It certainly warms this writer's heart to learn that there are so many fellow Kid 'n Play fans in Buffalo. In fact, 13,311 of them packed the International League franchise's Coca-Cola Field on Friday night to help celebrate the team's Pajama Jam promotion—in which fans were invited to wear their PJs to the ballpark and stick around after the game for fireworks and a family campout on the field.
No, the festivities weren't quite as raucous as the rap duo’s hit '80s film House Party—like Star Wars, the original is the best—and no high-top fades stuck out in the stands. Yet the turnout in Buffalo was the biggest in the minor leagues over the weekend, an impressive feat for a three-day stretch that included 13 games with at least 10,000 fans in attendance.
The combination of attractive promotions and equally appealing weather put Buffalo on top of the weekend count. Roughly 450 campers set up spike-less tents in the outfield grass and took in a viewing of “Hotel Transylvania” on the Bisons’ 80-foot, high-definition scoreboard before the team turned out the lights for the evening.
“With it being a Friday Night Bash (which includes pregame drink special as a band plays on top of a dugout during batting practice), and a beautiful night and the way the team has been playing, put together for a great crowd,” Bisons director of public relations Brad Bisbing said.
Indianapolis (International) drew the second-largest crowd of the weekend when its Friday Night Fireworks celebration attracted 12,018 fans to Victory Field. It continued a strong season for the Indians, which rank third in the International League in average attendance and first in the minors in overall attendance at 555,320 (thanks in part to just one rainout so far this year). Indianapolis' 8,815 per-game average trails just fellow International League affiliates Columbus (8,913) and Lehigh Valley (8,854)—which has won the minors' attendance crown each of the past three seasons.
Triple-A clubs weren't the only ones to fill the ballpark over the weekend. The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) drew the third-largest crowd of the weekend by attracting 11,979 to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for a packed promotional ticket that included fireworks, a team autograph session and a performance by the Jesse White Tumbling Team. Columbus ranked fourth with 11,725 for a Friday night game that included an appearance from BirdZerk, and Toledo placed fifth by drawing 11,500 on its Saturday night fireworks festivities.
There was plenty to see outside of the top five. The Louisville Bats (International) drew 10,510 on Saturday night as part of Billy Hamilton Bobblehead giveaway. Over 9,000 fans came out to the Reading Phillies (Eastern) on Saturday for its Harley Davidson celebration, and the Appalachian League’s Greeneville Astros drew 1,408 on Saturday for its unique USS Greeneville BobbleSub giveaway. The chart below highlights the five biggest crowds for each night of the weekend as well as the top draw for each league, noting the promotion each team featured.
The weekend crowds were certainly a boost to minor league teams trying to overcome a particularly wet season, one that got off to a frigid start and snowy this spring throughout the Midwest and is concluding with a stormy stretch in the South. The industry’s overall attendance was down nearly 2 percent compared to last year as July began, but a strong month at the gate cut that margin to closer to 1 percent entering August. Minor league teams had already lost 444 openings entering the weekend, compared to 383 all of last season.
|Buffalo (IL)||13,311||Pajama Jam, Fireworks, Happy Hour, Family Camp Out|
|Indianapolis (IL)||12,018||Friday Fireworks|
|Columbus (IL)||11,725||BirdZerk Appearance, Happy Hour, Party-at-the-Park|
|Lansing (MWL)||11,166||Flat Screen Giveaway|
|Syracuse (IL)||10,842||Fireworks Family Night Giveaway, Facebook Friday, Autograph Session|
|Reading (EL)||6,695||Fireworks, Instant Vacation Giveaway (Phillies at Washington Nationals)|
|Tennessee (SL)||5,196||Family Night, Kids Eat Free, Knox County Night, Pack the Park to End Polio|
|Lake Elsinore (CAL)||3,333||Fireworks/Friday Night Lights|
|Frederick (CL)||5,667||Fireworks Daddy/Daughter Date Night|
|Brevard County (FSL)||2,213||City of West Melbourne Night, Mini-Tees Night, Via Tuscany Night|
|Kane County (MWL)||8,696||Fireworks, Country Music Night, Kids Run The Bases|
|Greensboro (SAL)||6,979||FANomenal Friday|
|Lakewood (SAL)||6,952||LGBT Night, Music Night, Fireworks Friday|
|Greeneville (APP)||1,880||Fireworks, Father/Princess Night, Ripley’s Aquarium Night|
|Eugene (NWL)||4,028||Happy Hour/Girl Scout Night|
|Billings (PIO)||2,591||Souvenir Baseball Night|
|** Rainouts: Bradenton (FSL), Clearwater (FSL)|
|Kane County (MWL)||11,979||Fireworks, Autograph Session, Baseball Cap, Jesse White Tumblers, Run The Bases|
|Toledo (IL)||11,500||Fireworks, Toledo Walleye Night|
|Louisville (IL)||10,510||Billy Hamilton Bobblehead Giveaway|
|Iowa (PCL)||10,365||Great Clips Charity Clips|
|Norfolk (IL)||10,072||Fireworks, Navy Night|
|Round Rock (PCL)||9,785||Premium Nights, Spazmatics Post-Game Concert|
|Reading (EL)||9,016||Fightin Phils Harley Game Cap, Fireworks, Harley Game Worn Jersey Auction/Raffle, Parade of Harleys Around the Warning Track, Mascot Band Pre-Game Concert|
|Pensacola (SL)||5,038||1990’s Theme Night, Fireworks|
|Tulsa (TL)||7,468||Grand Slam Saturday, Tin Lunch Box Giveaway, Library Reading Night|
|Springfield(TL)||7,208||Texas League Championship Shirt Giveaway|
|Lake Elsinore (CAL)||5,445||Social Media Saturday, Rivalry Night, Boy Scout Night|
|Stockton (CAL)||5,023||Post-game Fireworks|
|Frederick (CL)||7,308||Cancer Awareness Night, Fireworks|
|St. Lucie (FSL)||3,678||Italian Heritage Night, Postgame Concert|
|Fort Wayne (MWL)||8,009||BirdZerk, Fireworks|
|Lakewood (SAL)||6,241||Fireworks, Irish Heritage Night|
|Lexington (SAL)||5,689||Big L’s Birthday Celebration, Reading Night|
|Greeneville (APP)||1,408||USS Greeneville Bobblesub Giveaway|
|Hillsboro (NWL)||3,528||Breast Cancer Awareness Night|
|Billlings (PIO)||2,734||Team Baseball Card Night|
|** Rainouts: None|
|Iowa (PCL)||10,505||Family Day, Food Pantry Day, Run the Bases|
|Toledo (IL)||9,233||Autograph Sunday, Kids Run the Bases, Fireworks, Muddy Bookmarks|
|Louisvile (IL)||8,879||Inflatable FunZone, Kids Run the Bases|
|Reading (EL)||8,421||Phillie Phanatic Appearance, Kids Club FREE Ticket Game w/ Pirate Hornswoggle Party and Princess Tea Party|
|Round Rock (PCL)||7,910||Express Kids' Backpacks, Kid’s Day|
|Durham (IL)||7,591||Kids Run the Bases|
|Portland (EL)||7,368||Play Catch on the Field, Kids Run the Bases|
|Pensacola (SL)||4,257||Family Sunday, Fan Giveaway|
|Springfield (TL)||6,344||Ice Cream Sundays, Kids Run the Bases, Shelby Miller Bobblehead Giveaway|
|San Jose (CAL)||3,749||Fireworks, Pre-Game Parade, Kids Eat Free|
|Potomac (CL)||6,668||Fireworks, Guns vs Hoses, Kids Eat Free, Tyler Moore Bobblehead Night|
|Daytona (FSL)||1,376||Broadcast From The Stands, Family Funday/Catch on the Field|
|Fort Wayne (MWL)||7,904||Postgame Autographs|
|Lakewood (SAL)||5,885||Team Posters, Kids Eat Free|
|Burlington (APP)||1,184||Fireworks, Reader Appreciation Day|
|Brooklyn (NYP)||7,149||Catch on the Field, Kids Run the Baes|
|Eugene (NWL)||4,735||Water Bottle Giveaway, Happy Hour, Save Like Crazy Sunday|
|Grand Junction (PIO)||2,127||Rockies T-Shirts|
|** Rainouts: Tennessee (SL)|