If the Charleston RiverDogs don’t set a single-season attendance record this year, it won’t be because they didn’t get a helping hand from their parent club.
The New York Yankees sent embattled superstar Alex Rodriguez to Charleston for a pair of rehab games in July that were far and away the best attended games of the year.
Going into a season-ending, four-game homestand against the Rome Braves that starts Friday at Riley Park, the best attended game of 2013 came on July 2 when 8,255 showed up to see A-Rod’s first game since October 2012. The attendance was only 171 shy of the team’s all-time single-game attendance mark set in the 2007 opener. The next night with Rodriguez back in the lineup the RiverDogs drew 7,667.
With four games to go, the RiverDogs are averaging 4,250 per game, the most in team history. The total attendance is 263,474.
Four rainouts probably will keep the RiverDogs from surpassing the team attendance record of 284,664 and a shot at the 300,000 milestone the team has been chasing.
“If we didn’t have the rainouts it looks like we would be over 300,000 and we’ve never been able to say that,” said RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols. “That’s a magical number minor league baseball has thrown out there that they want us to consistently surpass in order to have serious discussions about double-A baseball. There’s a long criteria that would have to be met for double-A baseball, but that’s the easiest to put out there and for everybody to understand.”
Echols said this season has been one of consistency. The A-Rod games were expected to be well-attended games because of the Fourth of July holiday.
“We made some schedule changes that were well received and certain days of the week were up significantly compared to the last couple of years,” Echols said. “Every day of the week we were consistently drawing more fans for a multitude of reasons.”
RiverDogs director of promotions Noel Blaha said the A-Rod appearance was a highlight of the season but there were a number of things that helped the RiverDogs make Charleston one of the country’s top minor league sports markets as named this year by SportsBusiness Journal. Blaha said food and beverage continued to be a big draw for the team.
“The beer shakes and the peanut, butter and jelly jalapeno bacon burgers both garnered us national, regional and local attention from many different media outlets. Not only were they shocking, crazy and wild, but I take great pride that they’re all edible,” Blaha said. “There’s some shock value to them but they also sell well and people enjoy them.”
• RiverDogs first baseman Greg Bird, who leads the team with 20 home runs and 83 RBI, has been named to the 2013 South Atlantic League All-Star team. Bird has a .289 batting average and has 129 hits. He also leads the SAL with 100 walks, 59 extra base hits and a .423 on-base percentage. Bird, 20, is from Aurora, Calif.