Finally, warmer weather is ahead to help boost Omaha Storm Chasers attendance.
It is May, isn’t it?
Actually, a chance of rain and maybe even more snow is in the potential forecast as the team returns for its third homestand of the season at Werner Park.
“It’s been a very tough year so far,” Omaha General Manager Martie Cordaro said. “The first homestand was the most challenging one I’ve had in 15 years in the minor leagues.”
Two games on the opening homestand were called off because of rain or snow. Another started at 36 degrees and light snow. Strong, cool winds made several other games feel like they were in the 30s.
Paid attendance is down 3 percent from the opening 10 dates of last season, dropping from an average of 4,721 to 4,579. But it’s also up 8.7 percent over the first 10 dates of 2011, the first season at Werner Park, from 4,179 to 4,579.
The average game-time temperature this season has been 56 degrees — nearly identical to the 55.9-degree average over a similar time frame in 2011. The 2012 first-10 average was 60.8.
“The challenge is the use of season tickets and use of tickets that were bought in anticipation of a great beginning of the season,” Cordaro said. “We had a large amount of tickets sold that were unused.
“We did have three great weather games. But for the first eight scheduled games (including the two postponements), the average temperature at game time was 35 degrees.”
Cordaro compares the opening homestand to the opening of 2011, the opening of 2008 — his first as Omaha’s general manager — and the end of the 2006 season when he was working for a Class A club in Battle Creek, Mich., as among the most difficult he’s overseen.
Yet he also sees positives.
“Our group sales have been very strong,” he said. “Our season ticket sales have remained constant.
“But weather is part of it. We’re only open 72 days a year for about four hours at a time, a little more than what a (24-hour pharmacy) is open in two weeks. All we can do is do the best job we possibly can do.”
Not only is the weather less than promising Friday, it also could threaten Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game.
And that’s got to make Cordaro mad.
That’s on a multi-tiered promotion night: autism awareness, combined with “what-if” night, combined with “Star Wars” night.
“I’m a ‘Star Wars’ geek,” Cordaro said.
Omaha plans to wear “Omaha Force” uniforms that will be auctioned for charity. Force was one of the potential names before Storm Chasers was decided upon, thus the what-if promotion. The Force is spelled out in a “Star Wars” font, complete with the Rebel Alliance logo in the O.
“I’m the eternal optimist,” Cordaro said. “We’ll see if this weather can get out of here. Monday is supposed to be nice. Sunday could be.”
Cordaro was pleased with crowds for the last homestand, a four-game stretch where the average game-time temperature was 68 degrees and the average attendance was 5,037.
The Chasers outdrew the final two days of the TD Ameritrade Classic 11,891 to 9,916. Nebraska-Creighton drew 8,395 on the opening night of the college tournament, while the Chasers had 4,482.
“I was very happy with what our attendance was,” Cordaro said. “We knew going head-to-head (Friday) would have some impact, but we had 1,000 more than projected.
“And after our walkup was off about 80 percent for the first few games, we’ve had better than average walkup for the last three. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for baseball, and people just wanted to come to the park.”
Memphis lineup features top prospect
Memphis comes to Werner Park for a four-game series with the Omaha Storm Chasers, starting at 7:05 p.m. Friday, with a lineup that includes 20-year-old outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered the No. 3 prospect in minor league baseball by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
Taveras, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound, left-handed hitter, is batting .299 with two homers and nine RBIs.
Meanwhile, less-heralded left-handed pitcher John Gast comes to Omaha at 3-0 and, remarkably, hasn’t allowed a run in 2923 innings over five starts to open the season. He’s scheduled to pitch Friday night’s series opener against Will Smith (2-1, 2.45 ERA).
Second baseman Kolten Wong and starting pitcher Michael Wacha are among the other top Cardinals prospects on the Memphis roster.
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