Sharks attendance doubles over past several years

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Veterans' Night at an MV Sharks' game. —courtesy MV Sharks

Attendance at Martha’s Vineyard Sharks baseball games has doubled since 2019, according to general manager Russ Curran.

Curran says that in 2023, the Sharks averaged 2,800 fans per game, for a total of 61,000 fans — the highest attendance in their New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). In 2019, the Sharks averaged 1,308 fans per game, for 24,000 fans total.

To explain the rise, Curran points to the Sharks’ 2019 league change, to drafting more players from prominent teams nationwide, and to ballpark-ticket-with-food deals.

“[From] when I first got here, it’s just totally different,” says Curran. “We’ve done a lot of improvements to make [the ballpark] more fan friendly.”

Higher attendance, Curran says, has made games more rewarding. “It causes more excitement around the ballpark. The players are more excited when it’s a full ballpark, and it just helps the atmosphere every day,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

Curran says that since joining NECBL, the Sharks have drawn much more talent from the Power Five, the country’s five most prominent collegiate athletic conferences. This has also led to more Sharks being drafted into Major League Baseball (MLB). 

“We’re getting top talent from all around the country,” Curran says. “We’re averaging eight to 10 guys per year getting drafted [to MLB] since we came over to the [NECBL] … a lot of Power Five schools are sending players to us … It’s more of a draw for people to come see kids from Vanderbilt, Arkansas, et cetera, Miami.”

Curran highlighted former Sharks pitcher Camron Hill, a pitcher from Georgia Tech who now plays for the Cape Cod Baseball League, and recently won the 2023 pitcher of the year there: “I have a good relationship with some of the Cape teams, so I recommend [that] our guys that were with us the year prior … go to the Cape.”

“You know [Hill’s] going to be a high draft choice,” says Curran. “And I’m sure there are plenty more … We’re going to have a lot of draft choices from that 2022 team, without a doubt.”

Curran also cites a ticket-with-food program as a significant draw to games, where fans can get a burger and hot dog along with a game ticket. “Some … come and feed their families on that plan for dinner at night. [It] makes it very, very affordable for everyone to come,” says Curran.

Currently, the Sharks are beginning their sponsorship drive for the year, which also has an attendance-boosting component. “[The drive] is how we live,” says Curran. “We do it a little bit differently than most parks. A lot of our sponsors get season tickets, so they get to hand the tickets off to family and friends, which helps increase our attendance as well.”

Much of the funding raised will go toward transportation costs, Curran says. “People probably don’t believe how much our budget is, but our biggest expense is [that] … we don’t put [players] on school buses to go to other ballparks. These kids go on motorcoaches to go to these other ballparks … We rely on our sponsors to help push us over the top, to be able to survive.”

Curran, who arrived at the team in 2017, predicts further increases in the Sharks’ fanbase, and is pleased by growth in the team’s name recognition. “It shocks me … if I run into somebody and they say, ‘What’s the Sharks?’ That’s how it was when I first got here, and I think [the team is] getting more known on the Island, where people are actually planning their vacations around when our schedule comes out, so they can come and see some games.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article about Russ and the Sharks.

    One thing that is not often seen, is that Russ and crew are getting the baseball field ready for the high school baseball team in the freezing rain of early spring. He is out there coordinating bucket trucks and putting up the backstop netting in March, he is mowing the field, chasing geese out of the outfield with his trusty dog, and organizing turf grass maintenance such as irrigation, fertilizing, thatching, and aeration, among other tasks, so we can enjoy having a high-quality baseball field.

    He generously offers the sharks sound equipment to the high school baseball team for home games and does much behind the scenes to have the field ready not only for the sharks, but also the high schoolers months before the Sharks take the field.

    Russ and the Sharks do a great service to our community and the island baseball program, at large.

    Coach Kyle Crossland, MVRHS Baseball

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