2019 Freitas Awards: Nashville Sounds (Triple-A)
Nashville Sounds fans have plenty of other entertainment options. Besides the Grand Ole Opry and other music venues, the city has the NHL’s Predators and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Despite all that, the Sounds had the third-best attendance numbers in the minor leagues in 2019, bringing in an average of 8,631 fans per game with 23 sellouts—for a team that finished three games below .500 and last won a Pacific Coast League title in 2005.
Adam Nuse, the Sounds’ general manager and chief operating officer, said the team “tries to be like Switzerland” in that it has multiple fan experiences.
“We want to be attractive to everybody,” Nuse said. “Down the left-field line, we created a neighborhood for some of the older fans, where it’s a little quieter and mellower. Right behind home plate are our biggest baseball fans, people who want to be as close to the game as they can be. Down the right field line is our family area, where it’s a little livelier. It’s a little bit more of a carnival. In the (right-field concourse) is our band box, a restaurant and bar—that brings in young professionals. There are thousands of 20- to 30-year-olds out there, having a good time, and they may barely know there’s a baseball game going on.”
The Sounds also plug into another fan base with Tito’s Tail-Waggin’ Tuesdays, which allows up to 200 dog owners to bring their pets every Tuesday home game, with proceeds going to local animal nonprofits.
Baseball America has chosen Nashville, the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers, as the recipient of the Triple-A Freitas Award. The Freitas Awards, named after longtime minor league baseball ambassador Bob Freitas, have been presented by BA annually since 1989 and recognize franchises for their community involvement, long-term business success and consistent operational excellence.
Nuse said the Sounds are focused on providing the best fan experience in the city.
“A couple of years ago, we changed all our mission statements to say we want to constantly improve every aspect of the fan experience,” he said. “Our staff has bought into the idea and there’s not a decision we make without the fan in mind.”
The Sounds moved into a new ballpark, First Tennessee Park, in 2015 and use it in a multitude of ways, making the venue familiar and comfortable for potential fans. The Vanderbilt baseball team plays some games at First Tennessee, along with the United Soccer League’s Nashville FC. Through December, the stadium will host Glow Nashville, one of the biggest Christmas experiences in the Southeast, with more than four million lights, sculptures, ice skating and snow tubing.
“We have 150 events a year at the ballpark and that is bleeding into our success during baseball season,” Nuse said. “We try to find ways to get people who aren’t baseball fans into the park. And once they come here, they may come back.”
With all the musical talent in the city, there’s never a shortage of good National Anthem singers. Some of the Sounds’ more famous fans include country singers Trisha Yearwood and Brett Eldredge and the rock band Kings of Leon, who performed the first concert at First Tennessee Park.
“I would argue that our anthem singers are the best in minor league baseball,” Nuse said. “We tell people that there’s nothing minor about what we’re doing. We are trying to fit right in with the Predators and Titans.”