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The generational gap between baseball fans

Where are all the baseball fans?

Many of us grew up loving baseball, but the reality is baseball is losing many of its fans. Just take look at the 2019 Yankee/Red Sox London game which barely gained traction in the midst of United States Women’s National Soccer and a wild NBA free agency that brought quite a few big names to New York.

Now, I know most of you are stats people so let me break it down. According to a 2018 Gallup poll  only 9% of people are listing baseball as their favorite sport  According to Yahoo Sport, stadium attendance in 2018 was the lowest since 2003 with the average attendance dropping below the 30,000. When it comes to watching the sport on tv, viewership continues to get older. According to Sports Business Journal the average age of the baseball tv viewer is 57 and only 7% are younger than 18. 

The question

With baseball attendance and viewership declining, do we need to fix baseball?  I decided that I would use some of my quarantined-with-no-baseball time to interview people of all generations.  The same question  was posed to people between the ages of  70 and 7. I encompassed  baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z in the interviews. The question I asked was this: what one thing would you change about the game of baseball to make it better for you?

Baby Boomers (1946-64)

The boomers were the first group of people I decided to interview. The group consisted of men and women in their 50’s and 60’s.  Most of them started watching baseball barely 1o years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. They lived through the relocation and addition of teams and watched as “small ball” dominated the league.

Laurie, 62, is a die hard Yankee fan from the Bronx, and told me she’s been going to Yankee games for years. She reminisced about having ticket packages at both the new and old stadium. When we finally got around to it, Laurie told me the solution is to bring back small ball.

“You want to know why everyone loves DJ LeMahieu? Because he actually hits the ball and gets on base,” she said.

Ed, a Bronx born Physical Education teacher, agreed.

Laurie’s final solution to the problem, “get rid of the shift.”

When asked, Tina and Andrea also in their 60’s, immediately mentioned the shift.  “Make a rule that teams can only have 2 players on one side of the infield,” Andrea responded when asked how baseball could possibly eliminate the shift.

The last thing the boomers decided was a problem: technology.

“Get rid of the stupid strike box on tv,” my dad Bernard responded

Jerry and Jim echoed the distain for technology. “I don’t like the instant replays and reviews,” one said. “Just keep the game moving.”

The way to fix the game to many in this generation is simple: stop changing it!

Generation x (1965-80)

Thirty and 40 year olds watched as baseball changed drastically. In ’69, MLB lowered the mound by 10 inches and shrank the strike zone to its current size. In ’73, Ron Blomberg became the first DH in league history.

When asked about changing the game, this group had quite a bit to say about umpires in general.

Albie, a Yankee fan in his 40’s, kept it simple. “I’m ready for the electronic strike zone,” he said.

Not everyone agreed with the idea of an electronic stroke zone. Gina, a Met fan in her 40’s, told me that the electronic strike zone is “huge no” for her.

But most did agree that umpires are an underlying problem for the league.

Andy and Rich, from Stony Point and Seaford, N.Y. respectively, both talked about making the umpires we do have more accountable.

“We can’t take the human factor out of the game,” Rich said. “But something along the lines of accountability.”

Andy added he would make umpires available for post game interviews. “It sounds silly but I would because many of them are arrogant and make themselves part of the game unnecessarily but this can fix that.”

The solution for xer’s: fire guys like Joe West!

Millennials (1981-96)

This is my favorite, since I personally fall into the millennial category. We millennials lived through the steroid era, which in my opinion was a great time for baseball.

Millennials in typical fashion had a variety of things to say on the subject.

Higgins and Chris, Manhattan Yankee fans, quickly agreed that “$3 beers league wide would be dope.”

Rob and Danielle, cousins, both had something to say about the managers. “Let managers actually manage,” Danielle said. Rob agreed: “I don’t like analytics deciding who will play when, if guys are hot you should let them be hot.”

My personal favorite take came from Ryan, an ex college player who regularly attends Yankee games. “Legalize monitored performance enhancing drugs. I mean, how fun was the Sosa McGwire era. Baseball had a weird, fun buzz.”

Millennials seemed to think, just like most things, that baseball in the 90’s was just fine.

Generation Z (1997-2016)

This group knows all about home runs, big contracts and analytics. A lot of this crew very much agrees with where baseball is going.  They don’t want to sit in front of the tv or in the stands for hours. They want a fun and quick game.

Reagan, a teenage catcher, agrees that the MLB needs to find a way to shorten the games. She told me: “There is just too much time between each pitch, I wouldn’t mind a pitch clock.”

James and AJ, a pair of baseball playing brothers, told me that umpires need to go. “Electronic strike zone can speed up the game,” James said. AJ agreed that too much time is wasted arguing balls and strikes.

J.B., a seven year old slugger from the Carolinas told me the same thing. “The umps are just wrong all the time. Get rid of them.”

Delaney, a 14 year old catcher, and Mario, a 16 year old pitcher, both told me the DH should be universal. “Pitchers shouldn’t hit,” Mario told me.

Delaney explained that there is “nothing fun about watching the pitcher come up and do nothing, it’s such waste of time.”

E.J. had the best idea of the bunch, in my opinion. “Mic the players,” he told me. “Keep people entertained.”

The younger crowd all have the same idea in mind.  Make the game faster and more fun!

Can We fix baseball?

With all the different opinions about how to make baseball better, it’s almost impossible to narrow it down to one fix. The reality is, there is no way to fix baseball. The sport has evolved with the times, and will continue to do so.  MLB is challenged with keeping their product relevant, thriving and profitable.

So, my question to you is: How would you fix baseball?