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Dedicated Empty Seats a Fixture at Ballparks

Ben Cheney Statue

Giving back to the community has always been a high priority for major and minor league baseball teams. One way they are doing that is by leaving seats empty or dedicating them to specific community programs and members of the community.

One example is the Kansas City RoyalsBuck O’Neil Legacy Seat Program. According to the Royals website, O’Neil sat in the same seat behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium as a scout and a fan. To honor O’Neil, the program was started to recognize community members who embody his spirit. Fans nominate these community members who are chosen by the Royals and are recognized on FOX Sports Kansas City broadcasts as well as given tickets for the Buck O’Neil seat.

Another popular program has been to install a POW/MIA seat at ballparks. The seat is painted black along with a plaque to honor soldiers who were prisoners of war or are missing in action. The idea came from Rolling Thunder, a non-profit organization that brings awareness to American troops, veterans, and soldiers that were either prisoners of war or were missing in action.

Major league teams to dedicated a POW/MIA seat at their ballparks include the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Washington Nationals.

In Minor League Baseball, teams that have installed this special seat include: Bristol Pirates (rookie; Appalachian League), Brooklyn Cyclones (Short Season A; NY-Penn League),  Kane County Cougars (Low A; Midwest League), Lake County Captains (Low A; Midwest League), Lakewood BlueClaws (Low A; Sally League), Lancaster JetHawks (High A; California League), Louisville Bats (Class AAA; International League), Lowell Spinners (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League), Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League), Portland Sea Dogs (Class AA: Eastern League),  Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League), Salem Red Sox (High A; Carolina League), State College Spikes (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), Stockton Ports (High A; California League), Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League), Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A; Carolina League). The Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) will dedicate a POW/MIA seat later this month.

In addition, a POW/MIA seat was dedicated at the Fort Bragg game that took place on July 3, 2016. There is also a memorial seat at Goodyear Ballpark—spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians—in Arizona.

The Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have dedicated not just a seat but a whole statue to Ben Cheney. Cheney was a local businessman and an avid sports lover who contributed $100,000 to cover extra construction costs when Cheney Stadium was built in Tacoma. The ballpark is named after him, and his 500-600 pound statue sits in his favorite seat in the ballpark, Row 1, Seat 1 in Section K. What’s Ben Cheney’s claim to fame? He invented the modern 2×4 wall stud.

The Salem Red Sox have also dedicated a purple seat to honor Ellen Fuller, a long-time season ticket holder who always wore purple.

The Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League) have dedicated seats to Bill Edmond, a former Second Ward alderman in Davenport. According to a press release, two box seats will be given away for each home game to deserving, underprivileged members of the community. Community members will be chosen based on need, contribution, dedication, and service to the community.

It’s impossible to list every single program teams have installed to give back to their communities but with baseball continuing to grow not only around the country but around the world, look for more of these programs to pop up over the next few years.

Image courtesy Tacoma Rainiers. 

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