Bullfrogs, Salsa, Splash Hope to Gain Fans From Baseball Strike
Bobby McKillop and Savo Mitrovic don’t understand all of the issues behind the baseball players’ strike.
But they know they’ll have to find something else to occupy their spare time now that the major league baseball players’ strike has begun.
Players from the Bullfrogs of Roller Hockey International, the Salsa of the American Professional Soccer League, and the Splash of the Continental Indoor Soccer League, hope some fans will focus on something new.
“I’m hopeful those fans who used to go to Angel games might give indoor soccer a chance,” said Dale Ervine, a forward with the Splash. “If they give us an opportunity, they’ll come back. This is a great sport.”
McKillop and Mitrovic, who are playing their second consecutive summer with the defending RHI champion Bullfrogs, have watched their sport flourish. The Bullfrogs’ average paid attendance this season was 10,156 in 11 home dates.
When they weren’t playing roller hockey, McKillop and Mitrovic enjoyed going to Anaheim Stadium to watch the Angels.
“When the Blue Jays came to Anaheim, we got to meet some of the players,” Mitrovic said. “I was ecstatic. I was like a little kid.”
Mitrovic and McKillop share an enthusiasm for baseball, but both are also frustrated with the national pastime’s current strife.
“Players like Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. are having great seasons,” McKillop said. “And I’d love to see Matt Williams take a shot at Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record.
“Baseball players are making umpteen-million dollars, but if they can generate those kinds of salaries, more power to them. I don’t think this union situation is any different than the guy making $400 per week. You get what you can.”
Mitrovic doesn’t like the role that economics has played recently in sports.
“I’m not playing hockey for the money, but because I love the game,” Mitrovic said. “When it becomes a business and you lose that love, then it’s time to get out.”
Mitrovic and McKillop, both 25, played last season with the Detroit Falcons of the Colonial League, one of the minor leagues in professional ice hockey.
RHI’s season, which runs from June through August, provides supplementary summer income to those minor-league players with NHL dreams.
The average salary for an RHI player is $2,000 per month. The minimum salary is $1,300 per month and the maximum is $4,500 per month.
Splash players on the lower end of the salary scale earn $1,500 per month. Last season, Salsa players’ salaries ranged from $2,500 to $5,000 per month annually.
The average salary is $100,000 per month in major league baseball.
“You’re comparing two different worlds though,” said Rod Castro, Splash forward. “Soccer is a minor sport here, and baseball . . . well, it’s baseball. I just wish they would have went on strike earlier. Then, maybe more people would have been coming to see us.”
In the Splash’s first season at Anaheim, the team has averaged 4,213 fans in 11 home dates. The Salsa has averaged more than 2,300 in three home games this season after averaging 5,487 in 12 home dates last season.
The Angels averaged 24,009 fans in 63 home games this season.
Ervine, who helped the Salsa advance to the APSL championship game last season, knows the strike ultimately will hurt baseball fans.
“To see the type of money that’s being thrown around is mind-boggling,” Ervine said. “But if the players don’t give in to the salary cap, salaries will escalate.
“The owners aren’t asking the players to play for peanuts, since players could still make $5-6 million per year. If there is no cap, ultimately someone will be responsible for pay increases.
“It will be passed on to Joe and Bob, who take their families to the games. The whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Mitrovic found his own silver lining: “As long as the (Blue) Jays are 17 games out, they can go out on strike.”