While the Nashville Outlaws’ search for a new owner drags on, attendance for the summer collegiate wooden-bat team flounders.
A year ago, 24,858 fans attended 23 home games at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field during the team's’ first season. The 1,081 per-game average ranked fifth in the 14-team Prospect League.
This summer, the Outlaws switched venues. In a cost-cutting measure, they moved from Vanderbilt’s 3,535-seat stadium to Lipscomb’s Dugan Field, which has a capacity of 1,000.
Through 18 home games — prior to Tuesday’s doubleheader against Danville (Ill.) — the Outlaws had drawn just 3,081 fans. The average of 193 ranks last in the league. By comparison, Danville has averaged nearly 2,000 the last two seasons to lead the league both years.
The decline comes amidst a successful season for the Outlaws, who were 22-15 prior to Tuesday and in pursuit of their second postseason berth. There are less than three weeks left in the regular season, including nine home games. The team hits the road on Wednesday but will return at the end of the week for a four game homestand from July 23-27.
“Down the stretch, it would be great to see more fans out here and support these guys,” manager Brian Ryman said. “I say it all the time, at the end of the day, this is Nashville’s team. I know we have the Sounds and we are not trying to compete with them. There is enough room in this town for both of us. ... We just hope the fans will come support us too.”
It might not be a coincidence that the attendance drop has occurred during a season in which the Outlaws are without an owner and have a smaller budget.
The previous owners left in the spring to pursue another business venture. That left the Outlaws and the Prospect League in a bind as the schedule had already been set. So league commissioner David Chase is standing in as the owner as he operates the search.
Chase said prior to the season that the league would not continue to run the team beyond this summer.
Thus, if an owner doesn’t step up by next winter — and the search hasn’t found any serious takers so far — the history book on the Outlaws might be a short one.
“We have a great product,” Ryman, who has been the manager for both seasons, said. “We have good kids. We feel like we do things the right way. Kids want to come to Nashville. If we can have a core system for more than one year and I think things will turn around and it will start generating some fans and revenues for whoever decides to buy the team. ... We just have to find our niche, maybe market it a different way. There is a place for it here.”
• Moving on: Right-handed pitchers Craig Stem and Clint Wright both signed professional deals over the weekend, which ended their summer with the Outlaws.
Stem, who would have been a senior at Trevecca Nazarene, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 15th round of this year’s MLB Draft. He was assigned to the Dodgers’ Rookie League affiliate in Glendale, Ariz. The Donelson Christian Academy grad was 8-4 with a 3.93 ERA for the Trojans last year.
Wright was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 22nd round. He was also assigned to the Rookie League, in Orlando. Wright, a native of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., spent last year with Columbia State Community College and had signed to play at Austin Peay.
• All-Stars: Five Outlaws competed for the West team in last week’s All-Star Game. First baseman Bruce Maxwell (Birmingham Southern), outfielder Justin Guidry (Middle Tennessee State), catcher Doug Joyce (Union), infielder Craig Massey (Bethel) and starting pitcher Cale Coshow (Oklahoma) all made the trip to West Virginia.
The West won 4-3 and Maxwell was named the MVP after a 2-for-3 performance with one RBI.