The IU-Notre Dame baseball game at Victory Field on Tuesday was so successful, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass is hoping to make it an annual event. And he wants the game to have its own brand identity.
The crowd of 8,728 to watch the Hoosiers beat the Irish in downtown Indianapolis is believed to be record attendance for a college baseball game in the state of Indiana, the game’s organizers said.
When the deal was finalized in February to bring the IU-ND game to the home venue of the AAA Indianapolis Indians, Indians General Manager Randy Lewandowski said he was “hoping a few thousand” fans attended in the event’s first year. But he added the team would aggressively market the event. It worked.
“I thought the game was a great success,” Glass told IBJ Thursday morning. “It was a large crowd with a lot of energy.
"There were a lot of alumni there from both schools from the rank-and-file to the heavy hitters," Glass added. "And there was a lot of mixing of the alumni bases which is something you don’t get at a typical college baseball game. It was just fantastic.”
The response from IU alums in the wake of the game has been overwhelmingly positive, Glass added.
Glass, the former president of the city’s Capital Improvement Board under then mayor Bart Peterson, thinks the event is a win for both schools and downtown Indianapolis.
“Any event that can draw 8,000 or 10,000 downtown is great for the city. We need all those we can get,” he said. “For our kids, they really enjoyed playing in a venue like Victory Field in front of a big crowd. It felt really big-time. Going forward, I’d like this to be a really significant Indianapolis event.”
There’s another benefit.
“It exposes people to IU and Notre Dame baseball who otherwise might not have a chance to see a game. It could help draw more people down to Bloomington or up to South Bend to see a game.”
This year’s IU-Notre Dame game was set to be played at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, which with standing-room-only tickets has a capacity of about 4,000. Notre Dame’s home venue, Frank Eck Baseball Stadium, seats about 2,500.
Glass couldn’t remember IU playing in front of a bigger in-state crowd than it played in front of Tuesday.
Though he hasn’t talked to Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick since Tuesday’s game, Glass hopes to schedule the game as a neutral site game to be played in Indianapolis each spring.
Swarbrick could not be reached for comment.
“I’m very hopeful it can become an annual event and we can brand it something like the Irish-Hoosier Classic or the Hoosier-Shamrock Classic,” Glass said. “[Indians officials] think if we do this on an annual basis it could take on an identity of its own.”
The IU-ND game comes at an ideal time as IU has become a national baseball power over the last three years.
Indiana headed into the 2015 season fresh off back-to-back Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. The Hoosiers have established themselves as a contending baseball program on the national scene, including a trip to the 2013 College World Series, and have seen recent top level players such as catcher and outfielder Kyle Schwarber, infielder Micah Johnson and catcher Josh Phegley go on to find success in the pros.
Notre Dame has made the NCAA baseball tournament numerous times and qualified for the College World Series in 2002. This year, the Irish have been ranked in the top 25 nationally.
Glass gives Indians officials credit for coming up with the idea for the game. He added that he and Swarbrick, a former Indianapolis attorney with deep ties to the local sports community, quickly embraced the idea.
The Indians kept the ticket revenue from the game, Glass said, and while the business arrangement would have to be re-visited to make it an annual event, he’s confident a deal can be worked out.
“It wasn’t a major financial deal for us,” he said. “The goal wasn’t as a money maker. It was to get exposure in a market that is really important to us.”