Minor League Baseball, Major League Attraction

With the economy in a slump, can the Rangers keep up with their minor league competitors?

In a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press, fans said that ticket prices -- not steroids, not length of games, not even players’ contracts -- were their greatest concern with respect to baseball. It’s not really surprising, not in this economy, anyway.
But, for our, more North Texas-centered purposes, the poll raises an intriguing question: Are the Rangers still, if not the best, the biggest baseball-draw in town?
We live in somewhat of a baseball renaissance these days, with four professional teams who call North Texas home; they all play in palatial ballparks, they all put a good product on the field, and most of them (3/4, actually) provide a cheap night out.
Of course, cheap is relative. Within the realm of Major League Baseball, a Rangers’ game is about as cheap as they come. In reshaping ticket prices this off-season, club officials took pains to make sure that the increase wouldn’t affect the average fan.
But, again, this is all relative, and it’s hard to enjoy a six dollar hot dog in a recession.
And, perhaps, that’s what should be most worrisome for the Rangers; the fact is, in a business sense, they are competing with 29 other major league clubs, of which, maybe, one or two has more reasonable stadium prices.
But in a more local, direct sense, they are competing with the Grand Prairie AirHogs, the Fort Worth Cats and their own AA affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders. And, at least as far as affordability is concerned, they don’t stand a chance.
Obviously, the Rangers are the highest level of baseball you can see; there’s just no arguing that. But, given the economic nadir in which we’ve been wallowing for some time now, independent ball and AA ball are, presumably, looking more and more attractive to more and more fans.
Make no mistake; minor league baseball, independent or otherwise, is no dog and pony show (although, there is a good chance that you will see a dog and pony show between innings). The Fort Worth Cats have won three championships in the last five years; the RoughRiders, chock full of those pedigreed Rangers prospects you’ve heard so much about, won a championship in 2004, only their second season in Texas; The Grand Prairie AirHogs, in their first year in existence last season, won the American Association’s South Division before falling to Sioux Falls in the championship.
This is good professional baseball; not quite as good as you’ll see in Arlington, but not nearly as expensive.
Of course, the idea of a minor league baseball team, or a few minor league baseball teams as it were, being a greater draw than a Major League club in the same market is unheard of.
But, then, so was the idea of a President firing the CEO of a major American corporation until a few days ago.
We live in a time that deals in the unheard of; a time when corporate brass are pariahs, when big spenders are seen as villains, and when minor league baseball looks like anything but a minor draw.

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