By Jim Paul
ASHWAUBENON – Though the Green Bay Rockers team is having a little trouble finding success on the field, Rockers Vice President and General Manager John Fanta said the organization’s new theme and focus – live music prior to every game – is off to a promising start.
Despite the team’s losing record, Fanta said attendance is up from last year, and the Rockers have the eighth best attendance out of the 22 teams in the Northwoods League.
Fanta said the Rockers staff’s main mission is for everyone to have fun and enjoy a night of entertainment – catering to both the huge baseball fan and the casual one, and everyone in between.
“We take pride in providing a fun entertainment option, that happens to have a baseball game going on in the background,” he said. “Eighty percent of the people that attend a summer collegiate baseball game do not know any of the players that are competing and don’t remember the score at the end of the night. That is what we are here to provide, that fun, consistent experience, no matter what is happening on the field.”
Fanta said the team’s freshened look and new musical offerings have been received well so far.
“A lot of fun at the yard right up through the first half,” he said. “I think the live music has gone over well. This year has been a lot of fun. Our new inflatable bounce houses have been really well received by the kids, so it’s been a great time for fans of all ages.”
Fanta said the pregame music has thus far been a hit – as the team welcomes a new band/performer every night (minus the Thursday night staples, the NEW Piano Guys) from a variety of genres.
“We’ve had just about everything under the sun – The Cougars, Conscious Pilot, we’ve had the NEW Piano guys out a few times already and they play every Thursday,” he said. “We’ve had Johnny Wad and Carbon Road, you name it. So, it’s been a blast. I think the NEW Piano Guys have been very popular. Johnny Wad went over really well and is always a popular name in the area.”
Northeast Wisconsin resident Judy Payne said she really enjoyed the party deck during the recent Rockers game she attended.
“It adds to the experience having a live band,” she said.
While the pregame concerts have been the most popular with fans, Fanta said the team also has in-game entertainment like most minor league teams do – including several on-the-field fan games between innings.
De Pere resident Hollie Collar said her family had attended Green Bay Booyah games in the past and enjoyed them, but said the Rockers’ game they recently attended was an even better experience.
“I thought this was much more interactive, and I appreciated the things to do with the kids,” Collar said. “The overall experience when we went was great for both kids and adults. We got to watch the game from the hill while our kids intermittently watched and played in the bounce houses. They had a blast and got to experience a true baseball game right in their backyard.”
She said the music and activities also provided entertainment for her whole family.
Fanta said each night of the week focuses on a new promotion aimed at attracting all attendees – from free hot dog Mondays to bring your dog to the game Wednesdays.
“We’ve done a variety of different group spaces that are all-inclusive with all-you-can-eat and drink,” he said. “Those have been very well received. We’re just trying to find a niche for every single person no matter if you’re coming out with a couple of friends or if you’re coming out with a group of 50. We try to accommodate however we can for each of those situations and take care of people with the variety of seating that we have.”
Looking toward the second half of the season, Fanta said he hopes for even bigger crowds and more fun.
Fanta said just as fans are adapting to the team’s new identity and focus, the players are as well.
“It’s a new roster of players this year, and we are very much on the young side of things,” he said. “We get our team probably in the middle of June and it takes a while for everybody to mesh together and now going into the second half we’ve got a fresh start, so hopefully we can get a few more wins on the board.”
Fanta said this includes participating in a few team bonding activities outside of game days.
“We pretty much play every day, so you get to know people pretty quickly,” he said. “It is our manager Chris Krepline’s job to fetch these guys and get them all on the same wavelength throughout the rest of the summer.”
The bat dog – Luke
One new feature at the Rockers’ games that is not quite ready for full deployment is Luke, the new bat dog.
“The process (with Luke) started as a puppy in March, and he’s doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Fanta said. “Taking that from a puppy stage to being called by around 1,500-1,700 fans is a big change for a new dog, let alone (being asked to) pick up a bat and not getting distracted by something.”
He said Luke is present at all home games, but is not “on the job” just yet.
“(The trainer) is working very hard with him to make sure he’s good to go by the end of the summer,” Fanta said. “So, he’s a work in progress that takes a little time. I think the fans will appreciate him once we get to full strength.”
Not just baseball
Fanta said the party never stops at Capital Credit Union Park.
The Rockers organization is set to host larger scale concerts over the next couple of weeks – including Three Days Grace July 23, and Papa Roach Aug. 14.
More information on all things Green Bay Rockers can be found online at northwoodsleague.com/green-bay-rockers.