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From fans to the Red Wings: Thanks for the 2012 memories

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
September 7, 2012

There is one thing about time that makes it hard to like, and you might want to write this down: Time flies when you're having fun.
 
Yeah, yeah, I know. It's a cliche, but I can't believe that the 2012 Red Wings season has come and gone. Poof! Just like that. It was back in early April, but it seems like only a month or ago that I couldn't wait to get to Frontier Field and watch the great game of baseball live and in person.
 
As I've said forever, it doesn't get any better than sitting comfortably in the stands on a warm, sunny afternoon and watching the Great American Pastime. No, it's not football, it's baseball. There isn't the tension in the stands that happens in a football stadium where 320-pound guys are trying to disable each other. Watching baseball is fun, not frantic.
 
And speaking of fun, the 2012 Red Wings season was much more so than the previous two. Rochester defeated Syracuse 6-4 on Monday to finish with a 72-72 record, its first non-losing record since 2008, when the Wings were 74-70. They haven't made the playoffs but once since winning the IL Governor's Cup in 1997, the year Frontier Field opened.
 
Bottom line: Things are looking up. Optimism abounds, and those in the Wings' front office have uncrossed their fingers.
 
"I think the Twins are obviously committed to us," Wings president and CEO Naomi Silver said this week. "We sat down with their general manager and farm director ..., and they could not have sounded more dedicated to making this right for us."
 
Let's hope so. Rochester has an amazing baseball history, going back to the days when most people rode their horses to games. Our first team took the field back in 1885 and posted a 40-36 record.
 
But never before in the history of the game has there been a season like this one in this great baseball city. Can anyone out there remember when Rochester or any other city provided the home field for its baseball team and another team headquartered more than 200 miles away? Of course not!
 
The Red Wings' home-game attendance for the 2012 season was the lowest ever at Frontier Field, 3,616 below the 2003 total of 418,014. Given that, one might think Silver and general manager Dan Mason are wringing their hands in agony, but they are all but high-fiving each other. See, the total attendance at Frontier Field for both teams was more than 510,000. And the Wings also made money from that number.
 
"I would say people came out in record numbers this year," Mason said. "Many groups decided to try the extra games we had with the Yankees."
 
He said any number of groups might have wanted to rent the picnic area on a certain Red Wings date but found it unavailable, so instead they booked it for a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game. "So," Mason added, "I don't think you can compare Red Wings attendance to Red Wings attendance (in a previous year) because many Red Wings attendees decided to try a Yankees game instead."
 
The largest crowd of the season at Frontier Field was back on May 6, when New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte pitched here on his way back to the pinstripes. Roughly 13,500 fans were there to watch Pettitte, and I was one of them. I mean, if you're a baseball fan, how do you not go to that one?
 
But with a big-name player or no-name players, being there is great.
 
"A whole family can come to one game at Frontier Field," said Mason, "for entertainment, for the baseball, for the food or the camaraderie of their family.
 
"Some people definitely came this year who hadn't come in a few years, and hopefully they had a great time," he added. "The game was exciting, the food was great, the fireworks were exciting, and hopefully we created a memory that will last a lifetime. They had a great time and look forward to coming back."
 
I was one of those ... uh, skeptics who was concerned about the damage to the Red Wings that might be caused by having the Yankees play so many games here. But both Mason and Silver said having them "created a lot more memories this year than last year."
 
Silver said many fans didn't care which team was playing and "didn't zone in on whether it was a Red Wings game or a Yankees game; it was a game at Frontier Field."
 
And, of course, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who won the International League North Division, will have at least one more game at Frontier Field when they host the Pawtucket Red Sox on Friday night in their third North wild-card playoff game.
 
Now I can't help but wonder if the Red Wings execs are trying to figure out how to get the Yankees back here in '13.
 
Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.9/7/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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