Giants Keep It All In Family -- Bavasis' Ideas Provide Fans All- American Day At Ballpark


Kate Bratches and her family came to Everett to watch a parade, a baseball game and a concert.

What the family found was the kind of old-fashioned Fourth of July outing they've been missing in Seattle.

The largest crowd in Everett Giants history filed into Everett Memorial Stadium yesterday, 4,119 people for the only afternoon game on the team's Northwest League schedule.

The crowd spilled out of the stands and onto the grass that extends down the foul lines on both sides of the field.

"It didn't feel like a really big crowd," said Bratches, whose family was visiting the stadium for the first time. "We talked about that when we came into the park. This was more like a big picnic.

"This game seemed like the traditional all-American event that the Fourth of July is supposed to be."

Bob Bavasi does the marketing research for the Everett Giants, working next to the concessions stand.

"You get a real good feel for how you're doing right there," he says. "People are always real willing to tell you if they do or don't like something."

The message is simple: They like the Giants.

Through an effective strategy that encourages fans to feel as though they are part owners of the team, Bob and Margaret Bavasi, the husband-and-wife team that owns the franchise, have built an operation that other baseball teams, including the Seattle Mariners, are copying.

The Bavasis' emphasis is on creating a comfortable, family atmosphere for baseball. The stadium has been renovated and updated to provide comfortable seating. Pains are taken to ensure the food is first-rate, and the stadium stays clean and hospitable.

"We have people from Seattle coming up here all the time to watch what we're doing," Bavasi said. "They keep saying that if we can do it up here, and do it with minor-league baseball, why can't they do it?"

This season, the Mariners have improved the quality of Kingdome food and added a gallery for youngsters to play video games.

"There's nothing they're doing (in Seattle) that we haven't already done," Bavasi said. "That's not an earth-shattering statement, either. That's just the way things are in most businesses. Most of the ideas come up from the minor leagues."

The Bavasis have done their share of innovating. For example, minor-league teams across the country are copying Everett's Mr. Trash.

"I was looking for a way to use our existing resources and cut our cost of cleaning up the garbage," Bavasi said.

The answer is a tuxedoed young man - Brent Schilling - who wanders through the stands with a garbage bag, collecting cups, hot dog wrappers and other refuse that ordinarily wound up underneath the feet of baseball patrons.

"People go out of their way to give their garbage to Mr. Trash," said Charlie Poier, the team's media-relations specialist, a job that includes responsibilities from being the official scorer to answering telephones in the team office.

Youngsters are encouraged to help out with post-game cleanup by becoming a member of Mr. Trash's Marauders. The kids are issued garbage bags and help police the area. For every bag of trash they collect, they are given a "Baseball Buck," a form of scrip that is good at the gate and the concession and souvenir stands.

Another brainstorm was to hand out paper sacks with each bag of peanuts, each stamped with the words "If you crack 'em, please sack 'em." That idea has kept much of the mess of one of baseball's oldest traditions from under the feet of patrons.

"Look around," Bavasi said after most of yesterday's fans had filtered out of Memorial Stadium. "It used to take us all day to clean the stadium after a game - eight hours. Now, we'll come in here with blowers, a hose and be out of here in an hour. People are really willing to help keep the place clean and nice."

The Giants have also found new ways to keep fans entertained.

Tom Lafferty, the team's public address announcer, plays taped music, tailored to the game situation, between innings and during breaks in the action.

And instead of bemoaning the lack of an exciting scoreboard that entertains fans with sailboat or hydroplane races, the Giants introduced The Walker.

Jim Averill, the team's groundskeeper among other things, dons welding goggles, a pork-pie hat, suspenders and shorts, and races a fan during the middle of the sixth inning.

"You don't want to be standing in the aisle when Tom announces The Walker," Poier said. "It may be silly and it may be corny, but the fans really love to watch."

Averill starts at second base and the fan usually starts between first and second. Averill struts toward home. The fan, running as fast as he or she can, tries to get there first. They usually don't.

A problem common to most baseball executives is what to do with the seats of season-ticket holders who don't show up. Bavasi thinks he has an answer.

Companies buy season tickets, but they are not always used, leaving empty seats in premium areas.

"That's always frustrating to people going to a game," Bavasi said. "They want a good seat, but they're all sold out."

In Everett, the answer is a pass that allows a paying customer to move to an unoccupied seat in a higher-priced area.

"That's worked real well," he said. "We end up selling those seats about one-and-a-third times, and people have been really good about moving if the person that has that seat shows up."

Bavasi said he will discuss that idea at an annual seminar for baseball owners. Bavasi's ideas are included each year during that meeting.

The Bavasis remain accessible during games. Bob roams the stadium talking with patrons, constantly connected to the behind-the-scenes operations via walkie-talkie. Margaret can usually be found behind the counter at the concessions stand.

Bob said the personal touch came from his childhood.

"I remember as a kid going out to eat quite often, and I was always impressed when the owner of the restaurant would come by and say hi," he said. "That left a very strong impression on me."

Bavasi said he occasionally gets paid a compliment that more than makes up for the extra hours he puts into the Giants.

Not long ago, he said, a man told him an Everett Giants game was the way he wanted to introduce his son to baseball.

"That's about the best compliment he could have given me," he said.

The Bratches family can go one better.

"We really enjoyed the whole experience," Kate Bratches said. "We were even talking during the game about moving up here because this is the kind of atmosphere we want to raise a family in."