The Red Sox, who have sold out 723 consecutive home games through Wednesday, "embrace an alternate definition that permits them to declare a game sold out even if hundreds of tickets go unsold but others are distributed for free," according to a front-page piece by Hohler & Lakso of the BOSTON GLOBE. Red Sox Exec VP & COO Sam Kennedy said, "I can understand the confusion. But we operate by a definition that is commonly practiced throughout Major League Baseball and professional sports." Hohler & Lakso note the Red Sox count the "total number of tickets they distribute, including an average of 800 complimentary tickets each game to charities and others, as the basis for a sellout." They also count "standing room tickets toward the total." By giving away hundreds of tickets to Wednesday’s game and selling hundreds of other standing room tickets, the Red Sox "kept their streak alive despite reporting a paid attendance of 37,434 -- 61 seats shy of capacity." At 9:35pm ET Wednesday, in the seventh inning of the game against the A’s, the Red Sox "cut off ticket sales at Fenway Park with an estimated 300 seats unsold." At 10:19pm the team announced that the game "was sold out." In a "sequence of events that raised questions about the authenticity of the prized streak, the Sox stopped selling tickets for the game first at the ticket office on Yawkey Way when the game began, then at Gate E an hour later, and finally at Gate A deep into the game, with a sales clerk telling a Globe correspondent at each closing that tickets remained available." Kennedy said that the Red Sox "do not give away tickets to keep the streak alive." He added that the team "generally gives away far fewer tickets than other major league teams because of Fenway’s small size and the high demand for tickets." He said that the "average paid attendance last year was 37,714, which exceeds the seating capacity, and includes standing room." Hohler & Lakso note that overall, Red Sox tickets "remain among the hottest in baseball." The team has sold "22,158 season tickets, with a waiting list of 8,500." However, interest in single game tickets "has lagged, which has been evident in the resale market." Ace Ticket President & CEO Jim Holzman, whose company is the Red Sox' official secondary ticketing company and also a team sponsor, said that contrary to popular opinion, Ace "plays no direct role in advancing the Sox sellout streak." Holzman said that his company "would never buy tickets the team cannot sell on game days" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/4). Meanwhile, New Hampshire's Waterville Valley Resort has signed a three-year sponsorship deal to become the "Official Mountain Resort" of the Red Sox through '14 (Waterville).
The Nationals said they are expecting more than 100,000 to attend this weekend's three-game series against the Phillies, which was targeted back in February for its "Take Back the Park" ticketing effort. The Nationals conducted a month-long targeted presale before the season for the Phillies' first visit in '12 to DC, only selling tickets to fans in the Nationals' home market. Following that effort, Nationals officials are expecting a far different environment than the last two years, during which Phillies games at Nationals Park have been overrun by fans from Philadelphia who unofficially dubbed the ballpark "Citizens Bank Park South." "It was probably 80% Phillies fans at times last year. I promise you it won't be anywhere near 80 percent Phillies fans this weekend, and in reality, a large part of the fans will be ours. There is a story starting to unfold in this town that is truly taking hold," said Nationals COO Andrew Feffer, in part referencing the first-place club featuring young phenoms P Stephen Strasburg and LF Bryce Harper. The Nationals are also promising a "really unique" pre-game event related to the the "Take Back the Park" effort, but refused to divulge any further details. Sunday's finale will be nationally televised on ESPN (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
A NEW ERA: Feffer said of Strasburg and Harper playing together for the first time at Nationals Park on Friday night, "I think this is an important moment for our franchise." In DC, Barry Svrluga noted while the DC sports market has "long been dominated by the Redskins," Strasburg and Harper "would seem to give the Nationals an opportunity to finally create a little buzz of their own." However, for Harper's home debut on Tuesday, only "22,675 fans came to 41,000-seat Nationals Park." Feffer "cites a well-worn list of obstacles to selling mid-week tickets early in a baseball season." Feffer: "It's still a start-up. The biggest challenge, and probably the greatest opportunity, is building the fan base from the ground up. That takes time." The Nationals "have never drawn more fans" than in their debut year of '05. Feffer said that while the team's attendance is down this season, "advance sales are up" nearly 20%. Nationals SS Ian Desmond said, "I absolutely thought we'd see more (fans) this week. I thought when we were in first place, playing great baseball early on, they'd start coming out. ... We've got to play better as players and continue to show them it's not a fluke" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/3).
GET OFF MY LAWN: In Philadelphia, Mark Kram writes, "Seems the Nationals have grown weary of seeing Nationals Park overrun with Phillies fans whenever the NL East defending champs swing through Washington." Kram writes the Nationals plan to only allow tickets to be sold to fans in its home market "does have a hint of desperation to it." Phillies fans "are a presence throughout baseball whenever the team plays outside of Philadelphia, not just Washington." Phillies VP/Sales & Ticket Operations John Weber said, "Our fan support at Citizens Bank Park and on the road has been incredible." Given how "tough a ticket the Phillies have been at home -- Citizens Bank Park has had 214 consecutive sellouts -- it is not surprising that fans follow the team on the road" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/4).
If A's co-Owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher “can’t commit to Oakland or don’t want to,” there is a group of local business leaders who “are willing to buy the A’s to keep the team here,” according to a front-page piece by Angela Woodall of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. Clorox Chair & CEO Don Knauss organized Thursday's gathering of “executives from a dozen Oakland-based companies” including Kaiser Permanente, Safeway, Pandora Internet Radio, Cost Plus World Market and Signature Development. Knauss said that Oakland’s business leaders "are eager to work with Wolff and Fisher” to keep the team in the city. Woodall notes some of the companies “had contributed to a $1 million pledge made in 2009” when MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a “three-man committee to evaluate the A’s Bay Area choices.” Thursday’s gathering was “clearly intended to open up a new channel with him and send a signal to Selig in advance of the May baseball ownership meeting, where the A’s future home could be a topic for discussion.” But Wolff said that the A’s "are not for sale and that no one has approached him about buying the team.” He added that his intention is to "own the team for at least another generation, preferably in the Bay Area” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/4). Knauss said, “We want to make clear that Oakland and the East Bay business community are ready to step up to the plate to help ensure the A’s stay home where they belong in Oakland.” CSNBAYAREA.com's Nate Stuhlbarg reported the local business coalition has “plans to secure the funds” through initiatives including ballpark naming rights, signing new sponsors and attracting additional "regional sponsorships from other parts of Northern California.” They would also like to pursue “specific industry anchor sponsors such as airlines, health care, car manufacturers, beverage and food companies, energy companies and consumer companies.” A new ballpark in Oakland is “expected to cost somewhere between $400 and $500 million” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 5/3).
WHAT'S THE PLAN, STAN? San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy said, “Just because you have a press conference and one guy from one company stands up and says, ‘This would be a really great idea,’ doesn’t mean you’ve got a real ballpark plan.” Purdy said there were “about eight CEOs that have signed on this” and the difference in San Jose is “you’ve got about 50 CEOs behind that” ballpark plan. Purdy: "Baseball follows the corporate money” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/3).
Yankees P Andy Pettitte's final minor league start Sunday for the Triple-A Int'l League Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees "means some quick shifts of the schedule" for the Int'l League's Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings, according to Mike Harrington of the BUFFALO NEWS. The Bison and Red Wings were to meet Sunday at 1:00pm ET at Rochester's Frontier Field, but that game "has now been shelved in favor of Pettitte's outing" against the Pawtucket Red Sox, which will be at 2:00pm. Frontier Field is "housing 37 of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's home games this year while its ballpark is being renovated," and Frontier Field has "agreed to add" Sunday's game as well. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was scheduled to play Sunday at Batavia's Dwyer Stadium, but the Yankees "balked at having Pettitte pitch in Batavia, a New York-Penn League city with a ballpark well below Triple-A standards." The Red Wings said that they “understand fans might be upset at the perception the hometown team is being pushed aside.” But team GM Dan Mason said, “We feel this is a chance to give people in this area a chance to see a possible future Hall of Famer. We’re very excited” (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/4). In Rochester, Jim Mandelaro notes Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was scheduled to play seven games at the 2,600-seat Dwyer Stadium "as part of a season-long road trip." The Red Wings front office is “thrilled” with the venue change, as a “sellout crowd in the 10,840-seat stadium is possible.” Int'l League President Randy Mobley said he has "no concerns" about moving the Red Wings game to accommodate Pettitte (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 5/4).