Just a guess, but fans who spoke with White Sox players on Thursday were probably a bit more pleasant this time around.
Players Addison Reed and Gordon Beckham, coaches Daryl Boston and Bobby Thigpen, and CSN analyst and former player Bill Melton spent the lunch hour dialing season-ticket holders and perspective buyers.
Whereas last year was a troubling time on the South Side, after ex-manager Ozzie Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle had left for Miami, and uncertainty surrounded new skipper Robin Ventura, the 2013 White Sox have gained a little momentum at the box office. A team, which won a surprising 85 games and saw the development of young pitchers Reed, Chris Sale and Nate Jones, has helped the White Sox retain the majority of their season-ticket holders from last season, said White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer.
Our (season-ticket) renewal rate is well into the 90 (percent) range, Boyer said. And our new season tickets are significantly ahead of where we were last year. Last year no one knew how Robin would be. Obviously for us to be competitive all last season, we have a lot of wind in our sails. Its very encouraging.
When it comes to the gate, the White Sox could use some encouragement. The teams attendance has declined for six straight seasons and last season fell below 2 million for the first time since 2004. In an attempt to win back old fans and create new ones, the team rearranged its ticket prices this offseason, lowering the price of bleacher seats and increased seats closer to the infield. They also have begun to offer seats for 7 in the upper deck and 20 in the lower deck and lowered the cost of parking.
We needed to reverse that trend and draw more fans, Boyer said. We wanted to make a very bold move to not only bring back old fans but new fans.
Reed had an opportunity to speak with a dozen or so fans on Thursday and said the response was overwhelmingly positive.
They were excited and surprised and it was fun, Reed said. They are the whole reason why we play, its for the fans. It was kind of cool to see how surprised they were and have them laugh and being able to talk to them.