BRISTOL - With 15 games remaining on their regular season schedule, attendance numbers for the Bristol Blues are down, but the organization is taking steps to rectify that trend.
Over the first 40 games Bristol has averaged 1,167 fans per game, which includes the season ticket holder count in it, about 600, according to general manager Brian Rooney.
After averaging 1,312 in their first summer at Bristol and 1,577 the following year in 2016, the Blues have seen a drop in numbers both last year and this year.
While the attendance is down, the players haven’t noticed.
“Maybe it’s because we haven’t been playing that well at home,” Bristol outfielder Alex Loparco said. “But we don’t notice it because the Bristol fans are loud and they show up to support us.”
First-year general manager Rooney took the job in January, which didn’t give him as much time as he would have liked to find ways to draw bigger crowds.
But Rooney has noticed the drop and is continuing to look for different ways to grow the brand of Bristol Blues baseball.
Some of the steps he’s taken involve reaching out to the community.
“The Blues are more about giving back to the community,” Rooney said. “The community opens up to [our players] and we want to give back to [the community]. And that’s what I’m going to try and accomplish here.”
This weekend highlights his efforts. On Saturday the Blues will have a military appreciation day, honoring those in the military as well as any first responder. A Black Hawk helicopter is scheduled to land on the field at 1:30 p.m. and take off before first pitch around 3:30 p.m.
On Sunday the Blues will host a Bristol Special Olympics-Ed Beardsley Challenger Discovery Program baseball game at 2 p.m. where kids from both programs will intermingle to form two teams to play against each other. The Blues will then host the Nashua Silver Knights later that evening.
Another way Rooney is looking to build on the attendance numbers moving forward is getting the local schools more involved.
“I learned some things early in my time here already,” Rooney said. “Getting schools involved is important and since I took the job in January, I was behind on that. You have to get to schools in September to plan field trips and by the time I got to schools, their events had already been booked for later in the year.”
Other ways the Blues have reached out to the community involve making appearances at the Bristol library, the Boys and Girls Club and doing fundraisers for the Bob Watson scholarship fund and for Brian’s Angels, a homeless shelter in town.
While Rooney and the Blues look to continue putting the best possible product on the field and in the community, they believe the best is yet to come this summer and Bristol’s players are gearing up for the stretch run.
“I think we knew as a team that we could be a little more consistent in the win/loss column,” Blues outfielder Dylan Reynolds said. “We’ve come out the last week or so with some intensity because we want to try and get that bye for the playoffs [by finishing as one of the top two teams]. We know that when we all come out intense and play hard, we usually come out on the winning end, and we hope that coming down the stretch we keep rolling our momentum into the playoffs.”