Baseball is Dying- Can anyone save it?
Baseball has a problem. No, I mean a major league caliber problem. MLB attendance is down, way down, and it is affecting the industry. People are talking about it, Twitter is tweeting about it, and Major League Baseball’s pockets are hurting. There are some fundamental ways the game needs to change; there is no question about that. However, I am proposing that the MLB takes a long, hard look at the only people who can save it- the fans. Let me go further, non-baseball fans. For baseball to thrive, it needs to reach the younger generation and create new fans, while also appealing to people who want nothing to do with baseball. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. The only way to do this is to adopt the minor league mindset and improve the fan experience.
Bear with me because you have probably heard this before. “The MLB does not need to start acting like the MiLB.”
“This is not a circus”
“I can see crappy entertainment anywhere”
“Baseball has bigger problems if it has to resort to entertaining people that way”
Guess what? It does have bigger problems.
Let’s look at some numbers. Major League Baseball attendance is down 7% this year compared to last year, according to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred. This is scary for the future of baseball, especially for a baseball purest like me. However, I will continue to watch baseball because it is what I love. That is not the case for the casual fan and especially not the case for the future fans of the game. There has to be different angles worked into the equation to, in the words of Bryce Harper, “make baseball fun again.” He’s on to something here. The game lacks a certain amount of emotion and excitement that it once had. Times are changing and the sports world is evolving. You either move with it or you die.
Some teams have this figured out. Take the Atlanta Braves for example. They have a new state of the art ballpark that is surrounded by hotels and shopping malls, tons of food options, fan-friendly activities, and an amazing promotion with The Freeze. All the talk surrounding the new ballpark was about providing other amazing experiences for fans outside of baseball. It doesn’t take away from how great the game of baseball is, but it enhances the fan experience. It makes you want to come back for more.
When people unravel this topic, there are three major concerns I have heard over why attendance is down.
- The games are too long.
- The ticket prices are too high.
- The teams are tanking.
All of these are true; however, they are not insurmountable to overcome. If the focus on improving the game is paired with improving the fan experience, all of those problems can be eliminated. Now, I am not proposing to know all the answers, but I know this for sure- my experience is what matters to me. I am certain the same goes for other fans as well. If I enjoy my experience, I am coming back again and again. That moves the needle. That brings baseball back to prominence. That makes baseball fun again.
When we start to ask the right questions and address the needs of the fans, the attendance will turn around. Until then, the generational talents of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout will be playing in front of empty seats. That is not okay with me.
Doug Condran is the Box Office Manager for the Lancaster Barnstormers and the founder of Baseball Desk. Follow him on Twitter @Dougmore_23