By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Season tickets for 81 games. 20-game, 12-game and six-game packs. Summer night scenarios. Single-game ducats.
Whatever the route, the Blue Jays are finding ways to get bums into their seats. That's how it works when you have a contender on your hands, at least on paper.
The Jays are a few games under .500 but they are on the cusp of contention in the American League East and the fans are backing them despite their horrific start, all due in part to off-season sales.
You can bet that most of the tickets sold for the three-game series at the Rogers Centre against the Texas Rangers were sold long ago because of the less than cozy relationship the teams have. Look at the weekend crowds for Texas: 40,754, 46,825 and 46,188.
You can bet that most of the tickets sold, period, for most of this season, were sold long ago. Walk-ups are almost unheard of. A team like the Rangers will attract fans but not a team like the Atlanta Braves, who in a two-game series earlier in May, brought crowds of 29,766 and 34,431 to the Rogers Centre. Actually, they were not too-too bad crowds for games that were played early in the week -- on a Monday and on a Tuesday.
Even against the Seattle Mariners, the Jays attracted weekend crowds of 32,855, 42,346 and 42,030 from May 12 to 14.
To date this season, the Blue Jays had averaged 37,834 fans through 24 dates. It is a testament to the support the fans are giving the team. Even without Edwin Encarnacion, the attendance has been very respectable.
I remember back some 12 years ago when the Blue Jays were not a hot item at all. I had taken it upon myself to do some charity work for an organization and approached businesses and companies to contribute prizes for a silent auction.
It was easy for companies to donate Blue Jays' tickets but people in that era had little or no interest in the Blue Jays so the tickets at the auction went for far less than the face value and it was only near the end of the auction that anyone submitted bids.
Times have changed. The Blue Jays are a brand name now like they were from 1989 to 1994. This brand has become a phenomena. Merchandise sales alone have also skyrocketed in the last few years but it's ticket sales that propel the revenue and the brand. I reached out to the Blue Jays to talk about this scenario but they passed on the opportunity.
I started out by emailing Justin Hay, vice-president of ticket sales and operations. No reply from him. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro graciously passed on my request for an interview to Andrew Miller, executive vice-president of business operations. No reply from him but he transferred the request to Sebastian Gatica, vice-president of fan engagement.
"Thanks for reaching out and thinking of us,'' Gatica wrote back. "However at this time, we will decline the opportunity to comment on this subject. Perhaps we can re-visit this topic in the coming months.''
Imagine, a brand-name turning down a reporter who would might encourage more people to buy tickets. They don't want publicity? Hrmmph. I guess the Jays figure they need no publicity to generate even more sales.
No matter how they think, they will still get bums into their seats.
"I think a lot of this year’s attendance figures represent a carryover from two seasons where we made the playoffs,'' said Jim Loewen, a season-ticket since Day One in 1977. "In other words, the Blue Jays were once again crowd favourites and people bought tickets for that reason. The place to be!''
That's for sure.