Hispanic baseball fans are driving attendance numbers to record heights. Aggressive marketing plans and an increased number of Hispanic ballplayers and managers have made Hispanic attendance a critical element to the bottom lines of many major league teams. If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this. More than half of all fans who watched Los Angeles Dodger games at Chavez Ravine in 2007 were Hispanic. That represents nearly two million baseball lovers.
Dodger management expects to do even better in 2008. "We should see record numbers of Hispanics this year," predicts Yvonne Carrasco, assistant director of multicultural public relations for the Dodgers. Their 2007 benchmark is up 20 percent from 2004.
The Florida Marlins also actively market to a large Hispanic fan base, and as a result, about 42 percent of the fans who came to their ballpark in 2007 were Hispanic. New York's teams have also seen Hispanic attendance rise sharply. "In 2004, our Hispanic attendance was 10 percent," says David Newman, senior vice-president of marketing and communications for the New York Mets. "Now, it's approaching 20 percent. In 2008, we expect a total attendance of 4 million fans, so at 20 percent, that's 800,000 Hispanic Mets fans."
In 2007, the Texas Rangers reported that 14.5 percent of its fan base was Hispanic, while the Director of Public Relations for the Chicago White Sox, Luis Hernández, says that about six percent of those who attended games at Wrigley Field last year were Hispanic. The difference in the percentages can be attributed to the size of the Hispanic population in each city and how aggressively the teams market to Hispanic fans.
Mr. Newman says his organization reaches out to multiple touch points in each market, citing targeted special events and attractive pricing as two reasons for success in the Hispanic sector. Many teams offer $5 seats, which appeal to family-oriented Hispanic fans. The vice-president of marketing and ticket sales for the Los Angeles Angels, Robert Alvarado, says the Angels also actively market to the Hispanic community. "In 2001, Hispanic attendance was around 13 percent," he observes. "In 2007, that number grew to just a notch under 30 percent."
Mr. Hernández says that although not all major-league teams track Hispanic attendance, the White Sox make it a top priority. "We use a system called Fantrack," he explains, "and we've recorded a steady increase in Hispanic attendance over the past several years."
An Abundance of Hispanic Players A key factor in sharpening Hispanic interest in major league baseball is the appearance of Hispanic players in marquee positions. Although Major League Baseball does not track the ethnicity of its U.S.-born players, a spokesman for MLB said that this year 239 of the ballplayers were born outside of the United States, which represents about 28 percent of all the players in both leagues. Nearly 200 of those players are from Latin American countries, with the Dominican Republic leading the way with 88 players. In 2000, approximately 150 players were from Latin America, and nearly 24 percent of the leagues' players were foreign born. In the 2008 season, 17 out of the top-paid 50 players are Hispanic. For Hispanic fans, players, owners, and management, the old adage rings increasingly true: "Any day is a good day at the ball park."
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