The Roots Start Here
Ultimately, baseball is a form of entertainment. Whether you decide to take yourself to a movie, a nice dinner or the ball yard determines, to a small degree, the viability of each. The Padres are trying to tip the scales; and the organization is turning over some new rocks in doing so.
Thursday night was Bloggers’ Night at Petco Park. The local baseball team treated a group of fans to an embarrassment of baseball riches. In all honesty, the magnitude of the festivities caught at least one of the bloggers off guard, I’m certain of it. In short, it was fantasy camp for wannabe baseball beat writers. A trip to the field for BP, conversations with Bud Black, Andrew Cashner, Jaff Decker, Bob Scanlan and Josh Byrnes to go along with a ballgame from Suite 35? Scratch about 10 things off my bucket list.
What did we do to deserve this?
It was hard not to ask one’s self that question… until that one’s self realized the question was not the point. The point is: the Padres are going grass roots. The bloggers, myself included, are the roots. The organization hopes a collection of beautiful, green blades of grass that look amazingly like fan conversations and interest will grow. We talk. We tweet. We write. Casual fans consume, re-post, rinse and repeat.
In speaking with members of the Padres marketing and communications departments, the fiendishly clever plan revealed itself. The solution to baseball in the modern era is the modern era. Social media is so 5 years ago, after all. The Padres want you, the fan, to be tied to the team in such a way that letting it go will seem like you are severing a digit.
The ballpark isn’t just an enclosure for an organized game. It will still be that, of course. It will also be the place you want to just… hang out. The organization wants fans to offer feedback, thoughts, and ideas to guide many of the decisions that are made in the concourse. For example: Taco Tuesday. The organization genuinely asked fans for feedback on the tacos. According to what I learned, the first night sucked in fans’ eyes. The second night got better and the progression will continue.
The goal? Show you that you matter. Through surveys, hashtags, apps, wi-fi and other enticements, the Padres want to be connected to the fan base. That’s not to say the fans run the show. But that the organization cares enough to listen. This is not all touchy-feely either. This is a business decision to make fans, even subconsciously, choose a Friday night at Petco over the Embarcadero.
The result, of course, is supposed to appear at the turnstiles. It is a strategy to win the competition for entertainment dollars by simply being local. Hollywood movies, after all, are from Hollywood and not O-B. This is, on a much smaller scale, what teams like the Red Sox, Cubs and Phillies have.
Think about it. This change, if successful, is sustainable. Teams get good and they are sometimes bad. Happens to everyone. As much as fans clamor for another winning season (let us not forget the team has been on the happy side of .500 in 5 of 8 ½ seasons at Petco) the organization wants those same fans to return to the yard because they feel they are welcomed there. That they belong. Will some bitter people still stay away? Sure. But I’d like to believe the bitter population is only the loud, but small percentage of the fan base.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have an intense desire inside myself for the Padres to succeed. As weird as I know that I am, I probably enjoyed talking to team brass even more than the celebs they rolled out the other night. Why?
I’m not entirely sure.