MiLB Prez to Thunder: “Go Back to Work”
Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner was gracious enough to sit down with me (actually, we were both driving, but sitting down nonetheless) for a Q&A that appeared in Monday’s Times of Trenton.
O’Conner covered a lot of ground and was particularly candid when asked to give his advice to a Thunder organization that took a hit, both at the gate and on its balance sheet, in the wake of the economic turmoil of 2009.
The Thunder failed to attract 400,000 fans for the first time since 1994 last season. The team reported a nine-percent drop in overall attendance from 2008, but just a 3-percent decline in its daily average gate as five rain-outs and no playoff games for the first time since 2005 skewed the numbers a bit.
“The adversity Trenton faced last year was another sign that we all need to roll up our sleeves and go back to work,” O’Conner said. “Assuming 400,000 (fans) in Trenton, or another number somewhere else, is not going to work. We are going to have to earn every one of those fans every night. What I would say specifically to Trenton is this: ‘It was a great run and you still are a model franchise in all of Minor League Baseball. You led us into those prosperous years as a shiny example of what could happen and then you fell off — as did a lot of other clubs and the association as a whole. Just pull up your boot straps and go back to work. It’s a wake-up call for all of us. We can’t assume anything any more.’ ”
The Times’ news department grabbed my story on the Thunder organization rebounding in 2010 for Monday’s front page, which featured quotes from team president Joe Finley and general manager Will Smith. You can view that piece here.