The Colorado Rockies are rapidly approaching their 30th anniversary season. Pitchers and catchers report next week, spring training is less than a month away, and baseball is truly on our doorstep. However, there has been a noticeable lack of fanfare both in the Mile High City and from the Rockies themselves. 30 years is a big milestone in the history of a franchise. The Rockies pulled out all the stops for their 25th anniversary celebrations in 2018 and yet for the big three-zero there’s been alarmingly little. The team hasn’t posted their 30th anniversary logo on any of their social media accounts. In fact, the team hasn’t even mentioned the upcoming anniversary season once so far in 2023.
This silence unfortunately meshes well with a growing trend among the Rockies faithful: apathy. It’s hard being a Rockies fan. After turning in a losing campaign in 21 of their 29 seasons, those at the top certainly aren’t making it any easier to root for this team. Fans have to deal with owner Dick Monfort accidentally providing the media ammunition against both him and the team. They have to deal with a clear and confusing lack of direction for the franchise. Above all else they have to deal with a mediocre product on the field. The Rockies have turned in four straight losing seasons since their 25th anniversary season and that trend does not appear likely to stop for the 30th. You can’t blame Rockies fans for being frustrated.
However, it appears the following for the purple pinstriped players is trending in an even worse direction: towards apathy. After 29 years and very little evidence that things will change for this organization, fans are finding it harder and harder to care.
In a poll conducted here on Purple Row back in December, only 75 of the 433 respondents said they would watch most Rockies games in the 2023 season. Only 47% of respondents total selected an option suggesting they would watch any games at all in 2023.
Whether people are delighted with or furious at your team, you are at least provoking some kind of emotion or engagement. The last thing you want a fan to be is apathetic and disengage. The Rockies organization might think they’re safe due to the throngs of St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers fans that buy tickets for Rockies games, but that will still only get you so far. When your target demographic, your core audience, becomes apathetic, they’re not going to buy tickets, merchandise, or concessions... and they might never do so again.
This is why the Rockies need to take every step possible to combat this ever-encroaching fan apathy, and there are solutions available. I know what the loudest will say: “Dick Monfort needs to sell the team!” That just isn’t realistic. Dick Monfort loves owning the Rockies—and the money it makes him—too much to ever sell. You can tweet us until you’re blue in the emoji, but this isn’t going to change. The only ownership change in the Rockies future is when Monfort becomes too old to run the team on a daily basis and hands the reigns to his sons Sterling and Walker. Their entire lives have been preparing them to take ownership over from their father.
So what are the Rockies to do in order to combat growing fan apathy? Some solutions are more difficult than others, but there are solutions to be had. The key is creating and growing fan engagement.
Although it might be too late for 2023, Rockies need to bring back Rockies Fest as soon as possible. Many other teams enjoyed their own fan fests this past weekend, including the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Fan fests are important in that they allow fans to engage with their team face to face during the offseason. Interview panels with players and personnel allow fans to connect with the team in ways that are normally off-limits during the regular season. A fan might even be able to meet the owner or general manager themselves, or interact with a member of team staff that’s usually more in the background like a coach or the clubhouse manager. Autograph sessions, the team “garage sale” (where items not normally for sale can be purchased like stadium signs or team-issued equipment), Q&A panels, and access to parts of the stadium like the field and clubhouse are all alluring perks of the fan fest.
Rockies Fest has been shelved for three straight seasons. The last time the event took place was January 2020, before the Nolan Arenado trade and when many fans were still enjoying the buzz of back-to-back playoff campaigns. Now the buzz is gone, and the opportunity to enjoy more personal engagement with the team has been missing. There needs to be a Rockies Fest in 2024, if not sooner.
It would also benefit the Rockies to bring back other small touches that help fans engage more with the team. The garage sales from Rockies Fest used to occasionally occur during other parts of the offseason in addition to large clearance sales at the stadium via Diamond Dry Goods. Everyone loves discounted merchandise. The Rockies should also bring back Autograph Sundays, where players would be available to meet fans and sign autographs prior to first pitch on the first home Sunday of each month. There have been no Autograph Sundays since 2019.
Perhaps most importantly the Rockies need to start hyping up their 30th anniversary season immediately on their social media accounts. Opening Day is less than two months away and there has been basically complete radio silence on the topic. The team’s 30th anniversary is a gigantic milestone and they should be doing everything they can to advertise it and get fans excited for the season.
While there are other, more difficult avenues to restore eroded fan trust and engagement, the Rockies have several easier opportunities sitting under their noses. Whatever they do must be acted on quickly. Fan apathy is growing and needs to be fought off before it becomes insurmountable.
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