Professional Baseball Team Switches Focus To Hosting Socially-Distanced Community Events
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are a professional baseball team in Richmond, Virginia and the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Since the franchise's first season in 2010, the Flying Squirrels have grown a national reputation for its innovative approach to providing family entertainment through its founding principles: Be Different, Be Impactful and Have FUNN. Thanks to incredible support from the greater-Richmond community, the Flying Squirrels annually rank as one of the top drawing teams in the Eastern League. But, they are much more than a baseball organization. From the beginning, the team has prioritized making positive impacts throughout the greater-Richmond region through community partnerships and involvement 365 days a year.
The COVID-19 crisis led to the cancellation of the entire 2020 Minor League Baseball season. Of course, that baseball season is the primary function of their business. Normally, they would be welcoming hundreds of thousands of fans through the gates at The Diamond throughout the summer. Even before they knew they wouldn't have a baseball season this year, the Flying Squirrels’ immediate focus shifted to finding ways they could help out their neighbors around the Richmond region who were being impacted by this crisis. On what would have been the day of their home opener, their CEO, "Parney," set out on a fundraising campaign to raise money for local organizations assisting members of their community who needed help due the effects of COVID-19. In a few hours, "500 Bases of Love" brought in $40,000. Among other initiatives, the Flying Squirrels also digitized their annual "Education Day" curriculum into an online platform with activities, videos and exercises built around the state-mandated objectives for K-5 students to have a fun "digital field trip" centered around baseball-themed learning activities. Throughout all of this, they wanted to make sure that everyone in their area knew that just because the Flying Squirrels weren't playing baseball this year, that didn't mean they were going away. They wanted to make sure they remained a supportive asset to their community.
The Flying Squirrels shifted their focus from hosting baseball games to hosting events. They typically host plenty of non-baseball events in normal times, so they were already equipped with a creative staff who could cook up some ideas. They wanted to use their resources to provide some events for people to come out and enjoy themselves when so many of the normal options aren't available, while making sure they did everything in a safe and healthy environment. They have been hosting "Movies in the Outfield" over the last few months, showing films on their stadium's video board twice a week with socially distanced spaces marked off in the grass for families and groups to come have a night out with all of the proper safety guidelines and protocols in place. The stadium also has contactless concessions available each night. The support they’ve received for these events has been tremendous, not just in turnout, but also in their guests doing their part to keep themselves and everyone else safe by following the safety guidelines and wearing masks. It's a pretty unique opportunity to come out and watch a classic movie or newer film on their big video board while hanging out in the outfield of a professional baseball field. An attendee said, "A few years ago, Bryce Harper was playing over here. Now I am sitting in that same spot watching 'Space Jam.'" They've also been hosting "Funnville Friday Happy Hours" each Friday night, where people can come hang out in their socially distanced set-up on the concourse and have a few drinks or grab some dinner. Soon they will also be starting "Diamond Disc Golf" every Thursday evening with a unique disc golf course set up inside and around the stadium.
Although the Flying Squirrels typically see more than 400,000 fans out at their ballpark and host professional baseball games, they are still a small business. Their fans and corporate partners have been great to stick with them through these times. While they are aiming to put on a nice and safe evening out with the events they are hosting for everyone to come enjoy themselves, these events also help keep them in a good position to put on great shows again when they get back to hosting baseball games at The Diamond. By coming out and supporting these events, you are helping keep the Flying Squirrels in a position to not only be a source of entertainment, but also to continue making positive community impacts around the region.