Originally written on Full Spectrum Baseball  |  Last updated 8/9/12

Baby, you can drive my…..train?

This year marks the 51st year of play for the Houston Astros as a franchise.  In those 51 years, the Astros have lost more than 74 games in a season 35 times.  The team’s current record stands at 36-76 after the first 112 games of the season.  As losses accumulate, the Astros move incrementally closer to the franchise’s worst year ever which consisted of a 56-106 mark set in 2011.  Then again, it might be too much to ask them to go 20-30 down the stretch.  For a team winning at just a .321 clip, the idea of winning at a .400 pace  represents a jump.

Obviously, Jeff Luhnow chose to raze the team and start from scratch.  With new ownership, new management, and a new league (next year), I find it difficult to imagine that the team will be a real contender for several years.  Need a potential nightmare scenario for the Astros?  Just imagine a team that has drawn just 1,167,069 in 54 home games this year losing even more fan support over the next few years.  Going south of the current pace of 21,612 per home game seems likely this year, and the freefall could easily continue below the 15,000 mark eventually.

Maybe they have a plan for reigniting interest and expediting the rise from well below mediocrity, but that plan must require a  considerable amount of time, a significant financial commitment to free agents, or both.  Without packing Minute Maid Park beyond 50% capacity, the possibility that nobody will witness the baseball revolution in Houston without a ticket looks like a very large possibility.  Here are a few suggestions for getting people to pack the stands.

  • Have a “Landscaper’s Night Out” game and guarantee that the roof will be closed.  After living in Houston, I can honestly say that no city has more hard working men and women in the landscaping business than Houston.  These folks can go 12-14 hours per day with just a few short breaks, and they simply never complain.  Offer them a cool place, some cold beverages, and a baseball game in the shade, and you will have a guaranteed contingent of workers falling asleep in the bleachers.
  • Partner with the geek team from NASA and offer a “Pilot the Mars Rover” night where lucky winners selected via a lottery between each inning gets 15 minutes to steer the rover.  This promotion would be even better with some “I’m With Geek Boy” t-shirts for sale as well.  PI * 7 rounded to the nearest whole number would be a great price for this t-shirts.
  • Sponsor a “Mix Tape Night”, and give a discount to any of the 25,000 DJ’s in H-town who have a mix tape they want to tell everyone about.  Selected pieces get played over the PA, and the crowd noise meter reaction helps choose the winner.
  • Beg MLB and mostly Bud Selig to schedule as many games against the Cardinals and Cubs as possible.  There may be no easier way to pack the Juice Box than to bring the Rebirds or Cubbies to town.
  • Go with a “Drive the Train” day at the ballpark.  All fans with a paid admission get an opportunity to buy into a drawing, and the winner gets to drive the train at Minute Maid.  The money goes to charity, and the winner gets to play conductor for 1 day.
  • Convince former owner Drayton McLane to return to the park for a “Drayton McLane Dunking Booth”.  $5 for 3 chances to hit the target with a baseball.  $10 gets you the opportunity to just bean McLane directly.

You can keep your t-shirt launchers, mascots, and racing condiments.  Houston needs to go big and get creative, and nothing says “creative” quite like allowing fans to pilot a NASA asset millions of miles away.

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