The Atlanta Braves players are almost embarrassed. They look into the stands at Turner Field during the National League Championship Series and see rows and rows of empty seats in the stadium's upper deck.
"It's surprising," said Braves outfielder Brian Jordan, who came to Atlanta as a free agent in the offseason. "I played in St. Louis and those were true baseball fans who supported you win, lose or draw. Not to have sellouts for playoff games here is surprising. I'm disappointed."
The Braves drew just 44,172 fans to the 50,062-seat stadium for Game 1 of the NLCS with the New York Mets Tuesday night. For Game 2, the attendance was announced as 44,624.
Last week during the first-round playoff series, the Braves drew just 39,119 for Game 1 against the Houston Astros, the smallest crowd in the five seasons of NL divisional play; Game 2 drew 41,913. Both were afternoon games.
"People were working," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "I can understand why it didn't sell out."
The Braves may also be a victim of their own postseason success. This is their eighth postseason appearance since 1991. That year, games were sold out throughout the playoffs.
Also, fans have complained about ticket prices. Seats in the outfield's upper deck were $45, while lower level outfield seats cost $65.
"The prices are a joke," said Don Ford, an Atlanta retiree who was shopping for a ticket at less than face value outside the stadium today. "During the season those upper level seats are $5 and $10. Then they schedule these 4 o'clock games when people have to work. I wish [baseball commissioner] Bud Selig was here, I'd tell it to his face. He sets these prices in the NLCS and they're too high."
Prices aren't too high for some Mets fans, whose team hasn't reached the playoffs since 1988. "I had no problem getting this seat," said Jan Cohen, a Queens native who drove four hours from Pensacola, Fla., for today's game. "I don't mind the $65. I can't believe the empty seats here. . . . I guess they've been here before."
Despite the postseason nonsellouts, the Braves drew the second highest number of fans in the NL this season (3.2 million), second only to Colorado.
"People have to realize our fans came out to the tune of almost 3.3 million this year," said Braves General Manager John Schuerholz. "Sure we'd like to have the ballpark filled for games as meaningful as these against the New York Mets. That still doesn't alter the fact that our fans came out all year long. We're proud of that more than anything."