With the advent of a new season upon us, the Staten Island Yankees are focused on getting their best team on the field, and their most passionate fans in the stands.
On Sunday June 19th, when the SI Yanks host the Aberdeen Blackbirds, the home team will hold uniquely themed activities as part of Sabermetrics Day, its inaugural opening, looking to generate a high level of fan interest.
Over the past 14 years, the MLB’s obsession with Sabermetrics has begun to emerge and spread across the league after the release of Moneyball, Michael Lewis’ keen examination of the 2002 Athletics. The movie demonstrated GM Billy Beane’s astute tactics on how to win without paying huge bucks for big-name players.
After the 2002 Oakland A’s won an MLB record 20-straight games and, in the process, proved how successful “Sabermetrics” tools can be to a team, the rest of MLB slowly started to catch on.
Since then, teams have been racing to put together talented analytics teams capable of extracting the winning formula from Beane’s ’02 A’s and then injecting it into their respective team organizations.
For the SI Yanks, the unique afternoon looks to be quite engaging and informative.
Mike Holley, Director of Marketing and Fan Experience for the team, created the promotional day with the intent of reaching out to select groups of fans in hopes of grabbing their attention and increasing their game attendance.
In reference to that process, he notes, “The goal for promotions here in general is to come up with things that would bring a different type of crowd into the park [as opposed to the] same people who come every day; hopefully there’s a subset of people in New York City that’ll be into [Sabermetrics]...It’s a niche [where] there should be enough people in New York that would [enjoy] it.”
At first, it was just an idea. Holley called up three to five writers he knew whom he had met at previous MLB Winter Meetings (where GM’s from every MLB team meet every December to discuss trades, signings etc.), and asked if any were interested in coming out to the stadium to speak on their work. Within a short time, the number of interested writers grew to almost 20.
Fangraphs (an organization dedicated to baseball stats and analysis), whose writers account for most of that list, are now planning to bring their entire staff to this special game.
The day’s events include a VIP Q&A Panel with seven writers and analysts, where fans get the opportunity to learn about current Sabermetrics research, as well as the Statgeek Picnic, where fans can meet the special guests, network, and hear about Sabermetrics, while simultaneously taking in an exciting baseball game.
The Panel will feature at least one writer from every sports organization on hand that afternoon, including Fangraphs, ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Sports Illustrated, and Baseball Prospectus.
Purchasers who plan to attend the Panel may submit their questions to Holley in advance of the event through email, and he will sift through them before choosing the ones to get asked during the event.
While Panel tickets have sold out, there are still tickets available for those interested in attending the Picnic. If you would like to purchase one, follow this link: https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/siyankees/EN/promotion/home
Despite the fact that both the Panel and Picnic programmed portions of the event are untested, they have certainly caught on quickly among fans. According to Holley, tickets for the Panel sold out within a couple of hours after Fangraphs made tickets available on April 26th.
In fact, “There was so much circle of demand even for that first session, I wish we could have [had] a bigger place to put people so that [more] people could be involved in it, we just don’t have a bigger room for it,” admits Holley.
Last season, the SI Yanks held a Game of Thrones Night, which set the attendance record for any game at Richmond County Ballpark.
The objective behind Sabermetrics Day is to accomplish the same result – and to entice (new) fans so that they begin – and continue – coming to games consistently.
Holley believes that if the event goes well, there could be another Sabermetrics Day next season.
“Whenever we do stuff like this where it’s focused on people coming to the park, you know celebrities or something of that nature, it’s always my intent to make it an annual event if we can. I think this has a lot of potential to become that if everyone has a good time and it seems like [the events] make sense.”
Beyond the Panel and Picnic, for which fans need to purchase access, the writers will be interacting with the whole crowd through various on-field activities.
An enthusiastic Holley explains: “We [media and writers present] are going to simulate the actual game we have and compare the actual results of the game so that it shows up on the board…I’ve been working with Dave Appelman, who is the main proprietor of Fangraphs, to try to create live win probability charts so we can show people what that means and then put that up on the board.”
Additionally, several members from Out of the Park Developments (who created the best-selling app “Out of the Park Baseball,” focused on general management of a baseball team) will be at the game. They will be giving out free downloads of the app to select VIP access purchasers of the Sabermetrics Day programming, and will be participating in some of the aforementioned predictive analyses at the game.
Overall, Holley is excited about the unique events planned and hopes they will resonate well with the fans.
While the SI Yanks are presenting fans with Sabermetrics insight at Sunday’s game, they aren’t the only ones to be doing so, however.
The New York Mets recently announced that they’d be partnering with Baseball Prospectus on July 9th when the Mets host the Nationals, looking to accomplish similar results, to catch fans’ attention by presenting relevant Sabermetrics concepts throughout baseball.
Sunday’s game will mark the second home game of the season for the SI Yanks. They look to get off to a strong start at home, hopefully with some buoying from ardent statgeeks and traditional game goers alike.