Hey, everybody, it’s opening day! By the time you read this, the first pitches on baseball diamonds around the nation may well have already been thrown out. The Rangers may already be in the midst of a campaign to finally claim the postseason success that’s eluded them the past few years, while the Astros—who open their season Tuesday evening against the Yankees—will be on the books for the 2014 season, meaning they can already begin the process of waiting-till-next-year.
In other words, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for the sort of sports fan who prefers his or her entertainment to be slower-paced and contemplative, watching even the greatest of the pajama-clad men who step up to the plate fail in between 60-70% of their attempts to hit the ball. Opening day heralds just the first of the 162 games that each team in Major League Baseball will play this season—plus playoffs and the World Series, for a few lucky ones—and the anticipation of the seven months of baseball fun to follow make today a day worth, say, skipping out of work a little bit early.
Of course, in San Antonio, they already got a chance to look at the two Texas teams who’ll compete for glory, as the Astros and Rangers faced off in the Big League Weekend preseason games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Alamodome. (The Astros won both games easily, though all the records are reset to zero today.)
For all of the optimism that accompanies opening day for every fan of every team, the San Antonio game revealed that the Alamo City is perhaps not quite in a place yet where it could compete for a Major League franchise of its own; the Alamodome isn’t the most welcoming of ballparks (the right field line was 60 feet shorter than it should have been, and the sight of a concrete wall behind home plate doesn’t scream “you’re in a place for baseball!”), and roughly 50,000 of the venue’s 72,000 seats went unsold for Friday night’s game.
Astros wins are rare enough that the team’s fans in San Antonio may be kicking themselves for missing a clean sweep of the Rangers, but the true portent to take away from the weekend may not be that the Astros are going to surprise the AL West coming out of the gate—but rather that the MLB-to-San Antonio crowd is probably a few years off from being able to convince the league to consider their city for either relocation or expansion.
That’s something that MySA.com noticed, as well, in their write-up of the games:
The attendance was modest. If this was part of the city’s audition for an MLB team, San Antonio forgot its lines. Only 22,677 fans showed up. The lower sections around the infield were packed, but the upper deck wasn’t. And there were scattered clusters of fans in the outfield seats.
Of course, this was just a pair of preseason games, scheduled right before the season’s real action was about to begin, so enthusiasm might have been dampened by the fact that fans would be paying to see games that barely mattered. (Though Nolan Ryan, who played for both teams, was apparently enthusiastic about the event.)
Perhaps a better way to judge the enthusiasm for Major League Baseball in San Antonio, then, would be to host one of the six series’ scheduled annually between the Rangers and the Astros during the regular season in the city, and see if that pulled more of a crowd. At the very least, it’d be a slightly more effective way to gauge whether or not the nation’s largest city without a Major League Baseball team has enough amount of enthusiasm for the game to potentially sustain a home team.