By Diego Munhoz
Longwood High School
Long Island Ducks part-time usher Joe Kowalchik has been working for the club for 17 years and has seen fans come and go—and come again—with Bethpage Ballpark customers breaking many attendance records for minor league baseball, he said.
The longtime fan who has been watching the sport since 1963 said the park draws so many fans because it is an affordable form of entertainment for families—unlike Major League Baseball, which a recent study shows are seeing fewer fans at games and is no longer America’s pastime.
“The major leagues are too expensive,” he said at a recent game against the Sugarland Skeeters. “That’s why places like this ballpark are great.”
Fans like Kowalchik, who come to minor league games often, are going against the national trend and are keeping America’s passion for baseball alive.
“The Ducks have ticket holders and season holders from the Nassau-Queens border to the Twin Forks” related Michael Polak, director of media relations and broadcasting for the Long Island Ducks, speaking at a pre-game press conference.
Many Americans are taking a stronger liking for football over baseball in recent years, according to a 2016 Harris Poll, which found that 33 percent of sports fans elected football as their favorite sport and 15 percent selected baseball.
In 1985, the favoritism was more even with 24 percent preferring football and 23 percent baseball.
But Ducks fans are among the most loyal in the Atlantic League, club statistics show. Since 2000, Bethpage Ballpark has maintained an all-time average attendance of 5,824 in the 6,002-seat stadium.
Polak and others said some of the reasons the Ducks have such a large following include its low-ticket prices—$40 to $60 for a family of four versus $210 for four tickets to a Yankees or Mets game.
Doug Anderson, who has worked in the Ballpark for over 10 years, said that the Ducks’ fan base has been consistent.
“The audience in the minor leagues has been the same throughout,” he said. “It still is family entertainment.”
For young Paul Schnabl, the friendly mascot Quacker Jack contributes to the excitement of a minor league game. Paul said his favorite thing to do in a game is to “race down with the Duck.”
The legacy of baseball lives on in young, proud fans like Zyria Zyir who said the experience allows her to enjoy time with relatives. She waited patiently in the line to the inflated slide down the first base line with dozens of other kids.
“The one thing I love is getting to be with my family!” she said.