Baseball: Still America’s Pastime?

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The Utes baseball team celebrates a victory against the BYU Cougars at Smith's Ballpark on May 8, 2018. (Photo by J. Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer

 

This article was originally published in print on March 3, 2020.

As a lover of all things baseball, it’s hard for me to understand how sports fanatics don’t love this sport. Maybe it’s because a play is being made every second in basketball and football while baseball is slow. So how popular is baseball?

I’ve been able to travel for a number of MLB games, and people tend to leave early if their team is down. There aren’t as many fans at every single game because the season is so long. Spectators find it not as much fun to watch or not as entertaining because something doesn’t always happen every play — but that is the beauty of baseball. It is a waiting game. Waiting for the right pitch to come and your swing to perfectly hit the ball for that one moment. It’s a game of chance, of timing, and if you want to take the chance to wait for that moment in that perfect time, you witness magic. 

In an article by Juliette Love of the NY Times, it points out how attendance for MLB games have been declining since 2012. “About 68.5 million fans attended major league games during the 2019 regular season, down from a peak of nearly 80 million in 2007” Love said.

The hard thing about baseball is that it’s such a local sport, so you’re not always going to get to see your favorite team play every single game if you don’t live locally, which can also cause a decrease in viewers on TV because you might be attending a game instead of watching it. The other hard thing is that the season goes from March to October, which is basically the whole summer months plus some extras! 

But with that being said, Nielsen ratings, alongside Fox Sports, did a study in 2019 from March to September showing how baseball was watched. Love puts it simply by stating “In 2019, 12 of the 29 United States-based major league teams were the most popular prime-time broadcast in their market. An additional seven teams ranked in the top three in prime time. On cable, 24 major league teams ranked first in their market in prime time. MLB ranked first over all on cable in every major league market in the United States except Miami.”

While attendance at games have been dropping and probably will continue to drop, television views have done nothing but increased. The sport is becoming less popular to watch in person, but people don’t mind lounging at home watching. 

Even though attendance is down, ticket sales are still up. The MLB outperforms the NFL and the NBA in ticket sales every year. ESPN shows that the MLB is making a little less than 74 million a year, while the NFL and NBA each make around 24 million. But the MLB also has 160 minor league teams to help out with those ticket sales and made nearly 50 million in 2017 according to MiLB.com.

When it comes to the future of baseball, we see that it’s growing. According to MLB.com, The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) did a study in 2018 that showed baseball and softball were the most played sports by kids ages 6 to 12. The National Sporting Goods Association’s “2019 Sports Participation in the U.S.” report found that “baseball participation was up 2% in ’17-18 among youth ages 7 to 17… (SFIA) found that baseball has seen a growth of 21% in overall participation (both casual and core) since 2014, which dovetails with the ’15 launch of Play Ball. That’s the most growth of any sport in that span, more than quadrupling the second-closest sport (basketball, at plus-4%). The SFIA also said that “participation among African-American youth was higher for baseball (3.8%) than football (3.4%).”

I know, it’s weird to see the statistics because baseball is called America’s pastime, but is it the 1920’s or 2020? When the super bowl comes around we hear everyone talking about it, but when the World Series starts is the commotion still the same? I would have to say no. 

Baseball is one of those sports that you don’t need a ton of equipment for. We see kids from all over the world participating in the sport because all you need is a glove, ball, and a bat which can be pretty cheap if you find the right one. 

Overall, baseball isn’t going anywhere. Sure, attendance is down, but ticket sales and media rights are skyrocketing, the kids are playing and people are still watching.

 

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@mallorykaee