As a fan of baseball, I'm disappointed by the lack of attendance at the local games. The Columbus Catfish draw poorly, averaging just over 1,000 a game. That's last in the South Atlantic League. There are lots of possible reasons thrown around for the lackluster attendance, but we're not going to focus on them. Not so much anyway.
What I want to talk about is something that got the notice of the president of the South Atlantic League on Friday night.
According to the Columbus Catfish Web site, John H. Moss was in town for the game. The thing is, the game wasn't played.
The Catfish were there. The Greensboro Drive players were there. Knology was there giving stuff away to fans. I was there. Other fans were trickling in. The league president was there. The sun was shining. The sky was blue.
And the field was unplayable.
"I drove six hours to see a game and when I arrived at Golden Park I found a beautiful night yet we were unable to play ball. The stadium's drainage system is unacceptable," Moss said. "Not only do the fans miss an opportunity for a weekend home game, it affects the players as well." Moss added that in this case, both teams were in wait-and-see mode, unable to work out on the field and then lost valuable game experience. This postponement also financially hinders the Columbus franchise. The considerable revenue that would have been earned from the expectedly large crowd is lost because the game will now be made up as part of a doubleheader.
Drainage at Golden Park ... well, quite frankly, it's horrible. When it rains, it's always a crapshoot whether or not they'll be able to play.
The Catfish don't blame their groundskeeper. In fact, they call him "arguably the best groundskeeper in the South Atlantic League." Brock Van Faussien has been with the team longer than most of the office staff.
The Catfish don't blame Brock. They blame the city of Columbus, GA.
Golden Park is a good-looking ballpark. I'm not a fan of the stadium itself. I like the layout of most other stadiums much better. But the field? None of the few I've been too look any better.
Until it rains.
Then, if the rain continues for any period of time, the field is unplayable.
The Catfish say the drainage is the problem and want the city of Columbus to fix it. There have been veiled threats of moving the team.
This is not the first time the stadium's drainage conditions have prohibited Golden Park occupants from playing ball. "The RedStixx repeatedly lost games because of the drainage system and cited the problem as one of the reasons for leaving Columbus and moving to Ohio. More recently, the Catfish Major League affiliate, the Los Angeles Dodgers, complained in writing to the City of Columbus about the poor drainage and urged the city to fix the problem," Moss said.
"Columbus lost Minor League Baseball once because of this problem and if they don't fix the problem soon they stand likely to lose it again. I will not allow any club in the South Atlantic League to continue to lose income and Major League prospects to lose valuable playing time because the city cannot maintain the field properly. After ten years of talk about this problem it is time for action," Moss concluded.
With the poor attendance, the last thing the Catfish need is another reason for fans to stay away. And the uncertainty of a game ... and the cancellation of a game after driving through traffic and taking to walk to the far side of the stadium to get in (told you I hate the stadium layout) ... will upset folks. Kids will complain, parents will lose their temper, and what should be a pleasant experience turns out poorly.
Some fans won't be back. And a team with poor attendance doesn't need one more thing making it hard to draw fans.
The field drainage at Golden Park is a problem that never should have happened. The field was redone completely in 1996 for the Olympics. It should have been done right then. Instead, people took money to do a half-assed job. Money in the short-term was the driving factor.
Catfish fans are paying for it now.