Fans line up to get inside of PNC Park
No doubt about it. There's nothing that spurs interest in a sports team like winning on the field. After a long drought at the turnstiles, Pittsburgh Pirate ownership is seeing that firsthand in a big way this season.
Ownership finally got the message that people will come out to see a team that plays good baseball. The light went on. Put a quality product on the field and people will support it.
With a little less than a month and a half to go, the Bucs are chasing the all-time PNC mark for sellouts (19 in 2001, the ball park's first season in use). So far, 16 games have been SRO. But, how do they keep the fans a-comin'? Let's take a look.
Albert Pujols would look great wearing black and gold.
First of all, sign an impact free agent. Sign at least one each winter, based on team needs and, of course, what happens to be available.
This coming winter, it looks like Albert Pujols might be the ripest plum of all. Although first baseman Matt Hague is at Triple A and ready to emerge, Sir Albert can also play third or the outfield (he was an outfielder when the Cardinals brought him up).
Yes, the Pirates have spent an impressive amount of money to sign amateur athletes. While that is certainly commendable, it's also a waiting game to see how fast/when/if they develop.
Ask any Pirate fan and they'll sing you a couple of bars of that old classic from The Kinks, "Tired Of Waiting."
Jose Tabata will stay put in Pittsburgh.
Lock up the young kids to long-term deals. They've already begun this process, getting outfielder Jose Tabata's autograph on a long-term deal that keeps him in Pittsburgh through 2019 (the last three years are at club option).
Next, they have to set sights on second baseman Neil Walker, center fielder Andrew McCutchen and many of the young arms that they've relied on this season. This will tell fans that it's OK to have favorite players again, because they won't be gone by morning.
Clint Hurdle chats with team president Frank Coonelly recently.
Make ample use of the Pirate Winter Caravan in visiting local schools, malls and other places where people congregate.
The team created a real buzz in the city this summer by playing hard and challenging for the National League Central for much of the season before falling on hard times after a particularly painful and disheartening 19-inning loss in Atlanta at the end of July.
Local folks will be anxious to meet any new players and say hello to familiar faces this winter. One of manager Clint Hurdle's goals was to re-establish strong interest in the team this summer and he's done that. The Pirates need to remain visible long after the season is through.
GM Neal Huntington has made things happen in Pittsburgh.
Let's not forget about locking up team president Frank Coonelly and General Manager Neal Huntington.
They, along with majority owner Bob Nutting have been the subject of much scorn in recent years. Nutting finally understands that Pittsburgh is still very much a baseball town and what it takes to expose the loyalties of these fans.
For their part, Coonelly and Huntington are building the puzzle in the proper manner. It'd be a real shame to have either of these men walk away from the club before the transformation is complete.
Souther rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd are a popular post-game draw in Pittsburgh.
This last idea is unorthodox, but will, nonetheless remain popular. The local area is big on oldies and classic rock.
Many of the sellouts were on nights when there was a post-game concert with fireworks. If the Pirates would increase those types of post-game entertainment, the non-traditional fans would be lured out in bigger numbers.
However, it's still comes down to winning. It's a self-perpetuating thing. The more you win, the more fans turn out. The more fans, the more money the team has to spend on talent.
Let's see if the pride and the passion are in Pittsburgh to stay.