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How Memphis Baseball is Trying to Bring Students Back to the Ballpark

The Tigers celebrate with Memphis fans.
The Tigers celebrate with Memphis fans.

Historically, Memphis students have not shown much interest in the university's baseball team. 

For many reasons, student attendance has been a long-standing problem at FedExPark Avron Fogelman Field. However, the program has made an effort in recent years to entice students to come out to ball games. Under new head coach Matt Riser, creating a raucous student atmosphere seems to be one of the goals of the program. 

On February 19, the baseball program welcomed students to the ballpark for a unique opportunity to interact with the program. The players were introduced to the students in attendance. Coach Riser then spoke directly to the students about his mission to create a unique experience at the stadium.  

“You are the bloodline of this thing,” Riser said. “We are not going to able to do this alone.” 

In his talk, Coach Riser mentioned some of the ways the program is trying to improve the student experience at the ballpark, including teasing a new deck built in left field to give students a new viewing experience. Afterwards, the opposing fraternities in attendance played a kickball series on the field throughout the night. 

The event that day was coordinated by the university’s Interfraternity Council (IFC).  

 “(We) wanted to build a rapport with the baseball team and Coach Riser who's very willing and wants to get students out to his games,” said IFC president Myles Brazier.  

Brazier praised Riser’s cooperative attitude, noting that Riser spoke with him directly about coordinating the event and how having a division one coach willing to meet a student organization was a nice change of pace. 

Following the event, it appeared students were receptive to the warm welcome by the head coach.  

 “It’s nice to have the involvement,” said sophomore Terry Williams. “They support us, so we can come out and support them.”  

Multiple students remarked on how they’ve become interested in attending games because of the event and further expressed their excitement for the upcoming season.  

That interest swelled into an amazing scene at Memphis’ game on February 24 against Bowling Green. It was the debut of the new deck, nicknamed “Riser’s Riser” by play-by-play man Jeff Brightwell.  

Students showed up in support of their Tigers, cheering on Memphis in their wild win. After the game, the baseball team rushed back to left field where they celebrated with their fellow classmates to show gratitude for their support. Players and coaches high-fived the fans, showing a glimpse of what could be the future of attending a Tigers baseball game. 

However, the attendance has been spotty since that game. There are multiple factors contributing to this. Midterms and Spring Break cutting into the early season home slate certainly makes it hard for students to be around to catch games. In addition, the number of weekdays starts the Tigers had to start the season has not helped with attendance. Yet it does serve as a good reminder of how far the program must go before it really becomes one of the tougher environments in the American Athletic Conference. 

Nobody should expect Memphis to suddenly have the same student atmosphere that LSU has at Alex Box or Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park. Riser’s gestures are an important first step in creating a relationship between the program and the student body.  

“The tides are turning,” said Memphis pitcher Jackson Lyons of the baseball program’s student involvement. 

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