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What's it take to get fans in the seats at Progressive Field?
For struggling sports teams, the emphasis is building a pleasant fan experience. The Indians have made some changes. Terry Pluto asks, are they working?
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Courtesy of Mark Urycki
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The Cleveland Indians and their AA affiliate Akron Aeros have long been struggling to get fans in the seats, even when the teams are winning. In fact, the Indians have had the lowest attendance in baseball the past several seasons. So, the owners have been making changes -- from a new HD score board at Canal Park to lower prices for hot dogs and beer at Progressive Field. But sometimes that fan engagement goes a bit too far, as closer Chris Perez felt this week.

Commentator Terry Pluto talks about whether fans are more engaged this season and what happens when it turns hateful.

Listen: Terry Pluto commentary on building a fan experience

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Plain Dealer columnist and WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the Indians have been trying to improve the fan experience at Progressive Field. The Indians lowered concession and ticket prices this year, making an Indians game more affordable.

“The Indians more than any other pro team around here have been really reaching out to their fans and trying to get them in,”  Pluto says. “You can say ‘I don’t want to go to the Indians game, I’d rather watch it on TV’, but the cost is just not that big of a deal.”

"At today’s baseball game, score seems less important"

“In the 60s, they would sell you these cardboard scorecards for 10 cents and they’d give you a golf pencil,” Pluto says. “I bet half of the hardcore fans don’t even know how to keep score and certainly the casual fans don’t.”

Instead, many fans will use their cellphones to keep track of the score, Pluto says.

Social media and its pitfalls 

Teams and players are using social media as a way to redefine the fan experience, but sometimes it can turn ugly. Indians Closer Chris Perez received hateful tweets after he gave up three home runs in two games this past week. Perez deactivated his Twitter account after the attacks.

“You can say ‘Hey, that was terrible, you stunk today’, but the personal attacks on this guy were unbelievable,” Pluto says.

The tweets attacked everything from Perez’s looks to his manhood, Pluto says. Perez gained attention in the past for criticizing everyone from the fans to the front office.

“[With Perez] sometimes, the filter between the heart, the mind and the mouth is not working as well as it should,” Pluto says. “But, the flipside is, he’s been an all-star closer. He’s been very good.”

Pluto called the fans’ attacks “gutless” and challenged people on his Facebook page to discuss Perez without getting personal. Pluto says he received over 100 comments and most people were civil.

“It was a real discussion of ‘Is he really all that good?’” Pluto says. “’Should we get rid of him?’ ‘Should we keep him?’ ‘He drives me nuts because he shoots off his mouth.’ That’s fine. It was the kind of stuff that makes some sense.”

Perez issued a statement on Tuesday:

"The decision to deactivate my Twitter account was a personal choice I made in order to maintain the greater focus on the success of the team this season and our shared goals moving forward.

We have an extremely positive and supportive group of players, coaches and staff members in our clubhouse and I want to participate in activities and routines that contribute positively to the culture we’re building here.

Out of respect for my teammates, I want to minimize any potential off-the-field distractions so this is the only time I will comment on this topic. Thank you for your understanding.”


Terry Pluto on what what's working and what's not working for the Tribe
Other options:
MP3 Download
(5:27)

Related WKSU Stories

What's it take to get fans in the seats at Progressive Field?
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Low attendance sparks "pure rage" from Indians closer
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sports figures have to start calculating the cost of a "tweet"
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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