BEEK'S BLOG: Nuts have been better at gate than on field

Posted by Brian VanderBeek on June 20, 2013 

— I’ve had this theory over the years that one of the distinct differences between major league baseball and its minor league little brother is in the stands.

In short, the record of a minor league baseball team has very little effect at the gate.

I could throw a lot of numbers your way to show how that’s entirely true in Modesto, but that would be boring. Email me if you’re interested.

So the Nuts posted a 32-38 first-half record that’s the worst in Modesto since the 2003 Modesto A’s posted the same mark. But that 2003 team drew 148,486 fans that season, the second-highest total in history of the franchise to that point.

And this year’s Modesto team drew 92,459 fans through the first half, the second-highest mark in franchise history. The Nuts rank fourth in the California League in attendance with an average of 2,642 fans.

So if the quality of the play on the field isn’t the draw, than what brings the fans in or keeps them away?

The obvious answer is the front office, with its year-round efforts to sell season tickets and group packages while promoting parties, school reading programs and the like.

But that doesn’t account for the largest variable when you talk about whether a team reaches its goals. It’s the walk-up sale, and the largest continuous factor that determines the size of a walk-up crowd is the weather.

Modesto’s weather in the first half has been almost ideal. The Nuts were on the road during the hot temperatures a few weeks back, and for the first time since 2008 the team did not suffer a first-half rainout.

There are other factors that hurt Nuts’ attendance. The team typically does not draw well during the Stanislaus County Fair, and numbers also can be down during the two weeks of local high school graduations in June. Last season, crowds were down in late July and early August because of the Olympics.

The Nuts, with seven sellouts so far this season, have a shot at the all-time attendance record of 180,785 set in 2011.

Modesto is home for only three days of the 10-day run of the county fair (July 12-21,) so they should be in great shape.

That is, unless someone breaks out in some synchronized swimming.

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