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Home MLB News Ticket / Attendance Watch Inside the Numbers: MLB 2010 First Interleague Attendance

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Inside the Numbers: MLB 2010 First Interleague Attendance PDF Print E-mail
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Ticket & Attendance Watch
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 05:58

MLB Attendance SeriesIt has been an ongoing debate: Is interleague play really more popular than regular league play in Major League Baseball? Certainly, Major League Baseball has portrayed it as such, with detractors pointing out everything from the fact that any increases in the first set of interleague game attendance could be tied to nothing more than their games occurring on the weekend to the weather warming as spring begins to more toward summer to strength of popularity of the visiting team.

Be that as it may, The Biz of Baseball crunched the attendance numbers and found that there’s a case to be made on both sides.

In the first weekend of interleague play across Major League Baseball, ballparks had an average attendance of 33,172 compared to an average of 29,404 for weekend games for the same hosting teams over the course of the 2010 season, an increase of 13 percent. When looking at more recent periods, when weather is improving, interleague attendance sees a mixed bag.

In looking at the last weekend of play before interleague began, average attendance was 33,371 compared to interleague’s average of 33,172, a decline of less than 1 percent (-0.63%).

With interleague, the Sunday Night Game of the Week on ESPN between the Yankees and Mets drew 41,422, a new Citi Field record. The highest attended game of interleague featured the Chicago Cubs visiting the Texas Rangers. The Saturday game that saw the Cubs beat the Rangers 5-4 drew 46,180 or 94 percent of capacity.

The most popular series belonged to the Red Sox-Phillies series at Citizen Bank Park where average attendance was 45,240 or 104 percent CBP’s 43,647 seating capacity. The set of weekend series games with the Marlins, Mets and Braves leading up to interleague saw an average of 45,321, or just under 1 percent more than what the Red Sox-Phillies interleague series drew.

The lowest attended series was between the Rockies and Royals where the three games at Kauffman Stadium drew an average of 22,530. In terms of being able to fill (or rather, not fill) the house to capacity, the Blue Jays visit to the Diamondback’s Chase Field yielded an average of 25,142 or 52 percent of Chase Field’s 48,652 capacity.

Natural Rivalry

Sure, MLB likes to somehow portray the Padres and Mariners as a “natural rivalry” but, can you really say that markets thousands of miles apart have any real connection? The Biz of Baseball looked at the interleague match-ups, and sees four series in the first set of interleague games that could truly be considered “natural rivals”

  • Orioles at Nationals
  • Yankees at Mets
  • Giants at Athletics
  • Reds at Indians

Breaking each series down sees the following:

Natural Rivalry

Avg

Capacity

% of
Capacity

Weekend Avg

(League Play)

Inter % (+/-) 

to Lg Play

Orioles at

Nationals

28,401

41,888

68%

19,787

44%

Yankees at

Mets

41,382

42,000

99%

33,144

25%

Giants at

Athletics

34,501

35,067

98%

14,781

133%

Reds at

Indians

23,201

43,545

53%

13,732

69%

Looking at the figures, on the face of them, the A’s looks like the biggest benefactor of interleague by hosting the Giants. After all, the average attendance for weekend games during league play leading up to interleague was an anemic average of 14,781 compared to the 34,501 for interleague, a whopping increase of 133 percent. But, as mentioned at the outset, there are a host of variables often times in play, and for the A’s, it’s been hosting teams at the beginning of the season that aren’t exactly the bellwether for packing the house. Of the 9 prior weekend games at McAfee Coliseum, the Athletics hosted the Orioles, Indians, and Rays. And while the educated fan would say the Rays are baseball’s best team at the moment, the club does not resonate as well as storied brands such as the Yankees or Red Sox. As we said, variables can play a role in whether increases are a matter of interleague games being popular (Phillies-Angels), or  league play games simply not drawing (the case with the A’s).

The series that seemed to register the highest in the “ho hum” department was the “Battle of Ohio” between the Reds and Indians at Progressive Field. Even though the weather was great, the three game series drew a lackluster average of 23,201, or 53 percent of Progressive Field’s 43,545 capacity. More worrisome to the Indians has to be the fact that their interleague series with the Reds drew 69 percent more than the 13,732 that they averaged over weekend play prior to interleague. Ouch.

First Interleague: A Mixed Bag

How did each series fare in terms of % of capacity, and more importantly, whether they drew more or less than league play? For the most part, when looking at the first series of interleague games, which took place on Friday-Sunday, and comparing that to prior weekend series, interleague outpaced regular league play for all but three clubs (Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Phillies). And really, if you wish to be fair, the Phillies attendance is nearly identical (the club is seeing the facility filled to over capacity – standing room only – for weekend games across the board).

But, as mentioned, plus or minus, the question is, are the variables in place to make a definitive answer as to whether interleague is an attendance drawing panacea? The answer seems to be, it depends.

With divisions rotating each season for interleague, it may be the luck of the draw that determines whether a club sees substantial gains or not in terms of paid attendance for interleague. The Diamondbacks came up with the Blue Jays, which didn’t help them, while the Rangers get a bit of a push by having the Cubs come to town.

But, here’s what shows how hard it is to define whether it is the allure of seeing “the other league’s players” or just interest in good teams: While interleague occurred this past weekend, there was one National League-only series that took place between the Braves and Pirates at PNC Park. The three game series drew 24,011, or 28 percent more than the previous weekend series games prior.

Baseball will surely continue to spin that interleague is what fans want, while the skeptics will say, it’s a matter of the draw. At least with the second set of interleague games that will take place beginning on June 11, we should have a better idea with more games played over the course of not only the weekend, but weekdays.... Or, will we?

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE FIRST INTERLEAGUE (AND 1 NL SERIES) DATA FOR 2010

First Interleague (2010)

Natural Rivalry Avg Capacity % of Capacity

Wkend Avg

(League Play)

Inter % (+/-) 

to League Play

Orioles at Nationals 28,401 41,888 68% 19,787 44%
Yankees at Mets 41,382 42,000 99% 33,144 25%
Giants at Athletics 34,501 35,067 98% 14,781 133%
Reds at Indians 23,201 43,545 53% 13,732 69%
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Other Interleague




Angels at Cardinals 43,540 43,647 100% 41,416 5%
Rays at Astros 30,060 40,950 73% 28,332 6%
Blue Jays at D-Backs 25,142 48,652 52% 25,857 -3%
Tigers at Dodgers 45,151 56,000 81% 43,851 3%
Padres at Mariners 28,708 47,447 61% 32,250 -11%
Red Sox at Phillies 45,240 43,647 104% 45,321 -0.18%
* Braves at Pirates 24,011 38,362 63% 18,779 28%
Cubs at Rangers 40,967 49,170 83% 30,364 35%
Rockies at Royals 22,530 38,177 59% 22,291 1%
Brewers at Twins 38,947 39,504 99% 38,625 1%
Marlins at W. Sox 25,804 40,615 64% 24,730 4%

* National League series that took place during interleague weekend


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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