Generation Y loves minor league baseball

I’ve noticed something over the last couple years while driving to the Birdcage for Canaries games.
I live in the Northwest corner of town, so I take Madison straight east to get there, and drive past those youth softball fields off to the side, and every day that I drive by, there are hundreds of people crammed onto the diamonds, kids and parents and dogs and wildly colored jerseys all over the place. A line of cars extends all the way up and down the street.

This is at least two nights a week. It’s probably every night.
And it always seems ironic to me that I drive past that scene right before walking into the Birdcage, which is usually half-full at best.
Those are the people Canaries ownership desperately want attending their games. As long as it’s existed, the franchise has sold itself as ‘family-friendly’, which makes sense because it is.
It’s summer (no school), tickets are cheap, Cagey wanders around the park entertaining shrieking children, players are available for autographs after games, kids can run the bases and participate in between-innings promotions — there are plenty of factors that make the Birdcage a great place to bring the kids.

But driving past those softball fields served as a stark reminder that families are also really busy. They’re playing their own games. They’re going to barbecues. They’re going to the lake. They’re on vacation. They’re doing lots of stuff that keeps them away from the Birdcage, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Nor is it a bad thing for the Birds to continue to court families, but I got to thinking about it a little more as I settled into the press box and surveyed the crowd for Wednesday night’s game.

There were families in the stands, yes, but I couldn’t help but be struck by how many people in the stands reminded me of myself.
There were boyfriend/girlfriend dates. Married couples who don’t have kids.
There were also several groups of 20-something women, apparently having a ‘girls night’, and a few pockets of dude-bros in their backwards caps and affliction shirts.
There were hipsters. There were yuppies. College kids. Drunks.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m kind of starting to wonder if maybe these people represent a key demographic that could help solve the Canaries attendance woes (disclaimer: attendance has been solid so far this season).

I’m not saying the Canaries abandon their strategy of targeting families, because like I said, Canaries games are ideal family entertainment. But they’re also great for young, single or childless adults.

I’m 33, and I attend as many Birds games as I can when not covering the games for work. This has been the case basically since I bought a house when I was 25.
So I think I can speak for the 25-40 crowd, here.
These are people that like to be outside, and they like to drink beer. They like to watch sports, but unless they’re diehards, they like to watch sports that they don’t have to fully engage themselves in. That is, hockey and basketball (and to a lesser extent, football) demand your constant attention, and that can be a turnoff to people who are casual or non-sports fans.
Baseball remains America’s pastime because of its pacing and atmosphere. Going to a baseball game with friends is like going to the bar with them, only you’re outside and there’s baseball going on in front of you. You can watch and enjoy the game and have a conversation at the same time. You can catch up with an old friend or just spend quality time with regular ones. Baseball games make great dates (women love baseball, and the ones that don’t just haven’t been given the chance to fall in love with it yet).

Seriously, guys, baseball games make great dates.

Sometimes families avoid the ballpark because it’s just too much work. If the kids are too young, the idea of taking them to a public place where there will be 2,000 other people around, outdoors, might not be all that appealing.

But if you don’t have kids, or aren’t married, going to a Canaries game is as simple as buying a $7 ticket. Nearly every friend I have who is roughly in my age bracket goes to Canaries games regularly. They don’t know the players by name, and while they root for the Birds while at the park, they don’t care all that much about the wins and losses. They just think the Birdcage is a great place to enjoy some cheap, outdoor entertainment.

Someday, many of those people will probably have kids, and then they’ll be too busy to go to games as often. They’ll be the ones across the parking lot taking their kids to softball.
So while courting families will always be a good idea for minor league baseball, going after Generation Y seems like a good idea, too.