But not so this season for the AA Southern League, whose Birmingham Barons have lost their marquee outfielder to the pros, in this case the National Basketball Association.
Michael Jordan may not have worn out opposing pitchers with his batting skills, but he kept the turnstiles spinning, and no amount of promotional activity this season will make up for that.
The Barons drew a record 468,000 in 1994, up nearly 7% from the previous season. Barons President-General Manager Bill Hardekopf said neither his club nor any other in the Southern League would see the high attendance figures that Barons games attracted last season.
"We will fall off a lot, but it won't be because we are 2 hours from Atlanta [where the real Braves will be playing]," Mr. Hardekopf said. "I don't think it is reasonable to expect the crowds we had last year to be the same in 1995."
"The positive residual fallout of having Jordan was that thousands came to see baseball here for the first time and left saying they would return," he said. "But they won't return in record numbers."
David Hersh, managing general partner of the rival Memphis Chicks, said: "The action of Aug. 12 [when the major league players strike began] didn't impact our numbers as much as Mike did. We [hosted the Barons] late and a lot."
Still, Mr. Hersh, whose club is 5 hours from St. Louis and 6 from Atlanta, believes the Chicks will top the 258,000 mark of 1994.
Mr. Hersh promotes heavily for his San Diego Padres affiliate just like any other minor league team.
"We will give away 100,000 items this year," he said. "We can't guarantee a win every night, but we can guarantee fun."