Numbers tell the truth and they're a sobering truth as they relate to future of professional baseball in Oneonta.

From Day 1 this season, we, the people of Oneonta, have been on trial.

For so many years, when Sam Nader and Sid Levine ran the professional franchise, we could be assured that no matter how poor the attendance, baseball would remain at Damaschke Field. Sam and Sid were devoted to Oneonta, loved baseball and continued to supply it, even when we didn't support it.

That's no longer the case.

With new ownership, it was up to us to show that having a minor league team in such a small market meant something to our community.

Our answer thus far has been a resounding no.

Attendance at Damaschke Field has been paltry _ last place in the New York-Penn League with an average turnout of 787 _ down more than 200 fans per game from last season. The largest figure this season of 2,414 came at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown as part Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

As for the biggest turnout at Damaschke Field? That would be the 1,522 fans who showed up July 4. After that, it's the 1,242 who attended opening day. After that, it's really, really bad.

The O-Tigers haven't drawn as many as 900 spectators in any of their other home dates.

And these figures include season-ticket holders, many of whom obviously aren't showing up. I covered games last Friday and Sunday and there's no way the attendance that appeared in those online box scores matched up with the number of people in the stands.

The number Friday was 501, but I estimated about 350. It was 486 Sunday and maybe 300 attended.

The Tigers held a fireworks night last Saturday, usually a big hit at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton for the Double-A Mets, and drew 629 followers.

Believe me, principal owner Eugene Miles Prentice III and the boys are going to leave skid marks on the way out of town if this continues. They're bound to stay here through the 2010 season, when the Tigers' player development contract with Oneonta runs out.

At that point, a run of professional baseball in Oneonta that Nader, Levine and eight others started in 1966 will end.

Unless, of course, there's a dramatic turnaround in attendance.

Prentice led an ownership group that purchased the franchise from Nader and Levine, a sale that was finalized this past December. Prentice, a big-time financial lawyer from New York City, told me last July it was his intention to keep the franchise in Oneonta.

He also said he has to answer to investors.

Right now, that answer has to be, "We're out of here."

Following my initial _ and only _ conversation with Prentice last July, I wrote a column saying baseball won't survive here. I referred to the area as economically depressed; said despite Nader's best efforts that included numerous free nights, he couldn't draw people to Damaschke Field; and that any promotional gimmicks the new owners might try would fail.

The bottom line is baseball does not sell here.

Yours truly took some heat from that piece. One reader called me "an angry young man on a soapbox."

With my 41st birthday about two months away, I enjoyed reading the "young" part. But anger had nothing to do with it and I don't own a soapbox.

Another reader wrote that my negativity was unnecessary. Well, unfortunately, I've been proven right.

The Tigers' brass has tried some new things such as between-inning entertainment, including a race between youngsters while balancing pitchers of water on a pizza box, it has a furry mascot that interacts with fans and it hired a radio guy for home and away games.

Nothing has worked.

Before the season, the Tigers said they were working on selling beer this summer at Damaschke, something that never happened during Nader's run as owner. But General Manager Andrew Weber has said numerous times this season that the franchise's license for alcohol sales has not been approved.

Maybe beer might help attendance, but I doubt it.

Hey, I have no stake in this fight. I've never attended an O-Tigers' game on an off night and probably never will.

So I won't say a word when the Tigers leave.

And really, no one else should either.

I'm sure there are a few diehards who'll be sad to see professional baseball go, but collectively, we just don't deserve it.

That fault lies not with Prentice, Weber or the Tigers but with us.

We're the ones not going, and that's why the Tigers will be.

Consider this your last warning, Oneonta. Use it or lose it.

Rob Centorani is a sports writer for The Daily Star. E-mail him at rcentorani@thedailystar.com.

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