The Red Sox project that, barring highly unexpected walkup sales, tonight's game against the Orioles at Fenway Park will not sell out, marking the first game not to do so at the ballpark since May 15, 2003. The club has posted an MLB-record 794 straight regular-season sellouts, including Monday's home opener, and 820 games overall counting the postseason. But three straight non-playoff seasons, including last season's 93-loss disaster, has depressed ticket demand. The club is expecting a turnout tonight of slightly above 30,000, roughly 7,000 below capacity. "It's hard, really, to be anything but extremely grateful looking at all of this," said Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy. "The streak has been talked about a lot, analyzed a lot and so forth. It is really a reflection of the incredible passion of this market and our fan base." In the immediate term, sellouts are likely to be more the exception than the rule at Fenway Park, as most other games in the club's 16 home dates this month are similarly expected to draw between 30,000-35,000. "There's still a wait-and-see attitude among a lot of fans, which is certainly understandable," Kennedy said. The Trail Blazers sold out 814 straight games between '77-95, and the Single-A Midwest League Dayton Dragons have an active streak of 913 games and counting (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Kennedy noted that ticket sales before Christmas were "off, and then the season-ticket renewal rate, which had been coming in at 95 percent, dipped to 88 percent." Kennedy said that ticket sales have "ticked up the last couple of weeks," but "not enough to pick up the slack" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10).
SECONDARY FACTOR: In N.Y., Ken Belson cites TiqIQ data as indicating that it does "not help the streak that interest has dipped on the resale market, where the average price of tickets for the home opener at Fenway Park fell to $171.68 this year, about half what they cost for the home opener last year." Fans could have "paid as little as $63 to see Monday’s game, down from $103 last season." The prices for tickets to tonight's game have "fallen faster." TiqIQ data indicated that fans can "find tickets for as little as $12 for that game, about 75 percent less than the cheapest seat for the second home game of the season last year" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes the "few empty seats you'll see tonight -- as well as tomorrow night and beyond" -- are a reminder the Red Sox need to "earn your trust all over again." Those empty seats "represent casual fans who in the recent past" would have gone to a game like the one tonight (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10). Meanwhile, the HERALD's Gerry Callahan writes fans will "see how the next 155 games go," but even if the Red Sox "don’t win 95 or come close to a division title, there was something commendable and worthwhile about the offseason efforts of Ben Cherington and the Sox front office." They "know they probably won’t win the World Series," but that "doesn’t mean they can’t win back the hearts and minds of their disillusioned customers." The end of the sellout streak is "perfect," as front office execs now have to "earn their way back in front of a full house." If they "fail, the baseball world will be laughing at the Red Sox all over again," but "so far, so good" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10).
GAME OF CHICKEN: Baseball HOFer Wade Boggs said that he and his agent have approached Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino and Owner John Henry "about a public relations role with the Sox" similar to the one the late Johnny Pesky had. Boggs said, "We gave them a number, they gave us a number, and neither number worked. It was very time-consuming for not a lot of money” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10).