I didn't go to a single Cleveland Indians game last year. As someone who loves baseball, and even played baseball through college, that fact makes me very sad. But I wasn't the only one.
Despite winning 85 games in 2014, the Tribe finished last in MLB attendance with just more than 1.4 million tickets sold. Eight games could have squeezed into a minor league park, drawing fewer than 10,000 fans. That's no joke. The Indians double-A affiliate Akron RubberDucks hosted 12 sellouts of 9,447-seat Canal Park last season having its best year at the gates since 2007.
Don't think I was down on the Indians, though. Like plenty of others, I watched a stadium full of games on TV. The Tribe's ratings on SportsTime Ohio finished fifth in the league, averaging more than 90,000 households.
So why didn't I go watch Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber last year? Maybe 2013 had something to do with it.
That season, my wife and I and our two daughters attended two games: one in early April and one in late August. The games were similar, both low-scoring, late-inning victories for the good guys.
During that chilly April game, we got invited to the Family Social Suite in right field. So despite our winter coats and blankets, we had a place to get warm, hang out with other families and things for the girls to do in case they got a little bored (including tweeting at the Terminal Tower for some rally lights). After Nick Swisher's walk-off single, we stuck around taking pictures in the empty ballpark, savoring every moment.
In August, we bought seats in the bleachers for a Sunday game against the Twins. It was hot and the game was as sloppy as a melty ice cream cone. We watched for about six innings before everyone, including me, was ready to go. So I saw Drew Stubbs' two-out, go-ahead home run from my couch.
Blame it on the pace of our lives, Twitter or high-definition TVs, but even a traditionalist like myself often struggles to sit at the ballpark for three hours. It's not the experience fans want anymore. They want something to occupy the time between pitches. So the first major makeover of Progressive Field in its 21-year history includes a two-level bar, improved family and kids' area and neighborhood-themed concessions.
"It is a completely different ballpark in right field," says Andrew Miller, Indians senior vice president of strategy and business analytics. "That's really exciting to me."
It's exciting to me too — so much so that you might even catch me leading the chorus to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
12:00 AM EST
March 20, 2015