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Dear Mr. Crane,
Maybe this sounds oxymoronic, or just plain moronic, but I am excited about the Astros once again. Sure, they were the worst team in the history of the franchise last year. Yes, I know they had an unprecedented triple digit number of losses. Nicknames like the “Lastros” or “Disastros” were not lost on me and I am fairly certain may still be applicable at the end of this season. The nostalgia of what once was should be enough to depress me. Gone are they days of rushing the field in the Astrodome when the Astros won the pennant, which I did. Gone are the days of watching Billy “The Kid” Wagner strut out to close a game to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Never again will we cheer for the Killer B’s with unbridled enthusiasm. We have not had any postseason activity since our dismal World Series appearance in 2005. Knowing this, I still love new beginnings, underdogs, and sly sports marketing campaigns. Jim (can I call you Jim?), while it is too early to critique your baseball decisions, I have some suggestions on how to make the Astros flashier and splashier while we rebuild and make our move to the American League in 2013.
Timing Is Everything
As someone with a marketing background, I am intrigued by your marketing prowess. Jimmy, you have impeccable timing. Remember that press release about bringing your own food, cheaper ticket prices, and an Astros name change? I knew exactly what you and your marketing people were up to and I loved it.
Here’s how it went down: The timing of the press release was a few days after the Texans’ season ended. It would have been pointless to make a statement like that during the football season. When everyone should have been talking about the Texans’ year in review, they stopped for several days to talk about the Astros. There was more Astros talk that week, than probably in the previous six months combined. Yeah, the name change bit wasn’t a hit, but it got everyone talking about the Astros’ new changes months before spring training. Unbelievable!
Don’t Swing At Everything That Comes Your Way
I saw a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle for the Astros’ new slogan “Root, Root, Root!” Oh boy. Whoever came up with this needs the Boot, Boot, Boot. Jimbo, please tell me you signed off in this because it was one of those crazy days at the office and you needed to get to a stack of more important items on your desk. Instead of taking a line from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” I would have suggested something from the 80’s sitcom appropriately titled Growing Pains. Take any one of these lines (barring copyright issues) and you have yourself an instant slogan for these years of rebuilding.
1) Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’
2) We’re nowhere near the end
3) The best is ready to begin
4) We can take anything that comes our way.
And, we have not even gotten to the chorus yet!
Sometimes You Just Have To Stick To Baseball
As much as I love the idea of tailgating, it just isn’t going to work for you, James. Baseball does not lend itself to this type of fandom. There are far too many games, on weeknights, on weekends, in 100-degree weather, to make this work. I get what you are trying to accomplish. You’ve got competition from a football team on the heels of its best season in franchise history and a brand new major league soccer stadium down the street, but sometimes it is okay to keep your tunnel vision. It is hard to get pumped about the second in a three game series against the Pirates when it is 102 degrees outside and we all smell like a sweaty sock the second we step out of our cars.
Don’t Forget About Developing Your Other Minor Leaguers
I am not talking about Oklahoma City or Corpus Christi. I am referring to your young prospective fans. The next generation of Astros fans is busy playing Little League, Nintendo, or doing schoolwork right now. Get the kids invested in your future stars now. The Astros organization does a great job of encouraging family outings to the games with free kids’ admission, base running for the kids, and a pretty fantastic Friday night fireworks show. Let’s get those marketing geniuses to continue to develop ideas for the kiddos. On a side note, I once took my boys to a Dynamo game that gave out World Cup sticker books. It promoted an entire summer of soccer watching for them.
Other baseball teams are working on developing their young fan base outside of the ballpark. This year the Padres president Tom Garfinkel noticed hardly any children were wearing Padres jerseys during the team’s annual Little League Day. He decided to do something about this by donating replica Padres jerseys to 11,000 Little Leaguers on 800 different teams across the city. The Padres organization seized an opportunity to create its own buzz and win over some young fans and parents. If there is one takeaway from this, Jimmy, it is to never underestimate the power of free stuff for kids.
Keep Prices Low, Expectations Steady, and Enthusiasm High
Mr. Crane, I may sound overly critical in my suggestions, but so far I am impressed with your ingenuity and imagination. You’ve got some major cahones and you’ve got a fan in me already. I know the Astros will probably have another long, rough season but the future is really bright. Instead of focusing on the box scores and the standings, I am going to head out to Minute Maid thanks to cheaper ticket prices, enjoy some free food (my own), and support our emerging young team whose potential is sky high.
As the Growing Pains song goes, “The best is ready to begin.”
An Astros fan and a budding Jim Crane fan