Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Caribbean Series post-tourney talk includes attendance, future of event

The conclusion of this winter's Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is being followed by concerns regarding declining attendance at the event.  No figures have been released for last week's seven-day tournament, although photographs taken at Estadio Quisqueya have shown swaths of empty seats at the 14,469-seat ballpark during games not involving the host Escogido Leones, who failed to win a game in four tries.

Such talk about attendance woes at the Serie del Caribe is not new, although Mexico has bucked the trend by drawing large crowds when they host the event every four years.  Next February's Caribbean Series will be in Culiacan, where the Tomateros drew 16,000 fans per game to their new 20,000-seat ballpark.  The other three countries hosting the CS on a rotating basis, however, have been another story.

La Opinion's Raul Breton reports Caribbean Baseball Confederation president Juan Francisco Puello Herrera says that ticket sales this year were better than for previous Februarys, and that while "the low attendance probably gives a bad perception to fans, the fact that they don't see much attendance in the stadium doesn't mean there haven't been good receipts at the ticket office."

Puello Herrera discounted speculation that the Caribbean Series might be shopped around to markets outside the four current host nations, including the United States.  "It's not in the immediate plans of the Confederation to bring the Caribbean Series to the U.S.  What we plan is to look at the possibility of some of our leagues that have a greater economic capacity and presence organizing the event more often."  The CS was held in Miami in 1990 at the Orange Bowl and 1991 at Bobby Maduro Stadium, both since demolished.  Puello Herrera expressed interest in returning to Miami and playing at Marlins Park in the recent past, quoted on MLB.com as saying, "I think that, with a centrally located ballpark like they have, if we promote it right, things could go better over there."

Cuba returned to the Caribbean Series on a conditional basis in 2014 after an absence of more than five decades and an offer to Panama, which sent teams to the earliest tournaments, to rejoin the Confederation has been discussed.  Puello Herrera downplayed both notions.  "They're discussing the possible economic aspects of a Panama entry as well as scheduling for a six-team tournament if Cuba stays."  Cuba's status, he added, depends on relations with Cuba's Office of Foreign Assets Control as well as the nation's evolving relationship with the United States.

Puello Herrera spoke before it was learned that Cuban star brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel left the team after their semifinal loss to Mexico Saturday, something that might cause baseball or government officials on the island nation to reconsider their commitment to the Caribbean Series in the future.