Baseball has always been America’s pastime. Over the past 60 years, however, baseball has had to fight off other sports to remain atop the country’s sports entertainment pedestal. That fight continues to this day, as the numbers simply aren’t there for baseball like they used to be.
“There is no denying America’s love for baseball,” wrote the great Roger Kahn in 1960. “But increasingly the greater excitement seems to be coming from football fields, and that is where it’s likely to be coming in the future.”
Kahn was right for the most part — football has reigned supreme over baseball for many years now because of its massive marketing campaigns, superstar athletes, and sheer excitement on the field. According to The Atlantic, since January 14, 1968, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland Raiders in front of a TV audience of over 39 million people, the Super Bowl has consistently drawn in more viewers each year and much more money than the World Series.
The most-watched World Series game ever was Game Seven of the 1986 series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. That iconic game was seen by 38.9 million people. An extremely high number, yes, but not like the numbers that football has consistently brought in each year.
Another reason baseball hasn’t been able to compete with football in recent years is because of the national pride football fans have, and aside from a few major markets in the MLB, there aren’t too many teams with fans across the entire country.
“If Tampa Bay played Cincinnati in the World Series, I don’t care if the series goes seven games and every game goes into extra innings, baseball is screwed,” said legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas.
Those in the baseball world are hoping to change that, though, and hope to once again be America’s favorite pastime.
“Younger audience members and eyeballs — if you’re not looking for that, you’re not protecting the business,” said John Angelos, Orioles Executive Vice President.
According to CNN Money, Major League Baseball is considering plenty of options to try and attract younger audiences and help grow the sport.
Though baseball might not be the most conventionally exciting game, it still takes a tremendous amount of skill and mental toughness to succeed at. Roughly 83% of coaches rate mental toughness as the most important set of psychological characteristics for determining competitive success.
In 2016, 13.46 million people played softball or baseball within the last 12 months in the United States. During this time of the year, as the Little League World Series gains national attention, the MLB is expecting a significant spike in younger viewers — and hopes to keep them.
Every year, the top five leisure activities for international visitors are shopping, sightseeing, fine dining, national monuments and parks, and amusement parks. But every year, thousands of kids and their family members from across the country and globe come to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series.
On August 20th, for the first time in history, a professional MLB game was held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the MLB Little League Classic. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates squared off at the renovated BBandT Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.
The game was nationally televised on ESPN and people couldn’t buy tickets to the event. Not selling tickets to a major game might seem like a poor marketing decision in terms of growing the sport, but MLB only played this game for one group of people: the kids.
The MLB and Little League International will continue to work to foster interest “and encouraging participation in youth-centered baseball and softball activities.”