Unfortunately, I cannot make the trip to the Valley Of The Sun this season. But, friends of mine are keeping me posted about their Cactus League experience this spring.
An individual who is spending this week in the Phoenix area is mainly there to attend Padres and Angels games. Monday's Angels/Dodgers game was sold out -- and the Padres game was at night. So, she asked me before she left -- "I want to see a game on the west side, near I-10 as I come into town, so where should I go?"
I suggested she go to Goodyear or Maryvale. I recommended Maryvale -- since the Brewers don't draw well, and there are always plenty of good seats, especially on weekdays. I once went to a weekday Padres/Brewers game a few years back -- it drew about 3K, and from watching the attendance figures, crowds are a bit better now that the team is more competitive -- but still, the Crew only sells out when the Cubs are the opposition.
So, she decides to go to Maryvale as she arrives in PHX, and will see the Padres that evening. She calls me at work and says: " Hey!! What's up with this?? The game in Maryvale is just about sold out!!"
I talk to her later in the day. I've forgotten the Cubs are in Tucson. I ask her: "By any chance, did you see more people dressed in Cubs gear at that game than you might expect?" After pausing..she says..."You know....I did."
It's anecdotal, I know....but I believe this is the "Cubs Factor" at work. I'd wager a number of elements came together for that unusual crowd at Maryvale on a weekday. But foremost -- I'm going to speculate many Cubs fans did NOT want to make that drive down south. Obviously, many did. But I have never made that trip. If I was in town -- I'd attend another game.
7 games in the Cactus League yesterday, 1 was a sell-out in Tempe, 2 are in Tucson with one game featuring the best draw in the Cactus League. So, Cubs fans who didn't drive south could have seen the Sox/KC in Glendale. I'd say....that wasn't the top choice. Neither was the Texas/Giants game in Surprise, or A's/Reds in Goodyear. Those would be the longest drives, if you make the assumption most Cubs fans who visit stay on the east side of town. (And, the Pads took on the Tribe at night in Peoria. Not a big deal for Cubs fans.)
Maryvale's rep for being an easy ticket -- and they might have been running a promotion, since that's always a factor at that facility -- and that the fact that the Brewers are an obvious rival to the Cubs......I'm guessing that "The Cubs Factor" turned that routine Cactus League into BIG dollars for Milwaukee. I'm sure the 'Crew loved it. (And, I assume locals know that Maryvale is usually a quiet location to catch a game.
Teams that want to disregard the Cubs -- and their fans -- spending their money outside of Cubs games better think again. The Cactus League would lose, big time -- if the team left for Florida.