DeCock: Local Sox fans make DBAP a home field for Pawtucket

ldecock@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2012 

  • 2012 Triple-A national championship game Time: 7:05 p.m. Tickets: still available ranging from $7-$15 (Call 919-956-2855) Pacific Coast League champions, the Reno Aces, will face off with the International League champions, the Pawtucket Red Sox, in a single game to crown the Triple-A National Champion. Broadcast: NBC Sports Network

— It has been a miserable season for Boston Red Sox fans everywhere. Those Sox fans residing in the Triangle at least caught one break this year. So did the Durham Bulls.

The arrival of the Pawtucket Red Sox in Tuesday night’s Triple-A national championship game at the DBAP is good news for fans and hosts alike. Not only will local Sox fans get to see a team that’s performing far better than the last-place parent club, the Bulls will happily sell them tickets to do it.

The Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League are the road team, and they might just be facing a true home-field advantage against the International League champs. The Triangle chapter of the Red Sox Nation fan club expects several hundred of its 1,200 members, and that doesn’t include countless more casual Sox fans in the area who tend to make their way to the DBAP with regularity when the PawSox are in town.

“Obviously it’s pretty fortuitous to have our hometown ballpark and our hometown organization, the Bulls, working with our AAA team to have a home game,” said Sean Bunn, the official “governor” of the local Red Sox Nation chapter. “We couldn’t have planned it any better.”

Together with fans of country star Scotty McCreery, who will perform during the seventh-inning stretch, the Sox fans have helped the Bulls sell more than 8,000 tickets. The only variable is the weather, with thunderstorms in the forecast.

“Short of the Bulls being in the game, I couldn’t have picked a better team,” Bulls vice president George Habel said Monday. “Pawtucket’s our biggest draw. I’m not sure people appreciate how strong that Boston connection is here. They outdraw the Yankees farm club far and away. I’m expecting to see plenty of Boston jerseys in the stands.”

The Bulls averaged 6,781 fans over their other 67 home games; for their four home games against the PawSox in May, they averaged 7,300, an 8 percent bump. But the raw numbers understate the impact of the visitors. That four-day series was played Tuesday through Friday; the first two games each drew fewer than 5,000 fans, while the last two each drew more than 10,000 – the Thursday game 10,064 despite a persistent drizzle.

“It was insane,” said Red Sox fan Bryan Richardson, who attended all four games.

Having Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui in town helped, but if that series had been played Thursday-Sunday, the Bulls could have reasonably expected four straight five-figure gates.

The PawSox only clinched their spot in Tuesday’s game on Friday, but groups of Sox fans were already calling to reserve spots at the Tobacco Road Sports Café behind the snorting bull in left field. Richardson, meanwhile, has been scrambling to find a substitute for a previously scheduled softball game.

“I’m praying I can get enough guys to play softball so I can go out there and watch,” Richardson said. “It’s the AAA championship game. I want to be there.”

That’s the kind of business the bars and restaurants around the DBAP were hoping to get when the Bulls successfully bid for the AAA title game, not to mention the Bulls themselves.

“It’s great,” Habel said. “I just wish we weren’t sweating the weather right now.”

DeCock:, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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