The Southern Illinois Miners have started to pick up steam in defense of their Frontier League title.
They have won four of their last five games to end June with a 21-18 record.
Fan attendance has never been a problem for the Miners, who have ranked in the top three in the league for average attendance all six of their seasons.
Season ticket holder Bill Young has been going to Miners games since the team's inception.
"They have giveaways all the time, gave away a bat last night, give away money, free food, they have the games in between innings which are awesome, so you're not just coming to watch the game," Young said.
Even with Young's 30 minute commute from his home in Anna, IL, he finds the investment well worth it.
"I can go to 5 or 6 miners games for one Cardinal game," Young said. "The players will talk to you. They act like they're thrilled to see you, to shake your hand and spend a few times with you. You go to a major league ballpark, you don't get that."
Young got the ultimate fan reward last season as he watched his team win the championship.
"I did my best not to cry," Young remembered. "That sounds crazy, but I was so pumped and it was just awesome."
Organizations can usually count on the die-hard fans like Young to show up win or lose.
It's finding fresh faces that remains the constant challenge.
"We're doing a lot of new things promotionally here this season, trying to get more fan involvement, trying to do what we can to make ticket sales a lot more fan friendly for those that want to come in and watch a few games," said Mike Ventola, the Miners Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations.
So far, winning a championship hasn't necessarily brought more fans to the seats, though.
Through the first 15 games this season, the Miners averaged about 2500 fans per game, fifth in the league, down from about 2800 a year ago, .and roughly 3800 in 2011.
"Well it's one of those things where sometimes mother nature has a factor in what we do here," Ventola said. "We had a lot of rain and terrible weather coming into the area here in May, but since things have dried up and the sun has come out our attendance has been right back where we expect it."
"We always get great support here," said Miners Manager Mike Pinto. "Our fans are the best. They are loud and they're into the games, they know the games and our players, and that makes a big difference."
Bill Young might have the perfect pitch to get more people to the park: "Every game is just awesome, it really is," he said."
The Miners hope fans continue to find that out for themselves.
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