Yes, by all accounts Brett Lawrie’s first series as a big league player was a huge success. Aside from a few defensive mishaps during his first game, he was able to provide a glimpse of what he has to offer and definitely showed us his star power. Through 11 ABs, he was able to get 5 hits including his first HR, has 8 TB, 2 RBI, and 2 Runs. We all know that he won’t be able to maintain a .455 AVG and OBP for the remainder of the season, but his career has kicked off with a bang to say the least, and he has proven that he can play with the big boys, as he predicted pre-season. The biggest question that sticks out in my mind now is this: will fans show up to Toronto in droves to see Brett Lawrie play and will his presence significantly boost numbers for home games from here to the end of the year?
We’ll get to see his impact first hand during the upcoming series against the Athletics. So far in 2011, the Jays have averaged 23,206 fans per game at home (46.7% of capacity), good for 24th in all of MLB. The Athletics are one of the few teams who are behind the Jays, averaging a meager 24,679 fans drawn while playing on the road. Therefore, if we see attendance numbers that are significantly higher than this on Tuesday night and for the series, we can deduce that Brett Lawrie may have played a big part in boosting the attendance numbers in Toronto. After all, when you consider that the Jays are pretty well out of contention for 2011, he would be one of the few reasons for a big boost in ticket sales.
Overall, the Jays have sold 1,243,421 tickets to games played up to August 7th in 2011. These numbers are very close to the pace set by the Jays in 2009, when they averaged 23,162 fans per game for a total of 1,876,129 fans on the season. The problem? That was a serious low after 3 years of averaging 28,000 or more fans per game and a minimum of 2,302,182 fans for the season! Worst yet, the Jays had previously been able to average more than 30,000 fans per game for 14 years before their run of 20 something K began. All of those years had a total of 2.4 million fans or more showing up to games, and this is the level that the Jays need to get back to in order to becoming financially competitive in the A.L. East.
Despite having what could be argued to be the best player in the game on the team, the Jays have been unable to get fans through the turngates at the levels of the past. Will Brett Lawrie change that? Surely, not one single player can accomplish this feat. But, can a combination of Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and Colby Rasmus peak the interest of some fans? It’s possible, and all 3 will deserve some credit if attendance gets stronger for the remainder of 2011.
Obviously, winning is what draws fans in the most. Nobody wants to pay hard earned money to go watch a team their cheer for lose over and over again. But, if they see that big parts of their team’s future is actually playing well and on the field for each game, they could be intrigued enough to come out in bunches. Baseball is one of the few professional sports that has fans understanding just how few playoff spots there are and how tough it is to earn them. Therefore, they are already aware from the beginning that chances are their team will not make the playoffs most seasons.
What they do want to see, however, is great baseball played by their own very talented players. Do the Jays have that to offer for the remainder of 2011? No doubt about it. Brett Lawrie is hitting 9th in a lineup that may have 1 or 2 below average offensive players on it most nights out of 9. They have a talented rotation that seems to be growing stronger as the season wears on, and they have an overall winning record. Best of all, a good portion of the team’s future is now on the field, not in AAA or lower in the minors. Why wouldn’t the fans come out and cheer on one of the better teams in the American League and in MLB?
To me, the Jays are more than worth the ticket, but Brett Lawrie does what no other Jays player could do: attract the casual fans into the stadium and onto the right broadcast simply because he is a home grown commodity. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see numbers close to 30,000 for Tuesday and the majority of the Oakland series. If that happens, we should know that Brett Lawrie is having an imminent impact on attendance numbers. That would become the beginning of a strong signal to the front office of the Jays: if you believe Brett Lawrie will continue to succeed in the majors and is a future star, you can now spend more money knowing that attendance should increase in the upcoming seasons.
Will Brett Lawrie’s star power increase attendance in Toronto this week and beyond? We will soon find out. My prediction is that he will to some degree, I’m just curious to see by how much!
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