London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
Going … going … gone. That's what the London Rippers might be saying if fans don’t get behind the Frontier League in the second half of the season.
“I bought season tickets in anticipation, but they really haven’t drawn the crowd we hoped for,” said Tom Butt, 29, bringing his four-year-old son to Labatt Memorial Park Sunday to watch the East Divisions’ sixth-place team beat on the league-leading Traverse City Beach Bums in a 9-2 win. “It’s kind of embarrassing really, when other teams come to our city and see this turnout.”
If that’s the case, faces in London would have been pretty red all weekend in front of Traverse City who boast the Frontier League’s second-best attendance record at 3,505, behind the Gateway Grizzlies with 3,610.
The Rippers have been able to scatter an average of 881 fans into the steel bleachers of Canada’s favourite ballpark.
You don’t need to be a season ticketholder though, to know the Rippers haven’t been able to slash their way into the Forest City.
“This is my first time here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is far less than what I would have expected on a nice Sunday afternoon,” said Robert Cordeau, estimating about 100 people joined him in the crowd Sunday.
The 62-year-old sat alone in the top-stands behind first base in the open sun and had so much room anyone else could have thought he was sitting in an very exclusive V.I.P. section.
“After having been here for two-plus innings, I’d say no,” Poisson said, when asked if he thinks the Rippers would be in London for long.
Poisson and Cordeau were among 804 people who bought tickets to Sunday’s game, according to the Rippers, and the crowd was treated to an all-around good stomp down from the home team on both ends.
London managed eight of their 11 hits in the first three innings to score all nine of their runs. Brandon Sinnery took to the mound for the Rippers, working eight innings, giving up seven hits for two earned runs (both off solo home runs) and striking out seven Beach Bums’ batters.
The lack of fans in the seats didn't go unnoticed.
“It’s tough, you got to really get yourself going. There’s no crowd noise obviously to get you going. I don’t know what we can do to get fans out here,” said first baseman/outfielder Joash Brodin, who has needed little motivation this season by getting a Frontier League all-star nod, along with catcher Jim Vahalik and pitchers Jamie Richmond and Yohan Gonzalez from the Rippers. “I guess get some alcohol, other than that I don’t know what they’re looking for. I guess win, that’s the only thing we can do to get the fans out here.”
Only one liquor licence can be issued to each address, which belongs to the Intercounty Baseball League’s London Majors at Labatt Park.
Rippers’ owner David Martin said he’ll still be looking to get the rights to sell alcohol at the stadium in the second half of the season and, for once, he wasn’t throwing low balls at the Majors or city council.
“Obviously, we need to get more attendance in here and we’ve done our best, and obviously without a liquor licence it’s very difficult," he said. "It’s shooting us in the foot and we’re continually trying to work on that."
Since the Rippers’ two home openers, where they sold alcohol using a now-expired caterers’ licence, London has only passed the 1,000 mark in attendance three times in 22 games.
Maybe Canadians just don’t want the American pastime at the professional level in London or maybe locals don’t want to turn their back on the longstanding Majors who have been around since 1925.
After 47 years without a pro team, professional baseball returned to the Forest City in 1989 with the Tigers, a Class AA affiliate to the Detroit Tigers, and lasted only four years. From there, the Werewolves lurked into London in 1999, winning the Frontier League championships in their inaugural year, but left after the 2001 season, followed by the shortly lived Monarchs in 2003.
“Ultimately, I hope people give it a chance,” Martin said. “If this team doesn’t work here, professional baseball will never come back to London. I think that’s a fair comment.”
The Rippers get their longest break of the season starting Monday (July 9) with the all-star festivities taking place in Normal, Illinois, before returning to the field on the road in Crestwood, Illinois against the Windy City ThunderBolts for a three-game series starting Friday (July 13).
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