Just about a month ago, I trekked down to Westminster, MD to visit an old college friend and take in some minor league baseball in the process. Sure, I was interested in visiting this friend and also incredibly interested in making a stop at Flying Dog Brewery, too, but the opportunity to tick another baseball stadium off the never-ending list was certainly enticing in its own right.
That would be Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Frederick Keys, Class-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. I had remembered months ago that the friend I was visiting said he had a ticket to the Orioles game that weekend, as he is a partial season ticket holder at Camden Yards. “No problem” was the response I got when I had asked if I was intruding. He said he’d trade his ticket for basically any other game this season. “Cool,” I thought.
“Also, if you’re an Orioles season ticket holder, you get buy one, get one tickets to any minor league affiliate too,” he said. Wow. Well, that certainly seems like a perk, I thought. And thus, the light went off in my head.
Though I’ve never been a Phillies season ticket holder, I had never heard of anything like this offered to fans here in Philadelphia. Sure enough, a check of the Phillies’ website doesn’t mention any perk like this. Alright, fair enough. Not every single team is going to do something like this, and sales managers and ticket folks in front offices across baseball have different ideas, promotions, and offerings for season ticket holders, whether they are going to attend all 81 games, 40, or maybe even just check out Sunday afternoon affairs.
But from some relatively extensive research, a pattern seemed to emerge: The Phillies, in their current incarnation, simply don’t seem to be doing enough to entice fans to become season ticket holders, and could be doing a heck of a lot better to offer benefits to fans. Sure, the tickets sold themselves for about five years, but the Phillies are likely going to miss the playoffs for the sixth season in a row in 2017, and the full-fledged rebuild has been in serious progress for about the last four seasons.
The Phillies were 24th in home attendance last season, 25th in 2015. Numbers look good early on this year, and fans certainly seem more engaged. But beyond just the numbers, treatment of season ticket holders should always be considered. There are many Phillies season ticket holders who have been around for 10, 20, 30, maybe 40 years, renewing each and every year as a rite of passage, not knowing what they might be missing out on or what other teams have to offer.
It turns out they might be missing a lot. Let’s go back to the Orioles for a second. Along with that fantastic buy one ticket, get one free offer for any minor league affiliate, they offer baseball’s most flexible exchange policy:
80 home games are available as an exchange date. Exchanges will be processed on a "dollar-for-dollar" basis, subject to availability, and must be completed 48 hours prior to the date of the game being returned.
What else do they offer?
Free Spring Training Tickets in Sarasota: Visit Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota and receive free admission to select Spring Training games.
$1 Replay Dates: All Plan Members have the opportunity to “cash in” on Season Tickets you forgot you had, misplaced, or simply did not use. For a small processing fee of $1 per ticket, unused season tickets can be redeemed for an Upper Reserve seat to any Value or Classic game at any Box Office window.
Free Admission to Area Museums
“State of the Orioles” Meetings: Go behind the scenes with our exclusive “State of the Orioles” addresses during the 2017 season, featuring Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter. Each meeting will include an address by the team, as well as an exclusive question and answer session. This year’s events are scheduled for FanFest and before the O’s/Astros game on July 22.
That’s just a sampling of what the Orioles do for their season ticket holders. Not too shabby. What do the Phillies offer? Well, those 80 exchange dates the Orioles have? Don’t get used to that here. The Phillies have a list of exchange dates on their website, certainly not 80 games. Want to go to spring training for free? You can with the Orioles at select games. The Phillies?
Exclusive pre-sales - The opportunity to purchase tickets to individual games, including Opening Day, promotional nights, and Spring Training games in Clearwater before they go on-sale to the general public.
No dice. You’re paying full price in Clearwater. And okay, we’re doing a lot of comparing and contrasting to the Orioles, here. Certainly there are 28 other teams to look at. Want to take a look at parking policy for comparison’s sake?
Parking Options - Season Ticket Holders have the opportunity to purchase Pre-Paid or Preferred Parking for the 2017 season.
Wow. The opportunity to purchase pre-paid full-price parking for the season! What an honor.
Purchase advanced parking passes for the general lot at half price throughout the season online via your My A's Tickets account.
Half-price will save a few bucks. It adds up.
The Phillies, as you’ll see here on the partial season ticket plan page, are completely open to advertising post-season tickets, too. This is a team that has made no illusions about what they are trying to do. They aren’t trying to make the post-season in 2017, but I suppose they have to mention it anyway. They do it on the full season ticket plan page too.
For the record, the partial season ticket plan holders only get to purchase select post-season games. My previously mentioned friend who has O’s partial season tickets can go to every home playoff game, World Series included, if he would like.
What’s concerning about the Phillies’ season ticket offerings is the fact that there just seems to be a cold, distant lack of access. Take the Twins’ season ticket holder page, for example. A benefits wish list, player autograph sessions, complimentary video board messages, golf outings, player bobbleheads, the list really seems endless. Some of the things on that site aren’t guaranteed to everyone, and it looks like there’s different criteria that have to be met to win various prizes, but the Twins seem legitimately interested in reaching out to people and getting their feedback about what they want, and have a pretty fancy website to show off to prospective season ticket holders. If I were a Twins fan, I’d be interested.
The Phillies? Well, there’s an “Early Bird Sweepstakes” bullet point on the season ticket holder page, about 12 bullets down, which seems to lead to some interesting prizes, but it’s not promoted well at all, and if you take a look at that Twins site and then go back to the Phillies’ season ticket holder area, it just seems a little, well... impersonal.
The Red Sox offer “exclusive season ticket holder... conference calls with players, manager, and front office” and “early entry... to watch batting practice from the Green Monster.” The Phillies offer... “invites to Exclusive Phillies Season Ticket Holder Events,” whatever those may be. Don’t even get me started on the Padres’ fan rewards section, which just seems too cool for school. And yes, the Nationals, those hated Nationals, seem to have a cooler season ticket plan than the Phillies, where you can accumulate points for attending games, listening to broadcasts, and interacting on social media.
It all adds up here and there. The Phillies could use this down time to craft some better ideas for the future and get more creative. If you purchased tickets this off-season as a full season ticket holder, you got to choose between these gifts:
Wireless Earbuds (compatible with most smartphones, mp3 players and tablets)
Stainless Steel Water Bottle (keeps drinks hot or cold for up to 10 hours)
Why? Just, why? Why can’t that be a $250 gift card to the Majestic store? Why can’t it be a signed Maikel Franco or Odubel Herrera bat, glove, hat, or trading card? Why can’t it be something more substantial, like a season ticket holder meeting with Matt Klentak or Andy MacPhail, multiple times per season?
The funny thing about it all is there’s a chance the Phillies do some of these things and just don’t really tell anyone. To the generally informed or passionate fan who is clueless about season tickets, though, there isn’t much to be gleaned from what the Phillies present online to that passionate fan who has never taken the dive into season tickets.
Right now, the Phillies should be doing everything in their power to draw fans as new talent arrives. With an exciting crop of minor league talent, why not offer a buy one, get one free ticket offer to see an Iron Pigs or Fightins game? Why not a pre-game meet and greet or Q&A with Jerad Eickhoff, Tommy Joseph, or Vince Velasquez? Why not offer something more tangible than wireless earbuds or a stainless steel coffee mug that someone probably doesn’t need? Give someone memorabilia, an extra ticket to a few games, half-price parking, anything.
And if you are already doing these things, then promote them. Again, there’s a chance the Phillies are already offering season ticket holder meetings with MacPhail or Klentak, or cool pre- and post-game activities that a non- season ticket holder doesn’t know about. But nobody is going to know about these events if you don’t promote them as part of the package.
There is a new era of Phillies baseball on the way, and there should be some fresh, new ideas coming from the ticket office and other executives, too. Right now, it seems like the Phillies are just waiting and expecting the product to do the talking. It might in a few years, but we’re far away from being sure that’s a guarantee.