Hosts Thoughts: Why are more people heading to the ballpark?
Aug 10, 2023, 7:00 AM
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Last month, Major League Baseball released an interesting statistic.
The last week of July saw MLB’s highest week of average attendance in over a decade, with just under 35,000 people heading to a major league ballpark.
Attendance for this season is up nearly 10% compared to the same point last year, and accordingly to the league, is “currently the best year-over-year growth in average attendance since the 1998 expansion to 30 clubs.”
Last week produced the highest average attendance that @MLB has seen in more than a decade.
In addition, the current year-over-year growth in average attendance is the best since the game expanded to 30 Clubs a quarter-century ago. pic.twitter.com/reQUHWnaYG
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 31, 2023
What’s changed this year? Why are more people heading to the ballpark? Here’s what our hosts think:
Kevin “Whitey” Gleason
Overall, more teams are competitive, with 21 of 30 teams in realistic contention for something at the deadline. Homeruns are no longer flying out of the ballparks at the unnatural rates of the 2017-2019 flight-friendly ball era. The run time of the game is less than three hours for the first time in years. Miami Marlins infielder Luis Arráez has been flirting with a .400 batting average since early in the season, making that a cool stat again. Plus, there are new stars like Elly De La Cruz, Corbin Carroll, and Gunnar Henderson.
Infield shifts are no more, which means more action. Put ’em all together and what do you get? The REAL reason baseball is popular again…Shohei Ohtani.
I believe all of the new rules have been a big reason we are seeing such a high uptick in attendance. More steals, balls in play, the pitch clock, banning the shift, all of that has led to more action on the baseball field, which is good for the game. All I’m missing is multiple guys hitting 50+ homers and I’m all the way back in on baseball.
GIVE ME MORE ACTION!!
I am not sure that I can come up with just one answer to this question. The truth is, I am certain there is not just one answer. I will do my best to give my opinions on why attendance is up across the league with a couple of thoughts that might be in play.
- I will say that I have been to just one Major League Baseball game in person this year. I went to Fenway Park in June to see my favorite team, the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox. The first thing that was incredibly noticeable is the increase in pace of play at the games. I have never been bothered by a sport that is not attached to a timer, a decisive end, or any of that. Now with some rule tweaks for extra innings and the pitch clock the game moves, and I will admit, in a good way.
- There still is something special about going to a game in person. For all sports but mostly for baseball. I am a big fan of the game and have no problem sitting down watching a full game on the television but not everyone enjoys that anymore. Being at the game, however, is a completely different experience. The energy of the park, the atmosphere, and just the overall vibe are hard to beat.
- Look at the standings and with apologies to the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Padres, and the Cardinals we have a lot of fresh blood. Those other teams have either traditionally spent a lot of money or spent a lot of time in the postseason, or even both. The latest standings watch has the Orioles, Reds, Rangers, and a few others doing damage which makes those regions of the country at a fever pitch when it comes to baseball.
- Lastly, the talent. The game is so good right now. We are treated to a unicorn of all unicorns in Shohei Ohtani daily. We haven’t seen a player like Elly De La Cruz come in and dazzle in his short time in the majors. The regular names that we know are still thriving like Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Sota, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Judge and so many more. The game is in really good hands right now.
The regular season is a long grind but the best baseball has to offer is still ahead. The sport will be at its peak when the NFL takes over the sports landscape. This is tough for Major League Baseball but they have a good thing and they have to remind those that don’t know it, just how good it is.
Attendance is up because games are shorter and more compelling. There was a thought that maybe the shorter times would equate to less value in the fan experience, but that doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition.
Today’s attention span is shorter than ever, as we live in a new TikTok reality. Baseball is one of the sports that is potentially hit hardest. Though the traditionalist may miss the days of small ball, bunting, and double switches, the reality is that just doesn’t shake hands with today’s younger generations. They want home runs, bat flips, and not to be in their seats for three hours in a 1-1 pitcher’s duel
It will be interesting to see how this all goes over in the playoffs, but much of that result will be dependent on matchups as much as anything