A Second Look: Faithful Fans
June 19, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The 2012 season was a successful one for the University of New Mexico baseball team in just about every way.
The Lobos won their first regular-season conference title since 2000 and their second straight Mountain West Tournament championship. They also advanced to their third straight NCAA postseason appearance after not making a single trip in nearly 50 years.
Three Lobos were named All-Americans, which ties a school record for a single year. Two of those players, DJ Peterson and Mitchell Garver, were named Co-Mountain West Players of the Year. Peterson was also a semifinalist for both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, while Garver is a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award.
The Lobos also placed 11 players on the All-Mountain West Team and had a school-record 12 named Mountain West Player/Pitcher of the Week.
It's no small wonder then that the team also set a new attendance record.
UNM drew 51,807 fans to its home games this year, breaking the record of 46,299 set in 2010, as Lobo fans flocked to take in one of the most successful seasons in school history. In fact, the Lobos have drawn the three largest single season crowd totals in program history over the past three years. They drew 29,774 in 2011.
The Lobos ranked 38th nationally in both total and average (1,618) attendance this season, but it is head coach Ray Birmingham's goal to one day rank even higher on the leaderboards.
"When I first got here five years ago there were 22 moms and dads, 10 girlfriends, four die-hard Lobo fans, and the guy running the concession stand at every game," he said. "Now we're in the top echelon of attendance. And it's only going to get better."
The Lobos have played the majority of their home games at Isotopes Park, home of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, since the 2003 season but are currently renovating Lobo Field in the hopes of playing some of their home games there during the 2013 season. In the meantime, however, they will continue to need the support of the Isotopes in order to get as many fans to Lobo games as possible.
"If the Isotopes continue to help Lobo baseball, and with our new field, we can be in the top 25 or 20 in attendance every year," Birmingham said. "We want to be able to play night games all year and make it conducive to our fans to come."
Four of the five highest attended games for the Lobos this season were night games. The only outlier was UNM's Sunday afternoon contest against UNLV on April 29. The two biggest crowds, April 10 against No. 21 Arizona State and May 15 against New Mexico State, were both mid-week night games.
The Lobos will look to their fans show up in even greater numbers in 2013 as they attempt to defend their Mountain West regular-season and tournament titles.
LARGEST 2012 SINGLE GAME CROWDS
2,067 vs. Arizona State - 4/10
2,054 vs. New Mexico State - 5/15
1,989 vs. UNLV - 4/29
1,970 vs. Arizona State - 4/9
1,934 vs. TCU - 3/24
LARGEST 2012 SERIES CROWDS
5,633 - vs. TCU 3/23-25
5,450 - vs. UNLV 4/27-29
4,891 - vs. Nevada 2/17-19
4,698 - vs. Air Force 5/17-19
4,661 - vs. Oklahoma 3/2-4
Note: The Lobos drew 4,037 fans to their two-game series against Arizona State, which is their highest average crowd for a series in 2012.