Buffalo’s Pajama Jam Tops Weekend Crowds

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
Iowa (PCL) 10,720 Fireworks
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
Tulsa (TL) 7,134 Fireworks
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
Brooklyn (NYP) 6,672 Fireworks
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
Albuquerque (PCL) 10,053 Fireworks
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
Daytona (FSL) 3,659 Fireworks
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
Brooklyn (NYP) 7,391 Fireworks
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)