Major League Baseball is no longer America’s Pastime. What does that mean for the future of the game?
The folks who run Major League Baseball are scared. Really scared.
First, kids aren’t playing the game anymore. Gone are the days when children would organize a neighborhood game, pretending to be their favorite players, policing the rules themselves, without parents scrutinizing everything from their playing time to their batting and fielding stats and coaches who often care more about winning than nurturing young people. If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you noticed a child walking down the street lovingly clutching a baseball glove. See what I mean?
Don’t get me wrong. Some kids do play baseball. A lot. They participate in travel leagues, sometimes year-round, a practice that often guts youth and high school teams and leads to baseball burnout because the “season” never ends. Children, some even at the pre-teen level, are being convinced they are Major League prospects. While there are certainly a handful of such children, for the most part, Mom and Dad, your kid is not one of them, no matter how much money you throw at their training.
I was an amateur baseball umpire for almost 25 years, and I’ve seen participation at youth levels drop precipitously over the years.
Speaking of money, kids in poorer communities can’t afford the baseball gloves and bats and shoes necessary to play, not to mention the fees needed to pay for uniforms, field facilities, and umpires. And often in the inner city there are no baseball fields on which to play.
The other problem is the changing dynamics of childhood. Before digital electronics, kids couldn’t wait to change into their play clothes after school and head outside. I know some of you remember those days fondly, but many of today’s kids simply wouldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the house. After all, with their unfettered access to social media, video games, and streaming services to distract them, there’s almost no reason to ever venture off the couch.
Another one of baseball’s big problems is the game itself. Unlike football, basketball, and ice hockey that have a lot of action, baseball is slower and much more cerebral. At least it was before scoring became the most important aspect of the game. The preponderance of and importance placed on home runs is killing all those beautiful fielding plays that made baseball brilliant.
As a former TV sportscaster and an amateur umpire of almost 25 years, I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than a runner going for a triple. Though a triple play is damn close. And yet for years baseball executives tinkered with the ball to increase scoring. Yes, I know they swear the balls were never juiced, but I don’t believe them. Home runs have soared to ridiculous numbers, which leaves all those fielders standing around doing nothing. That gets pretty boring after a while. By the way, if you’re not sure homers are an issue note that in 2014 4,186 pitches resulted in home runs. In 2019, that number exploded to an all-time record 6,776.
So now, baseball’s bosses are trying something new, albeit at the Minor League level. They are once again changing the ball. Rawlings has “loosened the tension of the first wool winding,” according to a memo from the commissioner’s office. That will slightly reduce the weight of the ball and make it less bouncy, the hope being a reduction in home runs.
But that won’t help solve baseball’s biggest problem: Time. Unlike other sports there is no clock on the diamond. An average MLB game lasts almost three hours and ten minutes. By comparison, an NBA contest averages just two hours and 15 minutes. As our attention spans dwindle, our ability to stay engaged is declining, a situation that is doubly difficult for young people who Major League Baseball needs to survive.
Baseball has already lost its status as America’s Pastime, having been supplanted by football. And, as in all sports, fewer kids are coming out to play. That does not bode well for the future of the games, especially baseball.
Here’s a brief intro to my latest women’s fiction novel for your reading pleasure.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archaeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.