Blue Jays are winning at the turnstiles
Despite rising ticket prices and a relatively slow start, the Toronto Blue Jays have drawn a larger increase in attendance than any other team in Major League Baseball early on this season.
Fourth in average attendance, with 40,000 fans per game to start the 2016 season, the Jays were 20th at this point last year, drawing 25,433 fans on a game-by-game basis.
The nearly 15,000-attendance increase represents the largest growth to start a season in franchise history.
To close out a weekend series with the Oakland Athletics, the Jays drew 46,300 fans for their fifth sellout crowd of the season ahead of Josh Donaldson’s American League MVP bobblehead giveaway.
Through nine home games, ahead of their series with the Chicago White Sox that opened Monday night, the Jays drew 362,047 fans to the Rogers Centre, up 133,151 (or 58 per cent) compared with the same stretch in 2015.
The Jays trail the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants in average attendance this season, leading the American League.
More than five hours before the first pitch of Donaldson’s bobblehead giveaway, fans were lined up outside Rogers Centre for a chance at being among the first 20,000 into the ballpark.
The early crowds this season don’t surprise Jays manager John Gibbons.
“Since last August it’s been like that, so that’s when you go out and put on a good show,” Gibbons said. “They’ve done their part, they’ve come out and they’ve been tremendous.”
One group of fans travelled from Hamilton, waking up at 5 a.m. to be the first in line.
There’ s something different about this year’s team, they said after arriving to stand in line at 8:10 a.m.
“I think they’ve got a better defence than in years past this season,” Doug Noble, a fan since the team’s inception in 1977, said while sitting in a folding chair in front of Gate 6’s security scanners. “A historic offence — the best I’ve ever seen.”
After the team’s first playoff appearance in 22 years, the Jays raised regular ticket prices on average $3 to $6 and premium tickets $4 to $10 this season. It was just the second time in the past six seasons the team increased its prices at the gates.
But last year’s AL East championship has raised the level of excitement among fans, and they’re willing to pay the extra money.