MLB Strike Could Shift Fan Interest To Amateurs

When John Bruno called the Park League to request a wood plank for a bench, the folks in the maintenance department duly informed Bruno there was no wood to be found.

“That is the epitome of Proposition 2 1/2 – not one lousy piece of wood,” said Bruno, coach of Great Scott’s.

But there may be some relief, albeit slight relief, on the way – a Major League Players Assn. strike.

Locally, the Boston Park League, starving for funds, and the amateurIntercity League, seeking more fan interest, figure to draw more attention, and some additional funds, should there be a strike.

“Our sponsors cover about $1500 of our $2200 in expenses, so we have to have all kinds of fund-raisers to cover basic costs,” Bruno said. “But to cover miscellaneous costs – such as wood for benches – we just pass the hat around at games.”

The Park League, which lives on city funds, has been hurt badly by Proposition 2 1/2 . According to Bruno, teams now must pay for umpires, a $700-a-year expense for each team, and players have become field maintenance men on the side.

“With a strike, I think more people would come to our games, so more people would be dropping a dime, a quarter or a dollar into our hat,” Bruno added.

Although they hope to draw some attention to their leagues during a major league strike, Joe O’Donnell of the Intercity League and Bob Curran of the Park League are not unrealistic. They realize that their stands will not become packed with disillusioned Red Sox fans during a strike.

But O’Donnell is optimistic about the future of amateur baseball as a drawing card. And a strike could only help matters.

“I think the trend for the pro sports spectator . . . has been one toward disenchantment. Nobody’s happy about paying twice what they used to for a Sox game,” O’Donnell said. “You can see it in basketball. People are tired of watching guys go half speed in the NBA during the regular season. That’s why the purity of college ball is appealing to them.”

So O’Donnell wants to sell his form of “pure competition at the right price” – Intercity League baseball.

“If the pros go on strike, it will certainly increase interest in the amateur leagues, especially for those people who just love the sport,” O’Donnell said.

“In the old days, before TV, we used to get big crowds every night – maybe 400 to 500 on a regular night and 3000 to 4000 for a playoff game,” O’Donnell said. “Now we’re lucky to get one-fourth of that. But with no games to go to or watch on TV or read about in the newspapers, we should be drawing more interest.”

Said Curran: “Instead of watching the Sox on the tube or at the game, the people who really follow baseball because they love the sport would come on down to watch an amateur baseball game. Especially if a guy wants a night out, if there aren’t any Sox games, he can come to our games and watch baseball for nothing.”

Copyright © 1981 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Bob Kravitz.

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