The Bridgeport Bluefish have missed the playoffs for the third straight season, closed out the year losing 11 of their last 14 and have seen their attendance marks dwindle to the point that they sit in the basement of the Atlantic League attendance ranks.
How can anyone see a silver-lining in a season like this?
“We really didn’t have enough players. I think they got tired,” Upshaw said. “They played hard for a long time and I think they got a little tired. Our offense went south and so did our pitching and we just couldn’t do anything to recover.”
Willie Upshaw, former first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays in the mid 80’s returned as manager of the Bluefish on July 10, hoping to turnaround a team that finished out the first half 33-37.
“We definitely needed more discipline, more structure on and off the field. But that shouldn’t come from the manager, it needs to come from the players,” Upshaw said. “And I think that goes a long way on how you play on the field. You need to get those guys so you don’t have to be a policeman all season long.
Upshaw was asked whether his first losing season as a manager would serve as motivation?
“Absolutely. But we have to get out and try and get the right guys,” he said. “Find guys that love the game and mold them into what we’re trying to achieve as an organization and try to win. I’m talking about guys that can hit. Put the bat on the ball, guys that can run a little bit, can lay down a bunt, can get a guy over and be a little more heady about what they’re doing at the plate.”
Through everything mentioned above, it all sounds good on paper but what can Bridgeport do to re-establish themselves in the community, to help bring the fans back to the park, to bring back that family atmosphere?
Stronger commitments are needed which are in place with solid companies like; People’s Bank and McDonald’s. It is Fairfax County that needs to support its team, not the conglomerates.
Minor League baseball and Independent League baseball for that matter is an environment that is structured around bringing families to the ballpark and enjoying a well played game at affordable prices.
Community interest is something that General Manager Todd Marlin, says was lacking.
“We didn’t get the support from the community that we needed. People did not step up,” Marlin said. “In the business community, we had some great partners, but there are a lot of people that still won’t talk to us. Or in this economy, for whatever reason, it took sponsorships away and that hurt. And some of these are big, legitimate companies that need to be here. They’re a part of this community, like we are, and we need to support each other.”
As mentioned previously, Bridgeport’s average attendance totaled 154,333 in 65 dates, an average of 2,374 per game. With community involvement and improved play, this is one statistic that has to change dramatically says Upshaw.
“This is a good league and we’re going to have good teams, but we need everyone in the community to come out and realize how much fun this is,” the manager said. “It’s safe, it’s great entertainment, it’s good for the kids, plus you’re getting great baseball. If I’m here, that’s what you’re going to get.”
Marlin who does not have a contract for the upcoming 2010 season thinks a breakthrough is on the horizon, and if still with the Bluefish next year, he sees solid groundwork that will show vast improvement to everyone involved.
“We’re starting to get a game plan for next year,” the GM said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. A lot of hard work on our sales staff side. On Monday, we take off the golf shirts and we put on our suits and ties and we’re knocking on doors and selling tickets and we’re selling sponsorships.”
Devon Teeple is an author for the Business of Sports Network, which includes the Biz of Baseball, the Biz of Football, the Biz of Basketball and the Biz of Hockey. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Devon is a former student within Sports Management Worldwide’s Baseball General Manager Class. Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective and is a intern with The Football Outsiders and contributor with the Plymouth River Eels.
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