Marlins CEO Derek Jeter discusses the fan experience at the ballpark

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter of the Miami Marlins meets with members of the media prior to the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 20, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter of the Miami Marlins meets with members of the media prior to the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 20, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter wants the experience of being at a baseball game at Marlins Park to the focus with the team’s fan base, not wins and losses.

I get what Miami Marlins CEO and co-owner Derek Jeter is saying about the fan experience at the ballpark and agree with what he is saying. To some extent.

I say this as a fan of the game, not a writer.

"“This is professional sports, and I feel bad for even saying this, but it’s impossible to win every single game. But one thing you always remember is the experience you had while you were at the park,” Jeter told WPLG in Miami.“We want it to be a positive experience. We want people to enjoy themselves, and look, a lot of times people come [and] they don’t know who won or lost, sometimes they don’t even know who was playing, but they do know if they had a good experience and that’s what we’re focusing on.”"

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I can see how fans and the media would take comments like these and ask the simple question, “Doesn’t Jeter care about this team making improvements this coming season?”

Of course, the man who runs the day-to-day operations of the Marlins does. And yes, it’s his fingerprints all over this team’s reconstruction. But as a team, with the longest season of any professional sport, winning every game is impossible and the front office, through marketing and development must work daily to bring the masses back to the ballpark.

The fact the Marlins have been a losing franchise for nine seasons and have one of the weaker rosters in Major League Baseball, the focus of 2019 shifts from having to win this season to what are the best options to make the fans’ experience one they will remember. That’s why the cuisine at the stadium is vital. That’s why there have been changes to the deck in the outfield for fans to watch the game and have a more social time.

That’s why the Marlins are hoping to continue to tap into the Latino community with new colors and a new logo for the 2019 season. While manager Don Mattingly is responsible for showing improvement on the playing field, Derek Jeter and his staff are responsible for making attending a baseball game feel like the best things a family can do together on a Saturday afternoon.

For years, losing sports franchises used a reverse marketing strategy of selling the opponent to the fans, to come to the stadiums and ballparks and arenas to see marketable stars they wouldn’t see on a daily basis. The Jacksonville Jaguars may have promoted a game against the Dallas Cowboys and Emmitt Smith. The Atlanta Hawks may sell fans on seeing Lebron James or James Harden. The Marlins may sell fans on seeing Mike Trout or the Boston Red Sox.

Given that the Marlins don’t have the street cred of marketable stars right now – which fans blame Jeter and Bruce Sherman for taking them away from the city – this is the best way to get fans out to Marlins Park.

But wait, there is more. Derek Jeter hopes to cash in on the community, the rich traditions of baseball for fans even if they have not been to Marlins games in the past and the city of Miami, which is a destination for travel. It’s a winning formula that the Marlins hope to make part of another blueprint operation.

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports see this as an “indefensible position” is the wrong approach. Even with the plethora of talent, the Marlins had three seasons ago, the fact the team wasn’t winning and had not been doing it for years was enough to tear the walls down and start over. Baseball was not the sport that brought the masses out to sporting events. Miami is a hard sell for sports because of the city’s many attractions.

The numbers of fans in the seats must change.

"“The Marlins finished dead last in attendance last season, averaging 10,013 fans per game, per ESPN,” Cwik added."

If Jeter continues to show progress in all areas of the Marlins organization, the attitude toward himself and the franchise will change. It may take another year or two for that to happen. But the path is clearer now and the fruits of plenty of labor can be realized.

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If the Marlins do their part to make the experience at Marlins Park more enjoyable, then it falls on the fans to act in kind. One of these missions cannot work without the other. Jeter hopes the fan base sees he and his franchise are doing what they can to make going to a Marlins game a destination, not an avoidance in 2019 and beyond.

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