Dear Wade Howell [Vice President, Down East Wood Ducks and Hickory Crawdads]:
Much has transpired since I spent $212.00 after the generous 30% minor league executive discount in the Woodies’ team store when I visited Historic Grainger Stadium earlier this month. Those carefree and innocent days are long gone, but I know you are a busy man planning for an upcoming home playoff game, so at this time, I will not share my road exploits concerning luxury suites, parking Nazis, and front office follies throughout our minor league landscape. I was on the road for 11,000 miles, Wade, and the Woodies were on my mind much of that time. After one game at Historic Grainger Stadium and all this miles, I do believe I am qualified to offer a professional critique of your organization.
As shared with you upon my visit, I was a bit apprehensive driving to Kinston, thinking maybe I was headed to the ultimate hick stop on the minor league circuit. Those trepidations were quickly put to sleep like suffering horses at Santa Anita Racetrack as I found a very pleasant minor league experience in Kinston. Let’s start with ten positives of the baseball experience your organization offers:
- Your friendly staff. As you well know, I have been around the block a few times, and I can say with great confidence that the Woodies’ staff was by far from top to bottom, the warmest staff my family encountered on this road trip. I am not just talking how I was treated because sometimes kind of big deals like me receive preferential treatment from staff. I observed your staff serve everyone in a very welcoming fashion. Almost certainly this is a reflection of yourself.
- The brick of your stadium. Contractors would pay a pretty penny for classic brick that pops like that. Grainger Stadium has an established feel like many new stadiums do now (cough, cough, Fayetteville).
- The landscaping and cleanliness in and around your park. Unlike that merchandise presentation over the winter that eventually brought us together, the landscaping is crisp and delightful.
- Mother Earth Pavilion. Bars/social areas are all the rage these days throughout minor league baseball, largely in part because of my suggestions over the years. Mother Earth’s is spacious and personal, not like the large cookie cutter corporate bars that dot minor league parks now.
- Concessions. Well beyond standard ballpark fare without too many gimmicks.
- Signage that appears to be maximized. Not only does this represent revenues, but a business commitment from the local community. Many teams I visited would commit violent acts against the fellow men to have partnerships like this.
- Fans who actually enjoy being at the game. The first six things on this list certainly contribute to this, but you would not believe how many fans I have seen across the land that really do not enjoy being at the park (most certainly an ugly truth about group sales).
- Ample variety of merchandise in team store. See my receipt for proof. Your organization has much more variety than the Woodpeckers with their fancy, large team store.
- Free parking. Nothing is better than free, well, except for the Indy 500.
- Fan friendly promotions that appeal to the fans, not corporate sponsors.
Yes, there are some negatives, all related to the structure, and those can only be remedied with serious capital expenditures from the Mothership, and even then, just how many fans will a new scoreboard and sound system get through the gates (which should open thirty minutes after the box office opens BTW)? Kinston is not moving closer to freeway access anytime soon.
I do not see what you could do more to significantly increase your baseball fan attendance. You have created a small, but excellent atmosphere for baseball fans in the local area to enjoy the sport, and for that you should be proud. Until the demographics of the city change, Kinston is what it is, and that change can only be brought about by forces much larger than you.
I would get rid of the bleachers in left field though, as It is the year 2019, and nothing screams RINKY DINK OPERATION like aluminum bleachers. Those seats really are not being used anyway. Even if you just put pop ups covering teams merchandise out there, the stadium would have a nicer flow. Perhaps you could make a Carolina/Negro League Legends area out there and put some plaques on the wall to get some press. Maybe even put a statue put there and have the mayor take his picture next to it. Perhaps a statue of Bads85, minor league baseball’s greatest ambassador.
I do have a suggestion to raise attendance that is not baseball fan related. It might threaten you current baseball ecosystem, but I think not. Turn Mother Earth Pavilion into a club like atmosphere by playing music. Those in the bar cannot hear the sound system anyway, so make the bar area a social gathering place. Each night is a genre night — Monday 50’s Do Whop stuff and raid the nursing homes with promises of early bird specials. Tuesdays are Disco Nights. Wednesdays are Hip Hop. Friday is Rock and Roll. Saturday is pop while Sunday is alternative. This really requires no expenditures other than having an underling make playlists and putting the idea on social media. If it bombs, so what? If it works, it might get you 500 extra a game. FYI, I make killer playlists. As you well know, I am a many of many talents.
I need to wrap this up as I have other, not so nice letters to write to clubs I visited. Thanks again for your wonderful hospitality. Next time I visit your park, I will bring a crew.
Your friend in baseball,
PS: I assume there is no video of my first pitch. If there is, please delete it immediately.