Syracuse Chiefs win on the field, now the fans should follow

On an 87-degree night at NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, Tim Kennedy, president of Syracuse Media Group, is shown on the big screen as he's invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

On an 87-degree night at NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, Tim Kennedy, president of Syracuse Media Group, is shown on the big screen as he’s invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

The season of baseball promise fulfillment continues on the north side of Syracuse.

On Saturday night, my dear wife Karen and I went out to NBT Bank Stadium with a whole bunch of her co-workers at the Syracuse Media Group. The company that publishes The Post-Standard, and the glossy magazine bought section 118, reserved a grassy knoll outside the right-field brick facade and served up ballpark food and beverages for a couple of hours until we all strolled in to watch an exciting Triple A ballgame.

It was exactly like first-year general manager Jason Smorol had envisioned when I interviewed him for my freelance cover story for the May edition of Central New York the Good Life, that glossy magazine.

And as this International League season is past its halfway point, the Chiefs have won 17 more games than they’ve lost.

Saturday night, the Buffalo Bison jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but the Chiefs came back with a pair of two-run homers, one in the seventh and one in the eighth, to send it into extra innings. Buffalo won 7-6 in the 13th.

It was exciting.

NBT Bank Stadium on Saturday Night. Sure it was a little warm, but where were the baseball fans?

NBT Bank Stadium on Saturday Night. Sure it was a little warm, but where were the baseball fans?

I was concerned, however, that only 4,185 fans showed up in a ballpark that can hold more 13,000.

The Chiefs are last in the league in attendance.

The parent Washington Nationals have been calling up good players to the majors. That happens. At the Triple-A level, in fact, it’s a sign that the relationship is working. But unless the bottom falls out — knock on wood, here — the Chiefs could indeed make the playoffs this season.

I think it’s time for the fans of Central New York to show up and discover that there’s fun to be had up there.

There used to be a lot of complaining that the previous regime that ran the club was out of touch about what the community wanted to see happen around the games. That’s changed. There was plenty of complaining when this ballpark was put up a couple of football fields away from the old ballpark instead of at a completely different location miles to the south and east. Downtown, to be exact, where it could have helped revitalize a whole district, it is said. But that ship, my friends, has sailed long ago. Old news. Last century.

If you’d like to read more in this week’s installment of my community blog for Syracuse Public Media site, click the link below:

Is there something your community complains about and then fails to support when the old way changes?

29 thoughts on “Syracuse Chiefs win on the field, now the fans should follow

  1. I like minor league games and sorry about the lack of attendance, Mark! I wish I could have been there in support, company for you and yours, too! Smiles and Happy 4th!!


  2. If it was a little warm, I would think it would be nice not to have to sit elbow to elbow with other people. But then again, I may be missing the whole spirit of the sports thing, the camaraderie with other fans. In early 1987, I went to a softball game between Bon Jovi and a local radio station. It cost $1.95 and I got to sit right by the band’s dugout. The last time I saw Bon Jovi in concert it cost over $600 per seat for third row. But at any rate, that was my one time doing a sports even close to baseball. (I have of course been to hockey games, when Davy Jones did the halftime show, and Philly Soul games when Jon Bon Jovi owned the team.) But any way, my point was I did not care being elbow to elbow with people, but then again, I was there for different reasons other than the sports. Sorry for rambling. Again. Nice post! 😀 Oh, and in the night time photo above, I do believe I can see the coveted diamond pattern. 😉


    • Yes, you do not have the spirit of mass sports celebration, Rachel. Ah, well. It’s like seeing a concert with a full arena rather than an empty arena. Same thing to me. And I’m glad you caught the diamond pattern on the grass. Good eye! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, since you put it that way, I get it now. I think I could appreciate that sports spirit much more, however, if I didn’t live where it was 127 degrees. My sister used to live in D.C. and went regularly to Orioles games and she loved the whole experience, beer, food, fans, sometimes a famous person (such as John Denver) singing (Thank God I’m A Country Boy – which apparently is an Orioles tradition for 7th inning stretch time and the fans would stand and dance), and the actual sports part of it. (Of course she also yells at the TV when sports are on and I don’t get that either.) 🙂


      • Yes, John Denver didn’t actually have to be at the stadium, Rachel, they’d play it over the PA system and the crowd would dance and sing along, Baltimorians pretending to be hillbillies in the seventh inning. Me, too. Much, fun.


  3. oh, that makes me sad to read about so many empty seats, it sounds like a great night, how cool is that?! , and what a great season. hopefully with time, the community will come to embrace it as much as you and karen and 4,000 others have. there is something so fun and special about minor league baseball, you really can feel a closer connection in some ways than with a major league team. it’s a little like being a parent and watching a little league game, and then watching them as they grow and mature, and some even move up to the big leagues )


  4. Two words: Downtown Stadium. But that’s an old rant, and the decision-makers blew that call back in the ’90s when they had the chance. Too bad there’s no instant replay on where a stadium gets built.


  5. Andy is a Yankee fan – a crazed Yankee fan..I am a Mets loyalist from their days at Shea (and a high school boyfriend who’s family had a box behind third base). And there’s the time three of us snuck into Shea at night, ran the bases and I sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ on the pitcher’s mound – but that’s a story for another day. And now that we are connected between your Triple A team and our Nats – I say ‘go team’!! And let’s go Syracuse – fill those seats!! No need to wait til they get called up to the show.


    • OK, Mimi. I am a Mets fan. From ’62 to now and forever. Holy crap on your Shea story. How cool is singing the anthem from the pitcher’s mound, illegally at that? I had to go the legal route, Banner Day with a cheesy bedsheet as as 10-year-old.

      Yes, see ’em now before they become Bryce and Stephen.


  6. I’ve driven by our stadium here in Buffalo, Mark, when a baseball game is happening, and I am shocked to see how many empty seats there are. Baseball is one of America’s greatest sports! And it is slowly dying. What a shame!!! Great post! (((HUGS))) Amy


  7. Hi Mark! We had a triple A ball team here in Ottawa for a while too. In fact when I saw the pics of your stadium it is identical to ours. But it sits empty now as the franchise has moved on. The problem? Low attendance. I used to enjoy an afternoon at the game and it was very affordable for a family – at the time I think it was about $8 per ticket. We have a history of low attendance for proffesional sports teams although our NHL club, the Senators, seems to be surviving. There is a base population of about 1.3 million within an hour’s drive but we can’t seem to keep enough fan attention to support a baseball team. It’s sad because all other sports tickets are too expensive to make a regular day out for a family. Hockey tickets here are from $35 – $150 each , so a family of four with parking and a drink will run $200 – $650 for one night. A day game of baseball for four was about $40 – with free parking.

    Soccer is just starting to take off in Canada as a professional sport, but is still in its infancy. Football is not nearly as popular here as it is in the US. We don’t have a team yet in Ottawa, but my understanding is that they are starting this season but it CFL is think not NFL.

    I understand your enjoyment of baseball and concur, however it does seem to be a fading sport. Great post Mark. Thank you.


    • A family of four can go to a Chiefs game for $50, tickets, parking, snack and drink.

      On a Thursday night, it costs less than that. Every home game that night, the promotion is $1 Thursday. All usual ballpark fare food and drink — hotdogs, burgers, fries, soda, even beer — is $1. Karen and I have gone. The beers are 12-ouncers. For a buck! You can’t beat it.

      We have had the Chiefs since Jackie Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, Paul, so, knock on wood. We have Hank Sauer’s name as a hall of famer, and he played here in the 1940s.

      I wish your Ottawa folks would have turned out for Triple A ball. Maybe you will get another shot. Just not with our franchise, my friend. Thanks as always for your thoughtful comment.


  8. Mark, is it as expensive to attend a baseball game as it is for us crazy Canucks to attend a hockey game? A single ticket here can be in the hundreds! Glad you and Karen got to enjoy the game!
    Diana xo


    • To see a Syracuse Chiefs Triple-A baseball game, the next level below the major leagues, you can get a reserved ticket for $10 or a general admission ticket for $6. A true bargain, I think, Diana, because the general admission seats would be covered as the best seats in the house in major league parks because this stadium seats a little more than 13,000.

      We had a great time at the game. It was a very nice summer evening.


      • When Karen and I went to a Mets game three years ago, we got seats in the outfield section, very far from home plate, and they were $28 each. They vary so much. The best teams charge over $100 for the best seats and $50 for the cheap seats. Major League Baseball is expensive. Like hockey and basketball and big time college sports, too.


  9. It is always disappointing to see empty seats. I don’t think I’ve seen a baseball game since the 80s. Perhaps it is not America’s game anymore, as we follow suit with the rest of the world. I’ve never seen so much World Cup coverage. But that is a sad thought, which makes one wonder if apple pie is still all-American now, either.


    • I think it trails the NFL. College football. College basketball. So, No. 4 for me. Other people would also put the NBA ahead of it.

      But I still love it!

      I also still love no-sugar-added apple pie, Kerbey.


  10. My husband and I actually prefer going to a minor league game. The big leagues is fun, but the minors is family friendly, and affordable. It looks like a really nice ballpark up there. We attend the Lakewood Blue Claws games here in NJ from time to time. More people should check it out. If you love the game of baseball you can’t go wrong!


    • I do like the intimate minor-league atmosphere, upmom, but I’d like to be able to see my Mets at Citi Field once a season, too. I think Karen and I may hit 10 Chiefs games this season. That’s how much we’re enjoying this season. Thanks for adding your vote for the allure on the minor leagues!


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