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New fan base a nice boost for Dunedin

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001


In the off-season, the Dunedin Blue Jays focused their scouting in St. Petersburg hoping to find some key prospects to boost attendance.

The target wasn't players, but rather fans, primarily those who used to be season-ticket holders with the St. Petersburg Devil Rays.

Minor League Baseball purchased the Rays' Florida State League team and moved the franchise to Wilmington, N.C., in the South Atlantic League, ending a relationship between the city of St. Petersburg and minor-league baseball that dated to the 1920s. Last season, St. Petersburg drew 61,692 for its home games, which ranked seventh in the then 14-team FSL. It didn't take long for Dunedin to zero in on those fans.

For the Blue Jays, who drew 35,184, third worst in the league, and an average of 525, third worst among all minor-league teams, this was a way to make those numbers improve -- fast.

"Those are die-hard fans who have been loyal," said Ken Carson, general manager and director of Florida operations for the Blue Jays. "The team has always had good attendance there (in St. Petersburg). Those are the type of fans we'd love to have."

Carson made sure his team was first in line to make a pitch. He had a member of his staff attend a Devil Rays Booster Club meeting before the season ended.

"We went over there and tried to sell them on the idea of coming over here," Carson said. "We were hoping to get them before they decided to go over to the Yankees or somewhere else."

The plan worked. Carson said the Jays booster club has increased by 75 percent. The new members from St. Petersburg worked the concession stand during spring training and implemented ideas such as adopting players during the season, buying them ironing boards and other household items and going on road trips to visit players who previously played in Dunedin.

"They have really been active and brought some energy here," Carson said.

Dunedin's neighboring FSL rival, the Clearwater Phillies, took a different approach.

Clearwater drew 83,985 last season, fifth best in the league. With a solid fan base in place, the team was more passive selling itself to fans in St. Petersburg. The Phillies continued to focus on senior citizens with their Hall of Fame club, giving discount admissions to members 55 or older.

"We didn't really go to the fans in St. Petersburg," Clearwater Phillies media director Jason Adams said. "They more or less came to us. It's been a pretty good number so far and we expect an increase in attendance."

Dunedin Blue Jays

STADIUM/TICKET INFORMATION: Dunedin Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., (727) 733-9302.

WEB SITE: http://www.dunedinbluejays.com.

MANAGER: Marty Pevey.

COACHES: Scott Breeden, Dennis Holmberg.

ROSTER: RHP Charles Kegley (6-0, 190), RHP Joe Orloski (6-3, 180), RHP Jerrod Payne (5-10, 198), RHP George Perez (6-4, 220), RHP Cameron Reimers (6-5, 205), RHP Marcos Sandoval (6-1, 185), C Kevin Cash (6-0, 185), C Mike Kremblas (6-0, 180), Mike Rodriguez (5-11, 185), IF Jimmy Alvarez (5-10, 168), IF Jossephang Bernhardt (6-1, 185), IF Shawn Fagan (5-11, 200), IF Jamie Goudie (5-10, 180), IF Kurt Keene (6-0, 190), IF Chris Weekly (6-2, 195), OF Shannon Carter (6-0, 180), OF Antonio McKinney (5-10, 175), OF Shawn Pearson (6-1, 175), OF Rich Tompson (6-3, 180).

Schedule

All games start at 7 unless noted.

APRIL: 5 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 6 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 7 -- at Sarasota, 7:05; 8 -- at Sarasota, 2:05; 9 -- at Fort Myers, 7:05; 10 -- at Fort Myers, 7:05; 11 -- at Fort Myers, 7:05; 12 -- at Fort Myers, 7:05; 13 -- Tampa, 6:30; 14 -- Tampa, 6:30; 16 -- at Charlotte; 17 -- at Charlotte; 18 -- at Charlotte; 19 -- at Charlotte; 20 -- at Tampa; 21 -- at Tampa, 7; 22 -- Sarasota, 1; 23 -- Sarasota, 6:30; 24 -- Charlotte, 6:30; 25 -- Charlotte, 6:30; 26 -- Charlotte, 1; 27 -- Charlotte, 6:30; 28 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 29 -- at Clearwater, 2; 30 -- at Clearwater.

MAY: 1 -- at Vero Beach; 2 -- at Vero Beach; 3 -- at Vero Beach; 4 -- at Vero Beach; 5 -- Daytona, 6:30; 6 -- Daytona, 1; 7 -- Daytona, 6:30; 8 -- Daytona, 6:30; 9 -- at Tampa; 10 -- Tampa, 6:30; 11 -- Tampa, 6:30; 12 -- at Tampa; 14 -- Sarasota, 6:30; 15 -- Sarasota, 6:30; 16 -- at Clearwater; 17 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 18 -- Fort Myers, 6:30; 19 -- Fort Myers, 6:30; 20 -- Fort Myers, 1; 21 -- Fort Myers, 6:30; 22 -- at Daytona; 23 -- at Daytona; 24 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 25 -- at Clearwater; 26 -- at Sarasota:05; 27 -- at Sarasota, 2:05; 28 -- Clearwater, 6:30; 30 -- Jupiter, 6:30; 31 -- Jupiter, 6:30.

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