No Longer America’s National Past Time?

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Baseball has been America’s national past since its creation in 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. Generations of Americans have spent not only their spring season playing the sport, but their summers watching the game as well. Baseball has been in the forefront of US history since its creation, it has had a role in the civil rights movement with Jackie Robinson. It has also made its impact in World War II with Army G.I.s. However in recent years, the sport has been struggling to connect with younger generations, attracting younger players to the sport, and the general pace of the game. Even with over a hundred years of history, many fans and critics are starting to question if the sport is losing its spot as the national past time.

A recent study conducted by Nielsen showed that fifty percent of baseball viewers are fifty-five or older. This is up from forty-one percent in 2005. A study by ESPN corroborated their findings with their own, the study showed that the average age was fifty-three years old for baseball viewers. The ESPN’s Sports Poll annual survey in 2015, surveyed 10,000 young adults on their 30 favorite sports players and not a single baseball player was on the list. The 2014 World Series was the lowest viewed world series with only 12.2 million viewers. The 1973 and 1978 World Series had a total of 44.3 million viewers according to Baseball Almanac and ESPN. In contrast, the 2014 Super Bowl drew a 112.2 million viewers according to the New York Times. The MLB game average attendance was 28,830 in 2018. The league attendance rate suffered a four percent drop from 2017. The attendance rate from the year before was 30,042. The MLB needs to come up with a way to increase fan attendance at games. This is not going to be a short term fix, more fan participation is a good start to help combat this issue.

It’s not just the the viewership that is declining, the youth participation that makes up the future of the sport is declining. In a Forbes study, participation in youth baseball dropped three percent in a ten year span. Participation in lacrosse, however, grew 10.8% in the same time period. The study also shows that 35% of six to twelve year olds play baseball. This number drops to 16% in thirteen to seventeen year olds. The sport is declining due to competition from fast paced sports such as lacrosse and basketball. The average length of a college baseball game is three hours, which is very different than the short length of college lacrosse which is one hour and twenty minutes. The MLB needs to address the loss of future players to other sports. They need to find a way to speed up the game without changing the rules to the game. The idea for a pitch timer was a great idea by the MLB. It speeds up the game to keep it interesting for fans who aren’t able to keep their attention to the game. The problem with baseball is that the game is inherently slow. The MLB has to become very creative to address this issue.

Another concern that Major League Baseball has, is the ability to connect with younger generations through social media. Out of the major sports Instagram accounts, the MLB is third highest followed account with 5.3 million followers. This is behind the NBA with 36.9 million followers and the NFL with 14.4 million. The pattern continues over Twitter. The MLB account sits at 8.3 million. It follows the NFL at 24.4 million and the NBA at 27.9 million. The lack of an social media presence compared to other sports is not a good sign for the MLB. Many young adults get their news and entertainment from social media. If the league can’t reach out a connect to younger generations, they will miss out on a fan base that would rather see a video of Zion Williamson dunking than Mike Trout hitting a home run.

The MLB has been a part of American culture for generations. It will always be part of the nations identity. However, with an aging fan base, the support for the game has the possibility of  drying up. It will still remain a popular sport in the near future. They need to find a way to keep the game interesting and to keep the game from dragging on. The connection to younger generations through social media is crucial to attract new fans. Expanding their social media platforms to attract new followers is necessary for the MLB to grow their youth fan base. If the MLB doesn’t find a solid way to connect with younger generations to replace its current aging fan base, it will fall from the top spot as our nation’s past time.

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