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Thursday, January 7, 2010

No love for Richmond?

Whatever year was Sutton's first in the booth, the Nats' caravan came to Richmond. Manny Acta and Ryan Zimmerman were along, as were a couple of others. My wife and I went - not as a fan but as a journalist (still at the paper then). I wanted to see what kind of interest there was in the Nats in this area.

The line went out the door. And stayed out the door for the entirety of the visit. I sat there and ate nachos and drank tea and waited for people to stop coming. They did not.

(in one of the great moments of journalistic stupidity, we planned to run a picture. Except someone, not me, typed the wrong YEAR on the photo assignment and it never got shot).

Richmond really isn't that far away. I don't know if too many of my townies are dumb enough to make the drive as often as I do but I bet there's an untapped market down here - a group that would make 5-6 visits or maybe more.

We checked with the Redskins for a story once and found out that five percent of the season-ticket base had a Richmond address. So clearly sports fans where will make a short drive even if the quality of the product isn't all that hot.

The Nats ain't exactly tearing it up at the turnstiles. You'd think they'd pitch this area a little harder. You'd think they would have done it last year when there was no baseball at all here. This year, our fair city is home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels - the AA team of the Giants. I'll go out when Harrisburg is in town. I'll get the rest of my baseball fix making that 125-mile trek up 95.

MASN is part of the local cable package so the Nats DO have a presence. I think one of the radio stations carries the games.

I'm disappointed the Nats didn't include a stop here in their caravan. It's a CARAVAN - that means get out on the road. There's about 1.1 million people in this Metro area. Plenty of them are as IQ-challenged as I am and could be cajoled into fandom at some level.

I come see you 30 times a year. Come see me, just once.


Nate said...

Apparently Richmond's not done paying for that whole "War of Northern Aggression" misunderstanding. Give it another 5 years, 150 is a nice round number.

An Briosca Mor said...

I wonder how many of those people who were lined up out the door in Richmond a few years ago actually followed up by attending one or more games that season. You're a journalist, perhaps you could ferret that out somehow. I'm sure the Nats have a handle on how many people attend games from Richmond area zip codes, and if that number didn't increase after the Richmond caravan stop maybe they figured it wasn't worth it.

What's the point of these caravan events anyway? To increase awareness of the team in the fan community, which hopefully will translate into increased attendance down the road. The Nats have severe problems with fan awareness in the DC Metro area at the moment, so it seems like that would be the logical place for them to concentrate their efforts. More bang for the buck. As I recall, when they did that stop in Richmond a few years ago there were criticisms of it from people who thought they weren't doing enough in the DC area. Those people were right, they weren't doing enough here. Now they're starting to step up their efforts in the metro area, finally. Once that gets a firm foothold and starts bearing fruit, then it might make sense to reach back out to Richmond. (And of course if they ever get the Flying Squirrels as a Nats affiliate, you know they'll be down there in a flash. And when does the window open on that, next year?)

MikeHarris said...

ABM - not sure when the team's deal with SF expires. I think there's just one more year. I believe most of those affiliation contracts are two year.

I don't have a Richmond zip code (I'm south of Richmond), so maybe it shows up at zero?

When we did that story and got the Skins figure of 5 percent, the other three D.C. franchises would not give us that info for some reason. They all had generic "oh, yeah, Richmond is important us" type of comments but no real marketing plan for the area.

The Wizards do train here.

I understand about building up D.C. - I'm not asking for an extended visit. One stop. Riggleman, Dibble, 2-3 players. They could be back in D.C. before dark. The team needs to expand its reach and it isn't going north into Orioles and Phillies territory.

An Briosca Mor said...

Of course, by Richmond zip code I meant Richmond area zip code. The DC area doesn't have just one zip code either.

And even a one-stop Richmond visit means one (or probably more than one) less stop in the DC area. Even with no out-of-DC stops this year, people will still be saying they're not doing enough up here. And they are at least partly right about that.

Easy enough for the Redskins to say five percent of their attendance comes from Richmond. They are supposedly sold out for the season (and even if they're not, they're trying to maintain that myth) so all they have to do is survey their season ticket holder list for the appropriate zip codes, and boom they're done. The other teams would have to do a hell of a lot more work to come up with that number.

WFY said...

Is there a Nats radio affiliate in Richmond? I know the golden age of baseball on the radio is in the rear-view, but that to me shows a level of commitment by both sides. I never got the feeling the Nats embraced having a meaningful radio network.

MikeHarris said...

One station did do them the last year of RFK, but I'm not sure they're on now because I either watch or use satellite. I'm far enough south that I don't pick up the station well at home. The Braves are on in this area, even though the AAA team left.

I would be interested to see how many other season-ticket holders are from here (hey, I can use the car pool and the company). I know a number of Redskins and Caps season-ticket people. I don't know any Wiz fans.

Basil said...


A Richmond station does carry their games, one you're pretty familiar with by now it would seem. ;-)

No longer having XM, I found it nice that 950 continues to carry the games. They bumped several late season ones, but that was only natural.

Personally, I'm not really into the meet-and-greet events, so it doesn't matter to me. But that's just me.

An Briosca Mor said...

For Wiz fans, check with the NRA. They'll know where to find them.

As for the Nats failing to embrace radio in Richmond, DC or wherever, remember that's a two-way street. Radio needs to embrace the Nats too, and clearly that's not happening. The Nats are producing the programming, but stations aren't buying it. The only way around that would be for the Nats to pull a Snyder and start buying radio stations. I'm not sure we want that. Their money could be better spent improving the team and/or the fan experience in the ballpark. For anyone complaining about lack of radio reception, you can always get the radio broadcast of every single MLB game via MLB At Bat for $15 per season on the internet or $9.95 for the iPhone app.

MikeHarris said...

I have the 15-buck-a-year deal for when I'm on the road, though I'm not on the road very much anymore.

Basil, interesting - I probably should know what's on ESPN950 these days but, living where I do, the station is very hard to pick up at night.

At least they're on.

Positively Half St. said...

I think it is short-sighted of the Nats to abandon Richmond, even by appearances. I know that the players don't want to be burdened with too many of these things, but the could assign a couple of younger players to go, ones who are hungry to make the team.

ABM is right, of course, that the Nats haven't even made inroads in DC for many. Note the "Ryan Zimmerman goes unrecognized in local bars" story from last month. Obscure Redskins linemen probably are recognized more often, and they spend their careers with mass on.

It seems that devotion to the team will be built only through winning. Once the Nats escape the cellar, maybe the Washington Post will be inspired to care, and local sports radio hosts will find it in their interest to know who is on the roster. In the meantime, we need to call in to XM Radio programs to have the team discussed daily.

WFY said...

The time for a big radio push was 2005, but MLB did as little as possible to run the franchise.

The $15 for MLB audio is money well spent, I got it last year and will from now on.