A few weeks ago, when the Philadelphia Phillies were in town, the Cleveland Guardians drew 108,003 fans to Progressive Field, their biggest three-game weekend series draw since 2008. And on Friday night against the White Sox, the Guardians played to a sellout crowd once again, their fifth of the season.
As of now, the Guardians rank 21st in attendance, averaging just over 23,000 fans a game, which puts them just behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and ahead of the bottom-feeders of baseball (not to mention the Baltimore Orioles too).
So what's going on here? Why are fans turning out in droves to watch the Guardians? Let's take a look.
4 Reasons Why the Cleveland Guardians Are Seeing Increased Attendance
The pitch clock
This is no doubt playing an outsized role in the continued resurgence of MLB's popularity this season. Across the league, attendance and interest is way up, in some cases at levels the game hasn't seen in nearly two decades. The pitch clock has shaved off roughly thirty minutes of filler, allowing fans to enjoy a fun, fast-paced game that never feels like a chore. It can't be overstated how important this change has been to the game.
Better ticket options and promotions
The Guardians deserve a lot of credit for trying to draw in fans with different ticket options. Deals like the standing-room-only ticket with a free beer and the Ballpark Pass cater to a younger audience of fans who want to go to Guardians games to hang out with friends and have a good time. The game itself might end up being a passive experience, but it serves as the ideal background to a great night in downtown Cleveland. That's the glory and ultimate appeal of baseball - fans can choose to take in a game however they'd like, and everyone can get something different out of a day or night at the ballpark.
The Guardians, of course, still do their Rock 'N' Blast nights, dollar dogs, and typical giveaways. But they've tossed in a few post-game concerts to boot this season, along with debuting new food options at the stadium, throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks with fans. This is all pretty par for the course with them, though, and I think it ultimately comes down to better ticket options for fans.
A competitive team
Sure, the Guardians aren't setting the world on fire this season, barely staying afloat in the atrocious AL Central, but they are still fun to watch in the sense this is still an incredibly young roster with a lot of exciting pieces. Seeing the maturation of a guy like Josh Naylor allows fans to envision a sustained run of success, and continued extensions to core players like José Ramírez and Andrés Giménez over the past few years allow fans to breathe easy knowing their favorite players will be here for the long haul.
Do the issues with Bally Sports have anything to do with it?
This is purely anecdotal and speculative, but I do wonder if the issues with Cleveland's TV broadcasts have something to do with more fans coming out to Progressive Field this season to see the team. With Bally Sports being a nightmare channel unavailable to just about every cord-cutter out there, it's become nearly impossible to watch Guardians games on TV without having to sell your kidney to afford the cost.
So rather than deal with a muddled broadcast situation, perhaps more fans are opting to spend that money watching the team in person. I have no evidence or data to back that up, but since when has that ever stopped anyone from making a bold statement?
The fact is, the Guardians, like so many teams around baseball, are seeing a huge spike in attendance this season, hopefully opening up the game to a new audience and a new generation that will have fond memories of this team and their time at the ballpark, turning them into fans for life. It will be up to the Guardians and the rest of MLB to turn this into sustained success and keep the fans coming, but for now, it's a great time to be a baseball fan.