Combining an eclipse viewing party with a Minor League Baseball game ended up being box-office genius for many teams, with one — the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League) — setting a team single-game attendance record.
In the end, it took a total eclipse to eclipse the impact Tim Tebow had on the Fireflies this season. Today, 9,629 fans – a new Spirit Communications Park record – were on hand to see the Fireflies walk off in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 victory over the Rome Braves. The game was delayed for the eclipse in the middle of the fourth inning, with totality at 2:41 p.m. Yes, everyone participated, as the photo below from the Fireflies shows. After a 19-minute delay, the game resumed in the bottom of the fourth.
“The Columbia Fireflies’ Total Eclipse of the Park was a day-long celebration at Spirit Communications Park,” said Fireflies President John Katz in a press statement. “The day began with a STEM festival, and concluded with a walk-off win for the home team. Visitors from 34 states and from points across the globe enjoyed for than two and a half minutes of totality under sunny skies. The players from both Columbia and Rome took in the Eclipse from field, joined by the front office and assembled media.”
Other South Carolina MiLB teams were successful in their eclipse promotions. The Charleston RiverDogs (Low A; Sally League) welcomed 5,724 fans through the gates at 1 p.m. for a 4 p.m. game start. It was an event, with reps from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on hand to educate fans on the eclipse, viewed via specialty eclipse glasses from Boeing.
“The eclipse has been a national spectacle that has shined a light on the Lowcountry and the state of South Carolina as a whole,” said RiverDogs President and General Manager Dave Echols in a press statement. “We were thrilled with the outpouring fans both locally and nationally that chose Joe Riley Park as their venue to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
In Greenville, the gates at Fluor Field opened at 11:30 a.m. for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch that went into delay during totality as an announced crowd of 6,636 were allowed on the field to view the total eclipse. Local news meteorologists were on hand to inform fans during the spectacle, which was broadcast live on the videoboard.
“This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not only for our fans in attendance, but also our players,” said Greenville Drive General Manager Eric Jarinko in a press statement. “Fluor Field was host to visitors from all over the country-as far as California-and even from other countries including England and Australia. Fans were allowed onto the outfield to view the eclipse at Fluor Field with Drive players, as we delayed the game mid-game, which is really unique to professional sports.”
In North Carolina, the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Low A; Sally League) welcomed 6,756 fans to the ballpark to see a game and the eclipse.
In Oregon, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short Season A; Northwest League) welcomed a crowd of 5,297, who experienced the eclipse with a 58-minute delay after the top half of the first inning, the first documented eclipse delay in baseball. The photo at the top of this page comes courtesy of the Volcanoes, and it’s appropriate to end this story with a shootout to the Volcanoes. The team announced an eclipse game a year ago, certainly paving the way for other teams to launch their own eclipse efforts.