Representatives of the Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs reached out to the Robstown City Council for assistance Monday night in light of poor season-long attendance and a recent exodus of players in response to pay cuts.
The Beach Dawgs presented the council and mayor with passes that will allow the officials to come and go at remaining home games at Fairgrounds Field in Robstown. The team also announced a new two-for-one ticket promotion for Robstown residents for all remaining home games from Friday through Aug. 15.
"It's been very, very challenging for them to get people to come out to the ballpark," said Joe Kramer, president of the Robstown Area Development Commission, which is actively promoting the Beach Dawgs and other activities at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds.
Kramer also played a video for the council the RADC produced for local television that promotes the fairgrounds' activities, including professional baseball at Fairgrounds Field.
Councilman Abel Tamez opened the discussion by asking Beach Dawgs general manager Hector Salinas about recent media reports about several Beach Dawg players quitting the team.
Salinas said the Continental Baseball League is "probably the lowest independent league in the world" with a "salary scale that is really low," and therefore players come and go frequently.
Salinas attributed much of the poor attendance, sometimes with little more than 100 fans, to several factors, including the Corpus Christi portion of the team's name.
"There's no question in my mind the first thing that was wrong was the name," Salinas said. "I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart I'm sorry for that."
Councilwoman Sybil Tipton asked if it was too late to change the team's name to reflect its location in Robstown and western Nueces County.
"I do think part of the low turnout is because of the name," Tipton said.
Salinas said the franchise would change its name "in a heartbeat" if it would better appeal to fans in western Nueces County and the Coastal Bend.
"I want to ask you all, give us another chance. Let's try and make this thing better," the general manger said. "Let's all work together. I want this to work for all of us.
"We'll change the name tomorrow, in a heartbeat. I'm afraid if the team goes out, we'll never have another one."
Salinas said that Beach Dawgs owner Rob Baron was unaware of the regional and political rivalry between Robstown and Corpus Christi when the team's name was selected.
"The man made a mistake, no doubt about it. I'm part of that mistake because I'm the general manager," Salinas said. "I told him 'You know what you did? You came here and slapped people in the face.' We've also got to make it affordable for our area."
Tamez thanked Salinas for the admission and for trying to keep the team alive.
"I think it's very critical for our community and it gives us something to do," Tamez said. "We need to keep it up because it's a part of us."
Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr. agreed that the name hasn't helped the team draw fans from Robstown.
"That's who we are, the Coastal Bend," Ramon said. "As far as the name, I have no idea how it came out Corpus Christi because it's in Robstown."
Ramon said the Beach Dawgs predecessor, the Coastal Bend Aviators, had a lot of meetings and planning groups to market that team which went defunct after last season.
"We should start having meetings now with the county to strategize for the end of the season and for next year," the mayor said, adding the Aviators drew 1,000 to 1,200 fans per game consistently.
"It was thrown together," Councilwoman Arlene Rodriguez said of the Beach Dawgs.
Ramon also said Robstown leaders were not part of the planning process and were not solicited for their input to assist in making the franchise a success.
"We have no idea on the contract deals," the mayor said, adding the Aviators had an office at Fairgrounds Field with marketing and outreach programs. "I don't think there's any programs like that going on now, right?"
"That's right," Salinas replied.
Ramon said Robstownians are big on baseball, and recreation and entertainment in general, saying there are 200 to 400 people everyday at the local county park.
"There's no reason why this can't succeed, in my opinion," the mayor said. "You look at the area, the numbers are there to produce attendance, that's for sure. But we have to go get them and get them there. We'll do our part, I give you my word."
"We're here to ask for your help, that's what we're doing," Kramer said to end the discussion on the Beach Dawgs at Monday's city council meeting.
After the meeting, Salinas said the idea of changing the team's name would be further explored.
Salinas also said the team is back up to a 25-man roster after more than 10 players quit two weeks ago.
"But it fluctuates a lot, with kids going in and out," Salinas said.
Salinas said all the Beach Dawg players are either staying with host families, at his own house, or paying for their own housing at area motels.