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Only diehards support the Jays, Rios says Add to ...

A ducat to a Toronto Blue Jays game used to be the trendiest ticket in town and Rogers Centre the place not only to be, but to be seen.

Now you can't even give the tickets away.

Canada's only remaining Major League Baseball team has started the 2010 season in surprisingly strong fashion - winning 7 of their first 11 games before last night - but apparently nobody cares.

Over the course of their first home stand of the season this week to the Chicago White Sox, the Blue Jays drew 33,521 fans - over the final three games of the four-game series.

That kind of a turnout would be scoffed at back in the early 1990's when the Blue Jays were setting MLB attendance records and sellout crowds of 50,000-plus at what was then known as SkyDome was the norm.

Those days seem so far away now - especially after the Blue Jays established a new low for home attendance at Rogers Centre on Wednesday when only 10,610 bothered to show up.

It wasn't much better on Thursday when 10,744 slipped inside the cavernous stadium and last night there was slight improvement as 14,779 turned out for the first of a three-game weekend set against the Los Angeles Angels who held on for a 7-5 victory.

When you include Monday's home opener against the White Sox that was a sellout at 46,321, the Blue Jays are averaging 19,960 through their first four home dates - third worst among the 30 MLB teams.

Factor out the home opener and the Blue Jays have averaged just 12,075 in their last four games. It's interesting to note that during the final season of the Montreal Expos, they averaged 9,234 at Olympic Stadium.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston was emphatic in his belief that this is not another Montreal in the making.

"Zero, not any concern whatsoever," said Beeston, adding he is surprised by all the commotion over attendance figures so early in the year.

"We have 162 games and we still have 152 of them to play," Beeston said in an interview before last night's game. "And we haven't yet played who we consider to be our traditional rivals - and that's not meant to be any type of disrespect to Chicago or California.

"If we're well over .500 in the middle of June and people aren't coming out to see us, that's time for concern."

Alex Rios, who played with the Blue Jays for over six seasons before getting shipped out of town for nothing to the White Sox in a salary dump last year, couldn't help but take a shot at the current state of affairs with his old team.

"Yeah, there's no real following here,'' Rios was quoted as saying in the Chicago Sun-Times. "There's that small group of diehards, but it's hockey, hockey, hockey. It's gotten sad here. They just don't really care."

Beeston said he can't blame the fan apathy given the Blue Jays haven't even come close to making the playoffs since they last won the World Series in 1993.

But he notes the Blue Jays aren't the only team suffering early-season attendance woes.

On Monday the Baltimore Orioles attracted just 9,129 fans to picturesque Camden Yards, a record low, for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. On Wednesday just 10,071 turned out at Progressive Field in Cleveland to witness the Indians play the Texas Rangers.

"The best thing we can do to get the fans out is to win baseball games and win baseball games consistently, play entertaining baseball," Beeston said. "Hopefully we've got a team that is going to be, A, aggressive and, B, doesn't give up.

"And if that's the case then I think the fans will come out because it's something they can identify with."

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