Last week the Pirates’ #1 pitching prospect Gerrit Cole made his MLB debut, and for a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity longer than this year’s crop of incoming college freshman have been alive (at least the Cubs have made the playoffs this century) his appearance could signal the turning point for the organization. His performance did not disappoint – he carried a shutout into the seventh inning and the Pirates won the game.
But what DID disappoint? The Pirates heightened their security protocols for entering the ballpark on this day, which caused some delays. From John Perrotto of Pittsburgh’s Times Online (text courtesy of Rob Neyer because the Times Online is subscription-requiring):
The Pirates decided to implement new security measures Tuesday night, primarily wanding each fan before going through the turnstiles. It turned out to be a disaster.
The lines stretched for blocks and a significant number of the 30,614 in attendance missed Cole striking out Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco on three pitches to open the game. It’s one of those moments you never get back as a fan.
According to some of those who got caught in line, security was understaffed and extremely slow in the wanding procedures.
In Pittsburgh’s defense, they don’t have huge attendance figures and the game was on a Tuesday night, when attendance is lower than average relative to the weekend. They probably thought they could implement higher security screening as an experiment, but because of the larger-than-normal crowd to see the potential future Pittsburgh ace the team was unprepared.
I’m not going to get into a big subjective or political debate about heightened security measures being a further loss of freedoms or liberties, what with all this Edward Snowden and NSA discussion currently abounding, but as Rob Neyer points out (objectively):
…considering that not a single human life has been lost in a terrorist attack in an American professional sports stadium, ever — we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people since 9/11…
Rob goes on to suggest that the data tells us that attending a baseball game is essentially safer than flying in a 75-year-old airplane (you’d have to click and read his article to get his reference).
What does this have to do with Lean? Well, two things.
One, teams are investing resources – time, money, people – into preventing an occurrence of a bad situation that could be devastatingly bloody and is hard to predict, but has never happened. Just like we all have to take our shoes off at the airport because one guy one time had a bomb in his shoe (okay, extreme example). It’s one thing to invest resources in things that help augment and improve the customer experience, but based on this comment in Rob’s blog post:
As it happens, I went to the park Tuesday night to see Cole make his major league debut. I am sure the Pirates chose a Tuesday to start their new security procedures because that’s a low crowd night, and they could work out the kinks. Then, Cole was scheduled and they had a big walk-up sale and a near-capacity crowd. Oops. But, instead of punting, the bumbling Bucco brass (Perotto [sic] is spot-on here) sallied forth. The result is my friend and I missed the top of the first inning, when Cole threw his first major league pitches.
…I’d say Pittsburgh could have thought this through a little better.
Second, let’s say wanding is here to stay and will wand patrons every game going forward. Had the Pirates and the outsourced security personnel properly done time studies on the time it takes to wand a single patron and based on estimated walk-up crowd couldn’t the team/security company called in for reinforcements because of the larger demand?
If no, could the Pirates have flexed their own staffing to provide a few extra bodies to wave extra wands (and let trained security staffers make bigger decisions on how to handle patrons not passing the wand test)? I’m guessing a little preparation and value stream mapping could have helped the situation here.
Instead of being better prepared, a magical night for long-lasting Pirates fans was a little less magical.