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Pioneer league: Fan-friendly fun — Ogden Raptors, Orem Owlz hope for big things on field, in stands

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 8:57 p.m. MDT

Owlz' manager Tom Kotchman hits grounders to his team during practice at Utah Valley University. Orem and Ogden open the season tonight.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Over the last decade, the Orem Owlz and Ogden Raptors have built up an intense minor league baseball rivalry.

And fans from the two in-state Pioneer League franchises have developed some pretty fierce feelings for that "other" O-town team, whether it's the one up north or that one down south.

But while Orem and Ogden fans may not see eye-to-eye when it comes time to "root, root, root for the home team," the two ballclubs' front-office gurus certainly agree on one thing: They want the people in their respective communities to be singing "Take me out to the ball game" all summer long.

Jason Badell brings his previous marketing experience with the Salt Lake Bees, Utah Starzz, BYU, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Utah Sports Commission into his first year as general manager of the Owlz, who open their 2011 Pioneer League season tonight at home against Casper.

He has high hopes that, despite a still somewhat shaky economy, the Orem ballclub can increase its attendance considerably through making Brent Brown Ballpark a fun, family-oriented place to be for Utah County residents. "We're looking to have a great summer," Badell said. "This area is definitely family-based, and our ballpark is conducive to families coming out and having a good time.

"We really are looking to connect not only with families, because that obviously brings numbers, but also looking to connect with corporate sponsors and companies that do their summer parties and outings, and then with the individual fan that wants to come out to one or two games a summer."

The Owlz averaged around 2,200 fans per game at home last season, when they qualified for the Pioneer League's Southern Division playoffs but lost to Ogden in a tense first-round series.

Badell is aiming for an average of 3,000 or more fans per game this season, and he has implemented some promotional ideas toward reaching that goal.

"This summer I will be surprised if we don't hit 3,000 fans a game or more — easily," he said. "Last year, we didn't do a good enough job as far as marketing the team and letting people know about the games. You're competing with softball, baseball, travel teams, vacations and people who just want to stay home and enjoy each other's company.

"We understand that, but we provide a great environment here that's fun for everybody. You don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy our games."

Two primary programs are in place to help push the Owlz attendance upward for the country's only minor league baseball team that doesn't sell beer in its ballpark.

First, the Owlz have partnered with the Seven Peaks and Trifalga parks for the "Pass of All Passes," by which fans can purchase a Seven Peaks pass and receive free general admission to an Owlz game. Or, they can take that G.A. ticket and, for $3, upgrade it to a reserve seat, or $6 for a premium seat.

"We think that's going to be a huge generator of attendance in these economic times and especially in this community," Badell said. "We definitely think that'll increase our numbers."

Secondly, the Owlz are offering free memberships to their Kids Club this year.

"We're doing over 20 giveaways this year that are geared toward kids with our 'Owlz R 4 Kidz' program," Badell said, noting that the free Kids Club membership includes free tickets to games, T-shirts, kids meals and Disney-themed giveaways such as "Toy Story" pens and writing pads and "High School Musical" keychains.

"We've got a lot of fun things geared toward kids this year. We're going to have fun games on the field; we're going to have some fun prizes from our sponsors; we're going to have some fun music playing, and then we get to watch a game. And oh, by the way, we're going to do that all again in three outs. It's all about the experience and people coming to have a good time.

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