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Fans at center of Mustangs' plans
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During a Gym 24 promotion, Patrick McCrickard, 8, and Peyton Childs, 12, along with Mustang mascot "Mo" try to show who has the biggest muscles.

Monday, July 21, 2014

By DEREK MAJOR - Staff Writer

While Martinsville Mustangs players focus on winning, the Mustangs staff focuses on the fans.

Mustangs President Jesse Cole and General Manager Shea Maple work to put on a show for the fans with promotions between the innings and giveaways.

“A lot of teams, especially at this level, think, ‘It’s a baseball game. Let’s open the gates and hope for the best,’” Cole said. “However, our planning for each event and each game starts in October of the previous year when we get the schedule.

“We love baseball and we’re all baseball fans, but if we relied on just baseball we wouldn’t have that much support, and there are organizations that do just that,” he said. “Our focus is mainly on the fans because we understand that our baseball fans want to see the game, but is so much you can do to attract more people to the game.”

With months of planning, the Mustangs are able to set up their promotions and go over every detail to make sure their promotions make the sponsors and the fans happy.

“It’s not just a baseball game. The more that we can script out what’s going to happen in certain innings or throughout the game, the more we can guarantee the kind of experience we’re trying to deliver to our fans, and I think that’s really important,” Cole said. “We want our fans to not just come into the ballpark watch a game and leave. We want them to laugh, cheer and enjoy the experience, and that has to be scripted.”

This season has been successful for the Mustangs, according to Maple. Even when the weather canceled a game, the Mustangs staff turned it into an opportunity to get fans to experience something new with the midnight madness doubleheader. The first game started at 8 p.m. and the second game began around midnight. A 5K race was held earlier in the evening.

The Mustangs have promotional events every half inning, including musical chairs, a dance-off between a staff employee and Mo the Mustang mascot, and the baby crawl race, among other things.

During Bassett Furniture night, the Mustangs had a dizzy bat promotion in which two friends had to put their heads on bats and spin 10 times before attempting to run.

“We try to come with and exchange ideas in an effort to keep things fresh for the fans, and this season we’ve had a lot of success with that and we’ve come up with some great ideas this season,” Maple said. “Our midnight madness promotion went very well, and hopefully that’s something we can do in the future.”

Despite all their planning, Cole and Maple still get surprised sometimes. But they stay flexible and attempt to make it a memorable experience for the fans and those involved in the promotions.

“We’ll plan things and have everything worked out, but when those gates open and the fans start coming in, you never know what’s going to happen,” Cole said. “So we may not find the ideal kid for a promotion or we may find someone that wants to do something special. So when that happens, we’ll adjust our promotions to fit what the people want.

“A great example is when a family came to us and said, ‘Our daughter’s boyfriend wanted to propose to her on the field. Can your promotion fit that?’ We made it happen, so things are constantly changing and we’ll adapt our promotions to fit what we have in the crowd or what people are asking for to make it a little more exciting for the fans.”

The Mustangs set an attendance record with their Fourth of July celebration and are trying to get a few more capacity crowds before the season ends.

“The last two games of the year are big for us,” Cole said. “We’ll have fireworks night on Aug. 1 and we’ll have the community giveback game Aug. 2 where all of our sponsors bought the tickets for the entire stadium and food for the first 1,000 people. Both of those games have the potential to be sellouts, and that would be a great way to finish the season.”

Once the season ends, the Mustangs staff will go back to the drawing board to see what promotions worked the best and to come up with new ones for the 2015 season. This off-season Cole and Maple will have some extra help in coming up with new ideas.

“This is the first time we’ll have three full-time employees in the off-season, so when you talk about planning and promotions, we can’t wait because we’ll have the people to really focus on what can we do to make the experience better,” Cole said.

“During the off-season we do a lot of talking and exchanging ideas and it’s a long thought process and you come up with something and you tweak it and then you try to figure out how to activate that idea and how to make it happen so the fans can enjoy it,” Maple added.


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