There is a massive amount that goes on behind the scenes of a baseball club that fans don’t see, and so their relationship with the team, and their faith in the people running it, has almost everything to do with what’s on the surface. During the season the results on the field will mostly dictate tenor of this relationship. In the winter it gets a little more tricky.
And especially at the end of a long and frustrating winter (with one notable and massive misstep), it can get difficult for fans to remember those months-ago successes. Their faith that the club is in good hands relies on what they’re seeing and the organization’s ability to project confidence heading into the season and to stay out of its own goddamned way.
This, and not for the first time in the Mark Shapiro era, is the Blue Jays organization failing to stay out of its own way:
#BlueJays will not host their annual pre-season Leadoff event for STH this year due to “increased demand”. That’s not a good look.
— Jenn Smith (@Baseball_Jenn) January 24, 2017
Specifically, in an email to season ticket holders — like Jenn, who does great work for BP Toronto — the Blue Jays said this:
This year, we will not be holding the annual “Leadoff” event. The increased demand and rising fan interest in the Blue Jays over the last couple of seasons has caused us to re-evaluate select offerings. Instead, all Season Ticket Member events will be hosted during the season, including an opportunity to attend our popular Fan Festival and Autograph Session. Full details regarding Season Ticket Member events will be communicated shortly.
Maybe they’ll make up for it with these other events to be communicated shortly, but that’s not really the point. If you have something better or similar planned, say so. Don’t send this email to the fans most deeply invested in your product to tell them that a well-liked staple event of the off-season is no more. And especially don’t hide behind horseshit like “increased demand and rising fan interest … has caused us to re-evaluate select offerings.”
How else is anybody going to read that except: “We’ve decided that because there are now so many of you forking over thousands of dollars for season tickets, it’s become too expensive for us to give away all that free food and beer and pay people to staff this event”?
Oh, I’m sure some folks will think this is the front office ducking the hard questions that are going to come from the season ticket holding public, but that I don’t think anybody should buy. There have been far more difficult winters than this one, including last year, and last year’s event went extremely smoothly. It was nice, even! An enjoyable evening for fans, and a nice thank-you to the people who paid out a shit-load of money in the fall on faith that the front office was going to continue put a competitive product on the field.
Look, this is hardly the end of the world, but it was a nice tradition and now the club looks cheap and unappreciative and unaware of what the event means to their most loyal and best paying fans. Even shittier: they are, in all likelihood, probably acutely aware of all of this and decided that the trade off was worth it to save on the cost of the event — especially long-term. They’re not only saving money this year, but in all the future years where they don’t have to perform this basic kindness to the people who are fortunate enough to have the dollars to support them in such an extravagant way!
Jesus, imagine if they hadn’t received a massive gift from the City of Dunedin and Pinellas County for their Spring Training site upgrades, how quickly that tradition would have been kicked to the curb as well.
Oh, I get it. Just seems shitty to me and an unnecessary bad look that’s only going to reinforce some of the perceptions that this club should probably be working to combat. Fans are happy to pay up to watch a winner now, but there will come a time when you probably don’t want these people to feel too much like they’re being taken for granted or that you’re mostly clueless as to how to cater to them.