'The Streak': 25 years later, the Trappers' record-setting performance still stands tall
With the engineering and the building of a team in the hands of Schley and his staff, the focus turned to getting people in the stands to see this collection of players. That responsibility fell on the shoulders of general manager Steve Pearson and Baggott.
Both men shared a common passion for baseball and promotion. Both had been in various sales and marketing roles before joining the Trappers, and both understood that putting a winning team together was only one piece of the puzzle to make the franchise a success. The challenge they had was to figure out how to get people to buy tickets.
Together, they surmised that in order to create franchise awareness and increase attendance, they needed promotions and incentives to get the casual fan to sample the product. With 35 home games, the schedule of events included such standard grabbers as The Famous Chicken Night, a performance by Max Patkin "The Clown Prince of Baseball" and the Fourth of July fireworks night.
But with a keen understanding of the Utah market and having a knack for connecting corporate America to baseball, Pearson and Baggott began approaching local businesses with the proposition of the concept of a "buyout night" for their company. The approach worked, with companies purchasing large blocs of seats for employees and clients.
It was through these series of connecting the local businesses and their customers to the Trappers that Pearson and Baggott found their real golden nugget. Business leaders realized that if they could increase foot traffic into their businesses with a promotion night or offer their employees a "company night" at the game, they would benefit from the added goodwill and exposure connecting, for instance, dentists and their patients.
With a season-ticket base of 3,500, these nights, along with other promotions, exposed rookie-league baseball to the part-time sports fan at a reasonable price.
"At the end of the day, the business model worked," Pearson recalls. "With the help of Ron Sabala, one of our owners, we were able to connect with many of the retail grocers in Salt Lake City, and we developed a tight connection with the business and their customers during the season."
Of course those fans would bring friends and family members along and undoubtedly invest in parking, concessions and souvenirs. This simple lesson in economics allowed the Trappers to expand their fan base and increase interest while watching revenues soar. This piece of the puzzle dovetailed into the overall plan.
Then "The Streak" that no one expected happened and everything came together.
"I am sincere when I say that everyone from the groundskeepers, players, front office and the owners were all focused on making the Trappers a success, and you don't have that in college sports because baseball is just one of many sports the university has to support," Gilligan said. "It really comes together when everyone is focused on the task at hand."
As expected, the Trappers, under the Pearson-Baggott business model, led the Pioneer League in attendance and were the envy of many Double-A and Triple-A teams. By season's end, the Trappers boasted a league-leading 170,714 in attendance — an average of 5,004 per game — in 1987. The team eclipsed 200,000 fans just two years later.
With the operations side in place and with the roster selected, it was time for the piece that everyone was waiting for: the games.
"The Streak," as it is known, began June 25 on an uneventful evening at Derks Field, with the Trappers — who had started the season 3-3 — taking a series-opening win over the Pocatello Giants. The Trappers then beat the Giants the next night, 8-5, and took two from the Idaho Falls Braves, 9-8 and 14-12. The Trappers then swept a three-game set with Great Falls on the road to run their record to 10-3.
"There was no doubt we had a lot of talent that year. We knew we could hit because we had guys with such strong backgrounds," Gilligan said.
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