Big Ten Baseball Tournament Should Set Attendance Records in Omaha

Jon Johnston

Maybe Minneapolis was a mistake from an attendance perspective. That doesn't mean a major league stadium is a bad idea by itself. Maybe Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, or Cleveland would do a better job. And there's always Omaha next year, where I expect that the Big Ten's attendance records will be shattered.

Thanks to some cold weather and Minnesota's quick exit, attendance at the 2013 Big Ten Baseball tournament at Target Field in Minneapolis was rather light. Total attendance for the five days was about 6,000 fans, which barely registered in a 39,504 seat stadium built for the Minnesota Twins. That brought out calls to move the games back to Columbus, Ohio, where they set the Big Ten tournament's attendance record of 12,000.

Of course, there is another option, which the Big Ten will try next year: Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park.

When Omaha bid for the Big Ten baseball tournament, some people wondered if TD Ameritrade Park was too big as well, considering the past attendance of the Big Ten tournament. My response has always been that it doesn't matter what this tournament draws in Minneapolis or Columbus, it's what it would draw in Omaha.

When the Huskers travel up I-80 to Omaha, fans follow. This season, the Omaha games drew crowds in excess of 8,000 each time, and in the past, it usually drew far more than that. If the fan-friendly prices that the Big Ten tried in Minneapolis come to Omaha, I expect big crowds. Maybe it won't sell out, but that's not necessary for this event to be a success in Omaha. In Minneapolis, all-session tickets were $30 and single day tickets were $10. I can see a lot of Husker fans who will be willing to part with that money to watch the Huskers next Memorial Day weekend. Especially with a pitching staff of Kyle Kubat and Aaron Bummer.

Maybe Minneapolis didn't support the Big Ten baseball tournament, but that doesn't make choosing Target Field a mistake. No doubt the players loved playing in a major league ballpark. You don't think that Tanner Lubach won't brag about his game winning home run at Target Field long after the stadium is demolished? For most of these players, this tournament is the closest that they'll probably get to the Major Leagues. That's a good thing. Even though the stadium was empty, the Twins put on a good show for the teams. They'll remember it, and appreciate it, long afterwards.

So maybe Minneapolis was a mistake. That doesn't mean a major league stadium is a bad idea by itself. Maybe Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, or Cleveland would do a better job. And there's always Omaha next year, where I expect that the Big Ten's attendance records will be shattered.

People shouldn't accept that Big Ten baseball is simply going to suck, and write it off. Indiana narrowly missed out on a national seed for this season. Illinois also got a berth, and Nebraska would have been in easily with one more win at some point during the season. It just needs to find the right way to succeed, and one way to make Big Ten baseball better is to make it more prominent.

Omaha should do just that next year. And I have a good feeling that next year, Husker fans are going to make that happen.

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