned the team. Overall, the Owls have been a successful team in the 16-team Coastal Plain League (CPL).
So far this year, attendance has been up and down. It began the season with decent crowds before attendance started to seesaw.
Expectations were high for the year after the Owls canceled last season and folks spent the year idle from most events. After COVID restrictions eased, the theory was fans would rush to every spectator event going and coming in search of normalcy. Besides, they’d be outside.
I seldom subscribe to a single reason for anything. It’s usually a combination of causes for an end result.
Dangel acknowledges that he might be part of the problem. A native of Boston who now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he has a business, Dangel confesses to be an “outsider” who can be aggressive when it comes to his business demeanor.
During the summers, Dangel and his co-owner wife live in downtown Forest City.
For those who don’t support the Owls because he’s not from around here, remember Dangel and his wife invested in a business here. Therefore, the Dangels believe in the area. He might not be from RuCo, but he chose to be here.
One theory for the fall in attendance is that the Owls are no longer new. In other words, the excitement of collegiate baseball has waned over time.
Baseball never goes out of style. It’s the purest of all sports. Every player must play offense and defense. The game is not managed by a clock, but by the ability of the players. Baseball is one of the few sports where a hitter is deemed excellent at a success rate of only 30%.
A baseball player need not weigh 300 pounds or stand 6 feet 10 inches to have a chance at being successful like in football and basketball, respectively.
Baseball should be played outdoors between a mix of dirt and grass. The boys of summer should always be sweaty and dirty with only the threat of hard rain or lightning causing an interruption in play.
By the way, the beautiful McNair Field is one of the county’s hidden gems. Nothing builds community spirit like amateur baseball.
Attracting fans to a ballpark is about more than baseball excellence. It’s allure is part competition and part entertainment, a combination of sport and carnival.
Not only are the Owls fan-friendly, but they’re family-friendly. Better yet, the Owls are children friendly. There’s a mascot to keep everyone silly in a world consumed with seriousness.
I’d much rather see a kid romping around at a ballpark than their head buried in an electronic device.
Some believe the added competition of entertainment amenities has simply caught up with the Owls. It’s a tough night at the ballpark when there’s a concert at the Pavilion on Park Square (POPS).
Ideally, someone should check scheduling and attempt to slate concerts when the Owls on the road or vice versa. Even the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Motor Speedway try and cooperate during the month of October.
All local businesses have an interest in the survival of one another; therefore, they should help boost each other’s success. A stub from an Owls ticket should be worth a break somewhere else and vice versa. A spate of businesses would be well served to develop some form of reciprocity, the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” routine.
For the Owls, it’s about getting butts in the seat at least once. Then the aroma of peanuts, popcorn, the taste of hotdogs, the sounds of popping leather, crack of the bat, diving catches and screaming fans will collectively do its thing. Hopefully, the experience will be contagious.