Buck Rogers couldn’t help but feel a little cursed as he sat in his office this morning and looked out at yet another rainstorm pelting Huntsville’s Joe W. Davis Municipal Stadium.
The first month of the season was not kind to the Stars.
Double-A Huntsville fought through poor weather during an early season 10-game homestand—a time of year already difficult to attract fans to the ballpark—an averaged just 1,626 fans in 11 openings.
Now, as the team prepares for a four-game series against Tennessee, Rogers was faced something in the air in addition to rain: the Swine Flu.
Or at least fear of the Swine Flu.
Huntsville joined the ranks of U.S. cities to shutter schools and cancel youth sporting events due to the spread of Swine Flu. The Stars planned to play ball as usual, but obviously fear of public gatherings is not good for business.
"We’re open for business," Rogers said, noting that all high school games in the area had been canceled as well as Little League games and the local Arena Football League team.
Minor League Baseball sent out a memo to teams encouraging them to be in touch with local health officials, MILB spokesperson Steve Densa said in an e-mail conversation. Rogers noted that the memo also dealt with what to do if teams are ordered to shut down by local officials. Rogers said they would treat the games in the same fashion teams in the Midwest did during flooding last year: play before empty ballparks.
Rogers said the team had not been contacted by local health officials, but that the phones have been ringing off the hook from concerned fans.
"My whole season has been a train wreck, if people are going to stay away I’m going to challenge them to come out," Rogers said.
Which is what he is doing for Monday’s day game. Rogers challenged his staff to get 1,000 fans out to the ballpark. If they succeed, he’ll shave his head on the field. It’s not looking good for the veteran GM’s hair, as his staff have e-mailed out the challenge to all their contacts, and a local TV station picked up on the challenge.
Anything to help the team, Rogers said.
"I was in the army for 14 years. If I can get a thousand people in the ballpark and it costs me my hair, I’ll do it every night."
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