NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — I’ve been around the game of baseball my entire life. I grew in Spokane, Washington spending a good chunk of my childhood trading baseball cards on the playground (by the way, it was a solid collection). My favorite player was my hometown’s own Ryne Sandberg and then later on Ken Griffey Jr. was added to the list.
When we grow up, our favorite things change, but my passion for the game grew more when I started up a career in sports broadcasting. Over the last ten plus years, I’ve covered every level of the game. That includes crossing some things off the baseball bucket list; covering an MLB All-Star Game, a World Series and a College World Series.
But right now I feel like I’m about the only person out there that is still in love with America’s pastime. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but maybe not. The interest in Major League Baseball has been on a steady decline over the last few years. Of the league’s 30 teams, 18 are experiencing an attendance drop. And this is after a 2018 season in which attendance was down more than 3 million fans, an average of 1,237 per game.
There numbers prove there isn’t as much interest compared to ten years ago, but my biggest question is, why? I have have a few thoughts of my own, and I know you probably have some too.
First of all, the younger generation is all about nonstop action, lots of scoring and big plays. Baseball can have some of that, but not all the time. It’s a traditional sport, that hasn’t changed much over the years. That can be good or bad.
The biggest issue is that games are way too long, averaging just over 3 hours. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has done some things to change that, by shortening trips to the mound, shaving down time between innings and speeding up pitching changes, but lets be honest, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Manfred needs to continue to work on addressing this issue and the players have to accept that the game needs a little pep in its step.
On the other hand, I get that these younger fans have short attention spans, but maybe they can take some time to appreciate what this game has to offer. It’s not going to hurt them to sit down, enjoy at hot dog, and take time to learn about some of the greatest players in the game.
And that brings me to the next reason why interest in professional baseball is down. When you think of professional athletes, who comes to mind? I’m a baseball fan, but I think of Tom Brady, Lebron James, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods. Major League Baseball is not doing a good job of marketing its players.
I’ve covered hundreds of athletes, in every sport, but baseball players are probably the most fun to interview. Most of these guys have a sense of humor, don’t take themselves too seriously and they have interesting stories to share. In this year’s All-Star game in Cleveland, FOX mic’d up players on the field and it was pure entertainment. Guys like Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor and George Springer were relatable and that is what fans want to see more of.
Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts- Those are some of the biggest names in the game, so get them out there more. Part of that can be the MLB Network creating more interesting programming in the off-season. Work on some specialty projects and show. And have on-air talent go to these player’s hometowns and create a better connection with fans through storytelling. Just get this current crop of stars more air-time, they deserve it and so do the fans.
Look baseball isn’t dying, but it needs some reviving. If it wants to be as popular as it can be, Manfred and the owners need to address the problems in how the game is marketed. If they don’t attendance will continue to plummet and so will revenue growth.