Rays Review…….Fan Experience Edition


RRCollections

In the next few days, most of the media members who cover the Rays for the local news media and the occasional magazine will make their yearly reviews and comments regarding the re-defining or re-tooling of the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays. Well, I am going to do the same, but I think my version is going to take a bit of a different direction than most of the media groups. My review is going to be a list of some of the thing I have seen changed in the past season………….either for the good, or for the bad. The list will include special events that Season Ticket holders have grown accustom to, and some new policies that changed the system a bit for some of us.

First and foremost on my list is to compliment the Rays Group Sales department on the annual event held at the Ybor City Gameworks earlier this season. This is the second  edition of the event, and it was an event that I actually looked forward to after it great success last season. And when I saw it again on the agenda, it made my eyes sparkle and I think I might have heard a little giggle. Again this season, the event was attended by many of the Rays players and Rays Manager Joe Maddon, and some of them even took the time to play games and chat with the fans while also giving the attendees’ an occasional photo opportunity. 

It was a great time to get a photo with one of the players outside of the game element and see how they are in “real life”.  As an ex-player, it was always important to me personally to keep that balance between the two groups close, because without it, the fans can put you high up on that golden pedestal, and when you fall, it is a long way down to the bottom. By being open to autographs and photos, it gives a bonding moment between fans and the players that can not be duplicated by the Rays PR staff.

Plus,after seeing some of the players this season, a few of them need to hone their Dance, Dance Revolution skills for the 2010 version……..Maybe that could be one of their off-season workout routines (lol)  Seriously, the food, the cartoon artists and the giveaways during the night only added extra spice to the already awesome event.


RRCollections

So let’s now take a journey down the wrong side of the street for a change. This season for the first time, the Rays Season Ticket holder had to choose which “bag” or selection of giveaway items  as if they were viewing a Chinese restaurant menu. You could select Column “A” or Column “B”, but no substitution and no sharing of plates. This is the first time we did not get the “kids items” that are usually included in our yearly bags. I know for myself, it was a bit of a bummer since I have used those items in the past to entice kids to want to see the Rays.

I understand the main reason for the cut-backs was that the giveaways promotional sponsors might have cut back their financial contributions on the total amount of items this season, which is understandable considering the recent economy concerns. But it was a bit of a bummer to  see any of these “kids” items this season since I also know of a lot of grand parents who use them as stocking stuffing items at Christmas time for friends who kids love the Rays, but can not attend games. Hopefully within the next season or two we can get back to the old way, or maybe have a Column “C” selection of “kids” items so we can again get some of this awesome stuff to kids who love the Rays.

So lets hit back onto another plus thing this season, which is the increased numbers of Rays Watch Parties and events where the Rays Radio network did on-location appearances and also giveaways during the television broadcast during the season. As usual, Rich Herrera did a fantastic job out and about, and should be commended on enduring sand, chicken wings and bright sunshine during the remote locations this season. But no matter where they were, it seemed everyone had a fantastic time, and hopefully we can see even more expansion in the future.

Guess it is time to again hit the low side of the totem pole. I was a bit upset that the Rays could not secure a time and a sponsor for the annual Team Photo Day in 2009. The event has always been the one time of the season that I bothered players and coaches for photos so as to give the non-Season Ticket folks a chance at autographs and pictures with them during the other 80 games of the season. But when the event was not announced this week, it set me back a bit.

I was all ready for the yearly event with a 3 GB media card and a fresh set of batteries in the camera just waiting for the event.  But when I did not get an Email or any confirmation of the event,I asked a member of the Fan Experience department with the Rays and found out that the event was not committed to be held this season. That is truly a bummer since the 2008 event was such a fiasco, and I hoped it would be a great time for the team to redeem themselves with the Season Ticket folks.


RRCollections

Just a small bit of history for everyone, last season the Team Photo Day with the fans was held the day after the team celebrated stadium-wide with the fans following their win against the Minnesota Twins, securing the Rays first postseason berth. So as you might have gathered, the team’s excitement and celebrations went beyond the walls of Tropicana Field, and a few of them were not in ” photo” shape the next morning. It upset me and a lot of other fans that day big time, but some of the guys still took time out to take photos with some of us, while others were ushered around with escorts to make a haste escape from the photo hungry crowd.

Some of the team’s major contributors to the playoff berth did not make even a dugout appearance to the event, while others felt compelled to come out and circulate and take pictures with the fans. I do not hold the players accountable for any of this since the event did come the day after the team’s biggest moment, and they had every right to be proud of accomplishing their playoff berth. Hopefully in the future the Rays can again schedule this great event where  the fans again can spend a few moments with their heroes.

I am going to throw this next item out as a neutral point because I can see both sides of the coin here, but for myself, I am still searching for another option to get this activity done without rocking the boat. But the reality of it all is that the new policy of Sunday autographs for only people under 14 bites it big time to me. I guess I got spoiled by the first 11 years of having the Autograph Saturday event and having two Rays players sign for any fans regardless of age. 

I have come to not love this new policy for the simple fact that I hate to bother the Rays players throughout the seas
on when I know they might be signing by the baselines sometimes during the season. I am now finding myself perched above the Rays dugout and bothering them during their paths to the dugout during Batting Practice. Again I have had wait in the shadows for people like Pat Burrell, Greg Zaun and Jason Bartlett to come by and see if they could sign a ball for me. I know this change in policy might have been done because of the increased postings on sites like E Bay of autographs and collectibles for sale and not for your own personal collections.

I enjoy collecting autographs on MLB baseballs, more for the fact we did not have a team here when I was a kid except for the Florida State League squads, and in Progress Energy Park/Al Lang you could not get a ball over the outfield wall unless it went over the extreme right or leftfield fences. I guess it is my way of having my childhood back in small doses via the game of baseball by collecting balls and equipment and displaying them in my home, and not for commercial profit.

So because of this increased traffic of items hitting the web, and some of the counterfeit items that might have been bought by people online, I can empathize with the players that someone of my age could be a ball hawker and not a fan wanting a true autograph for his personal use. And that is one of the reasons I have not written a blog or a posting about this event before today. But with the year-end autograph signing events that are no longer held during the last home stand, I guess I will have to redefine my sights to again perch myself during the season for the desired autographs.


Unknown Photographer

In the wide scope of it all, the Rays have been considered one of the best values in sports by ESPN, the Magazine, and it truly is affordable and entertaining for all ages. Tampa Bay Rays baseball might have taken a hit on the field, but in the surrounding halls and cubbyholes around the stadium, the Fan Experience has increased this season and the fans have been the true winners. the increase in In-Game contests and events from the Pepsi bottles Race to the Bloopers in the eighth inning have made the game enjoyable for everyone.

But even if going to a Rays game is considered one of the best values in sports, wandering around the stadium or even strolling through the Ted Willams Museum is a “must see” for fans of any team. Changes can always be made even to a perfect event or activity. The above mentioned items have not been singled out to embarrass or even stay away from future Rays games or events. But the tweaking and maybe even the revising of some things can only help further the Rays goals of giving fantastic guest experiences and also promote from within the confines of the stadium to the “Rays Way” of thinking off the field as well as on the field in 2010.

14 Comments

Could you add in the Maddon’s Maniacs? They charged $20 this year and yet reduced the number of meetings. I can understand not providing free snacks, with the size of the group. However, I don’t think it’s right to pay to get less than what we were getting for free.

Ladyshark,
Actually, the “Maddon’s Maniacs” also fall under the MLB umbrella now, and I think it was a good idea myself to charge for the items.
Might have been less meetings, but the guests were still above par and fun to listen to this season.
I think the $ 20 spent was a good deal considering the size of the group now. I remember when we first met, you could fit all of us in a Checkers Chicken Finger meal back then.
I actually like the way Sean, Eric and Darcy re-fitted the group this season.
My $ 20 is ready for 2010.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Renegade,

I think “Madden’s” Maniacs are worth it for any price. And to comment on |”I like to collect autographed baseballs”| I think any fan in the universe would collect autographed baseballs if they were as involved as you are. Heck I bet you have dozens at home. YOU are the Rays #1 fan Cliff, I don’t doubt that at all !!! : )

Ted
http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

Ted,
I am just one of many.
I am nothing special, but we all have a place within the Rays Republic.
Seriously tho, I do not consider myself a number #1 anything. Too many other people have better reasons and more junk than I could even imagine.
I know of a family that collected at least 304 photos and autographs this season from around the MLB………that is dedication!
Just being able to watch a sport I love is enough for me……..really.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I know that the ball my daughter got at the game in May will be her prized possession for a long time. She is so proud of having it.
To be in the heart of the Rays Republic would be an incredible experience for me. The sights and sounds and everything of just being at my teams’ home park would make it that much more of an experience. I hope to be at a lot more Rays games in 2010…and a couple of select Angels games too.
Ginny
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Ginny,
I know you will hit more games in the coming years, that is what great fans do………..even if they are situated 1,000’s of miles away from the stadium.
I am glad she cherished that ball. Getting a ball at a major league stadium should be one of the things every kid aspires to once in their lives.
I actually think going to a MLB game should be on the top 100 Things to do before you die” kind of list.
But then, I must die 80 times a season then………..

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jane,
It can truly make a kid light up if you give them a ball. I try and do it from time to time either with ones I get during B P or getting one of the players to toss it to me to give to them. Makes my day too!
Believe me Jane, the Rays management doesn’t want letter from me. They see enough of me for 80 games a season to last an entire year (lol).
I am just from a marketing and event coordinating background and can see tweaks sometimes. But I also think they see them too and their hands might get tied at times.
But the end result is smile on people’s face……..right?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I think your suggestions about various ways to tweak the fan experience at the Trop are valid. (Send this post to the Rays’ management!) As for getting a signed baseball, it is every kid’s dream and I’ll never forget my first one. I had to be about nine and it was such a thrill!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Rays,
I could see yesterday how the Dodgers had scaled down on the fan appreciation giveaway. It must be that there was a slowdown of sponsors. Also I was expecting the yearly discount at the gift shops on Fan appreciation Day but there was none.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

I don’t think that those of us with season tickets at Dodger Stadium get any special giveaways except the yearbook and this year, a replica plaque. We get a 10 per cent off merchandise. I think that what I get out of it is the whole Dodger Stadium expereince including all the employees who have become friends. I have made many new friends at the stadium. Most of all, the players have gotten to know me just because they see me there all the time. Manny has thrown me a practice ball, Matt Kemp waves to me, James Loney nods to me in recognition and Andre Ethier gives m those gorgeous smiles. That in itself is worth a million dollars.
Very nice entry, by the way. You offer great suggestions.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Cliff – I think it is wonderful that the Rays do so much for their fans. I hope next season they see an increase in the number of fans attending games throughout the entire season.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Emma,
I think we might be seeing the first wavew of some cutbacks by the teams on their giveaways and their special events for the fans.
Until you can see a definite upward trend in the attendance and the economy, it might be lean times, bit not desperate times for baseball.
I know the Rays did their discounts today from 12-5, but I was packing to move in the next few days.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Thanks Cat.
I think it is up to each team to do what they can to make a firm base foundation of Season Ticket holders. Some teams it is just too expensive for one person to buy all 81 games, but it is still fun even for 20-ish a season.
I know the Rays offer 15 % in the Team Store, 10% on all concessions, and we also get the Yearbook and sometimes a few special surprises.
Even if they did nothing, I would still be in that group of Season Ticket people.it is my life (lol).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Julia,
I know the group that does the Season Tickets and the Group Sales has always been busy and have come up with attractive plans every season.
Some blame the economy on the lack of fans, while others think the public in this state in the Spring and Summer has so many options that baseball falls through the cracks.
The other two teams play during the Fall and Winter and most Floridians, and the fans that come down from up north tend to go to hockey and football over anything else.
Hopefully we can get our usual “BIG” series back on track with 30,000+ next season…………knock on wood!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers

%d bloggers like this: