Minor league club thrives with Texas Rangers alliance
On the heels of last year's division championship, the 2012 Round Rock Express baseball season began with hopes of continued success.
As their thirteenth season concluded, however, the Express sat in last place of the Pacific Coast League American Southern division, more than 10 games out of first place.
Although the 2012 Express win-loss record was a disappointment, ticket sales at The Dell Diamond remained strong.
"Last year we had a really great year, and this year we came in with some high expectations," Express President and CEO Reid Ryan said. "Even though it hasn't been a fabulous year with wins, we've been able to do a lot of other things that have all helped. There are a lot of factors that go into it—and you have to be lucky, and we've had a lot of [things] go our way."
According to attendance statistics compiled by Minor League Baseball, the Express are leading the 16-team Pacific Coast League in attendance for the third consecutive year. The strong Central Texas economy has helped the team avoid the recent attendance drop-offs affecting other league teams, Ryan said.
"I think we are blessed to be in the Austin area and to be in Texas," Ryan said. "If you look at some of the teams in our league, their economies have been hurt a lot more than ours has been in the last couple of years."
Through 62 games, this season, the Express averaged 8,287 fans per game—446 more than the next highest team.
Prior to the 2011 season, the Express switched their Major League Baseball affiliation from the Houston Astros to the Texas Rangers, which is co-owned by Reid Ryan's father and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. The move expanded the team's fan base along the I-35 corridor.
"With the Astros relationship, our demographic stretched along [Hwy.] 290 towards Houston," Express General Manager George King said. "We have largely retained that fan base, and now we are building towards Waco."
The Rangers' second consecutive trip to the World Series last year also brought new attention to the Express, Ryan said.
"[The Rangers' success] helps, but I don't know how you can quantify it—but it helps," Ryan said. "I see people all the time from the Dallas-Fort Worth area that come down here because they want to see who is going to be in the big leagues next—or guys that have been on Major League rehab.
"In the last two seasons we've had Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Manny Ramirez, Roy Oswalt, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz—that's six Major League all-stars that have all been in Round Rock. There is definitely an advantage goes with that."