A&F Staff Writer
The Asheville Tourists have been bringing entertainment, history and heritage to the Asheville area for generations and they are only getting more popular.
The Tourists celebrate over 100 years as the area’s only minor league baseball team, but Asheville has a longstanding baseball tradition.
“Baseball in Asheville started in 1897 with the Asheville Skylanders and in 1915 the Tourists’ name came about,” said assistant general manager Jon Clemmons, of Swansboro. “We celebrated our one-hundredth anniversary of the Tourists’ name last year and this particular ball park, McCormick Field, is now 92 years old.”
These are not the only names the team has known. The team changed its name to the Asheville Moonshiners to make a statement about the prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s and is also the origin of the Tourists’ symbolic “moon” logo and mascot. Unfortunately, the teams new name only lasted about 10 days.
The Tourists’ current uniform recaptures the team’s 1950s theme. “They incorporated a little bit of history into the scripts and numbering on the jerseys,” Clemmons said.
The planners at McCormick Field must make changes to the stadium to accommodate and protect a growing list of fans and spectators.
“For the past six years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen renovations on the field with a whole new playing surface, new seats in the upper seating level, a new major league baseball style netting from first to third base to protect the people in the seating bowl and new clubhouse renovations,” Clemmons said.
The attendance at the Tourists’ games grows continuously each season, according to the team’s sales manager.
“Last year we had the highest attendance on record and it’s becoming more popular as the years go by,” said 27-year-old Megan Lachey, ticket sales manager for the Tourists.
Weekday games attract between 2,500 and 3,000 people and weekend games draw many more than that, according to Lachey.
To increase attendance, the Tourists’ marketing team uses social media and other techniques.
“Whoever does our social media is doing an awesome job at it, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, you name it and we’re on it,” said Lachey.
Group sales also help the Tourists break their attendance records, according to a group sales associate.
“We’ve broken our attendance record for the past three years,” said 27-year-old group sales associate Eliot Williams, of Nashville. “We do phone calls all day long to reach out to different businesses, churches and individuals that want to do a group outing.”
According to Williams, church groups and bigger corporations constitute the majority of group ticket sales.
“The most common groups that come out are church groups and corporations,” Williams said. “They love to come out and watch baseball.”
McCormick Field sports three large party areas, each of which can seat at least 30 people. Tickets to the party areas include the game ticket as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
One thing holding back the Tourists’ attendance and performance is the rain.
“We are very much a ‘weather’ team, so if the weather is bad, it affects us,” said Lachey. “When it’s raining as hard as it does here, there’s just not much that we can do.”
Local breweries like Oskar Blues Brewing Co. and other companies such as Ingles take part in supporting McCormick Field by supplying a variety of local beers and by sponsoring some large party areas.
“The Oskar Blues Brewing Co. party area can seat anywhere from 30 to 200 people,” said Williams. “They sponsored the entire area and we have their beer here too.”
Minor league baseball at McCormick Field brings a community together because of the affordable ticket prices as well as the three different party areas to choose from at the stadium.
The Tourists’ 2016 season ended this week with a final record of 66 to 72, their next season is slated to begin April 2017.