Even if you build it, they still may not come.
New head coach Andy Stankiewicz has gotten the USC baseball team off to a 17-10-1 start, a very good sign after a few underwhelming seasons. This start even earned them a spot in Baseball America’s Top 25 poll earlier this week.
Despite this vast improvement in play, attendance at USC baseball games is down. In fact, it is the lowest number since USC started keeping track of attendance in 2018.
During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Trojans brought in roughly 599 and 542 fans per game, respectively. Even in 2020, while a pandemic was beginning to storm through the country, Dedeaux Field was attracting 650 fans per game. In 2022, after two years of being held out of attending games, the Trojans were drawing about 573 fans per game.
But in 2023, that trend appears to be changing. And not for the better.
Through the first 16 home games of the season, the Trojans are only averaging 454 fans at their games despite their fast start.
Crosstown rival UCLA is not having the same problem. In the same time period of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022, the Bruins brought in over 1,000 fans per game in both 2018 and 2019.
Earlier this season, USC was forced to move their three-game series with Auburn to Alabama because of bad weather. And even with a game that was not originally on the schedule, Auburn fans showed up.
In three games with the Trojans, Auburn put up attendance numbers of 2,809, 3,313, and 2,813 fans.
So why does a baseball program that has produced MLB sluggers like Mark McGwire and former Cy Young winners like Randy Johnson, Barry Zito and Tom Seaver struggle to attract fans?
“I know USC has a good baseball team, but I have just never really been interested in going,” said Andrew Turquie, a junior majoring in intelligence and cyber operations. “The atmosphere on campus is more based around football and basketball, but I never see any advertisements or hype for baseball games.”
The lack of success the Trojans have had over the past two decades probably does not help.
The Trojans have not made an appearance in the College World Series since 2001, even though they are one of the most historically successful and relevant college baseball programs of all time.
“The basketball team will get a buzz because they’ve got a guy who’s ranked No. 1 among the five-star players out there,” said Jeff Fellenzer, USC professor and longtime Trojan baseball supporter. “I saw it with O.J. Mayo years ago. He had a big name and people heard the name so they came to the Galen Center to see him play.”
Unfortunately, the Trojans do not have a huge star, and it might be holding them back.
Going to baseball games is a classic, simple spring pastime, but students simply are not going to games.
The problems the Trojans have might not only be limited to their play on the field. With the students making up a strong part of the passionate USC fanbase, they do not even know about the games. Multiple students even expressed that they had little to no interest in attending in the future.
“I would maybe go if my friends were going, but that’s about it,” freshman business major Lauren Orlando said.
There may even be a reason for the general lack of interest.
“Students just are not plugged into the sport. College baseball, even though I love it, I still would call it an acquired taste,” Fellenzer said. “In my class, when I offer extra credit [for going to games], a couple of people have gone and said that it was the first baseball game they have gone to, but that they really enjoyed it.”