Major League Baseball has spent a lot of time wondering about how to court and keep young fans and how to get more families to the ballpark. While I’m sure they have retained all manner of marketing and demographic experts to look into all of that, the most obvious problem is that baseball tickets have become monstrously expensive over the years, even after adjusting for inflation. If you can’t watch games for free at home — sorry, that requires a cable plan with the sports tier! — and if you can’t bring the kids to a few games a year without breaking the bank, there really is no easy way in for the little ones.
Today the Orioles announced a plan that will help address that: the “Kids Cheer Free Initiative,” which gives each adult who purchases an upper deck seat two free tickets for kids nine and under. Tickets under the plan, through April 29 and excluding Opening Day, can be purchased here. As the season goes on, free kids tickets will be available for each months’ upcoming games on a rolling basis.
In conjunction with this, the Orioles are expanding their family-friendly programs, including their Kids Corner, that has jungle gyms, bounce houses and the like, as well as dates for fireworks and kids-run-the-bases promotions.
Ballparks have become a decidedly business class experience over the past couple of decades. The construction of Camden Yards, ironically, helped usher in this business class age. As such, this is a good move by the Orioles. If a kid has fun at a ballgame when he or she is little, he or she is way more likely to be a fan for life. By letting kids into the place for free, there will be a lot more kids having fun at ballgames.
On Sunday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles spoke to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Giles said, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston.” Giles won a World Series with the Astros last year, but talked about communication issues with the Astros and compared them unfavorably to the Blue Jays. Giles described the communication as having been “lost” and credited the Jays for staying patient with him.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to Giles’ comments on Monday. Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Hinch said:
I think he’s wrong and I’m disappointed that he would go down that path given how much work and time and energy and communication that our front office, our coaching staff, me, we all went through this with him. And I understand, there was some disappointment in his tenure as an Astro because of the turbulent way things went about. We gave him every opportunity, we communicated with him effectively, we have an incredible culture where every single player will tell you it’s one of the best cultures they’ve had, one of the best communication envrionments they’ve had. They all know their roles. They all know their situations. To have one person out of all the guys in our clubhouse come out and claim otherwise is flat wrong.
While Giles certainly could be embellishing or deliberately misconstruing his time there, Hinch’s rebuttal doesn’t actually disqualify anything Giles said. Giles certainly could have had a negative experience in Houston even if everyone else was enjoying the “incredible culture” and “one of the best communication environments.”
Given how the Astros — including Hinch — responded to criticism about their acquiring an accused domestic abuser, they’re not in the best position to boast about an “incredible culture” anyway.
At any rate, this is a he-said, he-said situation. If anything more comes of it, it will be Giles further torching a bridge.