Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
By Mike McCann
The Columbus RedStixx are no more. The team now resides in the Cleveland suburbs and is known as the Lake County Captains. Since I knew the 2002 season would be my last chance to see them, I had to make a trip to Georgia to see the stadium before it was gone. The Macon Braves were moving after the season as well, so it was a good opportunity to see both teams while I still could. Throw on an Appalachian League game on the front and back end, and it makes a nice little road trip.
The RedStixx averaged 789 people per game, the lowest average attendance of a South Atlantic League team. But for that number to mean something, I'll have to put it into perspective. The stadium holds 5,000 people, so on average the stadium is about 15% full. And since that's an average, imagine what the low end is like. On Wednesday, August 21, the official attendance was 76, which is terrible. The South Georgia Waves were second to last with an average of 1,059. The Lakewood Blue Claws led the league in attendance with an average of 6,860 fans per game. The RedStixx had 66 home games and had a total season attendance of 52,103. One major league game has more people in attendance than that.
I haven't talked about my trip there on Monday, August 19, yet. The previous day, I saw a doubleheader between the Pulaski Rangers and Bristol White Sox. So I had a little bit of a drive between Bristol and Columbus. I like to be as prepared as possible while going on baseball trips. So I had phone numbers of all of the teams in the area in case I needed to make a quick change of plans or get directions. I called my girlfriend since she had access to the web and I didn't. She told me that the Sunday game between Delmarva and Columbus was suspended in the 2nd inning due to rain. I called the RedStixx and they told me they would be playing a doubleheader beginning at 5 where they were finishing the 9 inning Sunday game, then playing the regularly scheduled game as a 7 inning ganme. Since I was expecting the game to start at 7, it made things slightly more difficult. But I knew I could do it.
At first, the drive wasn't bad. I drove through Tennessee via Knoxville and Chattanooga without any problems. But once I got into Georgia, just north of Atlanta, there was an accident on Interstate 75. All lanes were blocked, so I know I had to exit. The problem was that on US 41 which parallels the interstate, there was an accident on there too. This set me back about an hour or so. As I got into the Columbus area, it was starting to rain a little bit. I made it to the stadium around 5:10. I really don't like being late for games, but the last minute schedule change and traffic was my downfall. When I arrived it was raining, and the start of the game had been delayed. I'm not sure if that was good or bad.
When I got there, only a few other people were there. And I'm pretty sure they were relatives of players. I sat under the overhang waiting for the rain to stop and the game to start. I was really hoping they weren't going to postpone the game. I sat there for a while and the rain eventually let up. They announced the game would start at 7. But when 7 rolled around, the field crew was still getting the field in game condition. The game eventually did start around 7:30. By this time, there were a few more people in the stands since it stopped raining and the original start time was 7. But there couldn't have been more than 30 people there.
Maybe it wasn't a good night to judge, but you could tell that it was a lame duck season. There were many empty spaces on the outfield wall where advertisements used to be. There was probably one usher on duty, and that person didn't stay the entire time. I had a pretty good chili dog for dinner between games though. And around 10:30, they announced their special two hot dogs for a dollar deal, which I couldn't pass up. Although I know that just so they wouldn't have to throw them out.
The games were pretty good also. I got to see John Maine pitch 6 strong innings for Delmarva while striking out 11 in the first game. In the second game, Travis Foley matched those same numbers for Columbus. Only he didn't have the run support. The game was tied 1-1 after 7 innings. In the bottom of the 9th, the RedStixx were able to get a bases loaded single over the five man infield to win the game, 2-1. And it was only 12:30 by the time all of this ended. Nothing like spending 7 1/2 hours at a baseball stadium.
So next year, there will be a few more teams with lame duck seasons.
Unfortunately, I don't know which teams these will be yet. But
I'm sure I will try to see some before it's too late. And I encourage
you to do the same. Even it's not the best baseball experience, it's
better to see the stadium while it's there before regretting it once it is
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.