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Monday, May 30, 2005

Regarding Richmond and Baseball

While the Mayor and the Council slug it out over their turf wars, I feel it is important not to lose site of a major opportunity for Richmond and Downtown. The following are my comments on baseball in general, the Richmond Braves and a new stadium in downtown Richmond.

First of all the Richmond Braves.

1. Change the name of the team. Richmond is a big city with it's own identity. OK, so Atlanta is the parent team in the MAJOR Leagues. Nobody wants to be second fiddle. Let's have a name that reflects Richmond. I like the Richmond Rocketts, which I have stolen from a Times-Dispatch columnist. I hope he gets credit for it, but who cares, it's the name that's important. The Rebels would be a great name, but would start a new civil or not so civil war. It's got a great ring to it though. How 'bout the Rivermen. This has historical basis and may be the first sports franchise name to salute African Americans who were famous for running the rapids through Richmond. This is something all Richmond could unite behind, which is the theme of this article.

2. Install a better speaker system at The Diamond. The current system is so light and tinny that when the tunes are played between innings, they can barely be heard. It's hard to dance to something you can't hear.

2a. Hire an organist. This is old fashioned, but so is baseball. It's actually part of the attraction. Think about how much fun the organist is at the Byrd Theatre. A good organist knows how to motivate a crowd. Forget about the music videos. You can still play them, but the organist is going to drive the crowd.

3. Make the games more fun. Now baseball doesn't have to be a laugh a minute and shouldn't be, but let's show a little imagination. Recruit fans in different sections and give each of them season tickets and a special uniform. Pick them for personality and enthusiasm and use them to get the crowd more involved. The cheering now resembles the bleacher section in the movie Major League, where three guys with a drum would do the wave. Don't ruin it for the serious fan, but it couldn't hurt to get the fans more involved in the game.

4. Get the vendors involved too. Cultivate colorful vendors who know how to chant their product to the fans. "Get your Beer, Here!" Put a little showmanship into it. It will be more fun for everyone and you will probably sell more stuff.

5. Stick with tradition. Baseball is nothing without tradition. Make people feel like they are taking part in a grand tradition, which they are. I remember baseball as a kid. It had a magic to it. The players WERE my heroes. When the World Series came to town, business came to a halt. They even played the broadcast over the PA system at our school. Baseball has slipped a long way since then, but it is in the living memory of thousands of fans and many would like to pass this memory down to their children and grandchildren. That's where the future of baseball is.

6. Promote the city shamelessly. This will only payback big time. The more you become part of the fabric of the city, the more the city will identify with you. Richmond has no major league sports team. You have the ability to become the ambassadors for Richmond and a force that can help unite a city that is badly divided between city and county, black and white, rich and poor. Never underestimate the positive role that sports can play in bringing a community together.

7. Try to win. This may sound obvious, but as fun as minor league baseball is, it's not about winning. The better our players are, the more likely they are to leave to for the majors. The message is, winning doesn't count and to a certain extent you don't either. I know this is a fact of life in the minor leagues, but it's not right. How can we take you seriously, when you don't take us seriously.

8. Get your new stadium built, please. I'm not telling you anything, but the Diamond is truly a diamond in the rough. It doesn't take much looking around to see the aging warehouse district surrounding the ballpark. This is not Richmond at it's best. For the life of me I don't know why we would want to throw good money after bad and renovate the Diamond. It's a central principal of invest to maximize the impact of each dollar. If we are going to spend money on a stadium renovation, which was the agreed upon plan as of a year ago, why don't we take that same money and put it where it will do the most good. A stadium in downtown Richmond is too good an idea to pass by. Part II of this article will focus on the reasons why. Look for that post soon.

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