HEISER: Entering 10th year, a Revolution success story

Steve Heiser
  • The York Revolution baseball franchise is about to begin its 10th season.
  • Since their first season in 2007, the Revs have won two Atlantic League titles.
  • Since 2007, Revolution attendance has averaged between 3,700 and 4,400 fans per game.

It's been nearly a decade since York County was hit by a baseball Revolution.

Back in 2007, however, there were doubts that the Revolution would succeed.

Lots of doubts.

Many questioned if an independent pro baseball franchise could survive in York, much less thrive.

Jacob Yingling, 9, of Spring Grove, gets his shirt signed by York Revolution pitcher Wes Alsup during Fan Fest on Saturday, April 16, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

Some thought the York market was too small to support a franchise, especially considering larger nearby cities Harrisburg and Lancaster already had pro baseball teams.

Some thought the quality of non-affiliated baseball would be only marginally better than the action that could be seen on the local sandlots in the Central and Susquehanna leagues.

Some thought that, once the novelty wore off after the first couple of seasons, that attendance would plummet.

Now, as the Revs prepare for the start of their 10th season on Thursday night, those doubts have been erased.

York County's baseball Revolution has been a unqualified success.

In fact, the Revs have become an integral part of the community and have played a vital role in helping revive downtown York.

On the field: The Revs quickly proved the on-field product of play was significantly better than many anticipated — probably equal to Class A, or even Class AA.

Rosters were filled with former major leaguers, and a large number of Atlantic League players eventually made it back to the big leagues, including eight former Revs' players.

In addition, an early exhibition game between the Revs and an all-star outfit of Central League and Susquehanna League players proved, once and for all, that the Revs were a huge step above the local sandlot players. The Revs won in a rout.

Within the Atlantic League, the Revs have been consistently competitive, making the playoffs in five of their nine seasons, including Atlantic League championship teams in 2010 and 2011 under the memorable reign of manager Andy Etchebarren, the gruff but endearing former Baltimore Orioles catcher.

Off the field: One thing that has become clear over the years, however, is that the baseball being played at the downtown stadium (now called PeoplesBank Park) is only a part — maybe even just a small part — of the overall package offered by the Revs.

Atlantic League baseball is all about family entertainment. Wins or losses are often secondary.

Yes, the Revs have a dedicated base of die-hard fans who care deeply if the team wins or loses. But most folks on a given night at the park are more interested in the playground, the promotions or the amusements. In other words, they are there to have fun. If the Revs win, well, that's all the better.

In the past decade, the Revs' folks have proven to be experts at knowing what the casual fans want and giving it to them.

Attendance: When the Revs first arrived in York, a figure was floated that the team needed to average at least 2,700 fans per game to survive.

The Revs have consistently bettered that number. Attendance at the downtown park has been very consistent over the years, ranging between 3,700 per game to 4,400 per game. Normally, the Revs' attendance figures rank in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic League.

Last year's average attendance of 3,823 fans ranked 86th out of 375 independent league, minor league and Mexican League teams, according to ballparkdigest.com. Right above the Revs at No. 81 were the Lancaster Barnstormers, also part of the Atlantic League, at 4,073 fans per game. At No. 72 were the Harrisburg Senators, the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, who averaged 4,371 fans per game. Both Lancaster and Harrisburg are larger markets.

York Revolution attendance drops 3 percent during 2015 season

When it comes to getting fans into seats, the Revs seem to be holding their own quite well.

In the community: To their credit, the Revs haven't just concentrated on baseball, entertainment and making money.

Under the guidance of team president Eric Menzer, the Revs also have  become an important part of the greater York community. The gates to the downtown park have been opened to numerous civic events over the years.

Through its Eventive initiative, the York franchise has used its sales, marketing and special events expertise to help orchestrate many local happenings, such as the York Halloween parade and the Fourth of July fireworks display, among others. The Revs also manage the York City Ice Arena and own the WOYK 1350 AM sports radio station.

York Revolution president Eric Menzer is happy to see the return of NCAA Division III regional baseball action to PeoplesBank Park.

In addition, former Revs' players such as Corey Thurman and Jason Aspito have become York County fixtures, as has former Revs' manager Chris Hoiles.

Final analysis: The bottom line when it comes to the Revolution is this: York is a better place since the franchise's arrival.

The team has helped to breathe new life into a downtown in desperate need of resuscitation.

They have succeeded both on and off the field.

When its 10th season starts Thursday night, the cloud of doubt that surrounded the team in 2007 will be gone.

The Revolution can be considered complete.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.