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Davis Journal

Contrary to belief, baseball is not dying out

Aug 04, 2022 10:13AM ● By Bryan Gray

You have probably heard it. “Baseball is a dying sport.” Little League participation is down, the game is too slow, younger sports fans tune it out, attendance is on the wane.

But not in San Francisco where I am among 40,000 screaming men, women, and children, most wearing $150 jerseys stretching from “Mays” to “Posey.” My stop in the Bay Area is on my father-son quest to visit every Major League Baseball park. My son has completed the journey, while I’m rounding the corner needing only visits to New York City, Kansas City, and Philadelphia to connect all the dots.

I’m not ashamed to say I’m a baseball fan, but admittedly it is no longer “America’s Pastime.” We are increasingly an impatient society, whereas baseball is for the patient, a game of strategy more than non-stop action, a game of historical statistics rather than 19-year-old recruits signing million dollar bonuses.

But baseball still has its place. Sure, sports talk radio in Utah ignores it. Yes, the most talented athlete in pro sports (Los Angeles Angels pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani) is hardly a household name. It’s sad that Tom Brady collects cheers for a 12-yard pass to an open receiver when the single most difficult feat in sports is to hit a 97-mile-per hour baseball veering in at your knees.

However, baseball is not going away soon. It has always been a sport most beloved by those living in a Major League city. It is a mere blip on the Utah sports radar, but try to explain its demise to a Cubs fan seated in Wrigley Field when the St. Louis Cardinals visit. You think baseball is irrelevant? Tell that to a Boston Red Sox fan who compares the Yankees to a case of Monkeypox.

It is true that Major League attendance has dropped, about one percent each year for the past 15 years.  That has a lot to do with the cost. Two tickets to my Giants game with two hot dogs and beverages amounted to $220, and in the recent days of remote work, businesses have cut back on expensive employee nights at the park.

But baseball is still thriving in many cities, especially those with a successful team. There are a few outlier cases: Oakland, averaging 8,000 fans per game, and Tampa Bay and Miami, both drawing a measly 12,000 per game. But losing also has its consequences. Eight teams have dropped at least 18% from the pre-pandemic 2019 season. Of these eight, all have losing records.

On the other hand, eight teams are showing attendance increases, one as high as 48%. Of these eight, six are either leading their respective divisions or battling for a wildcard playoff spot. 

And before we put baseball in the casket, note that this year’s All-Star game attracted more television viewers than the NBA All-Star scoring fest.

In San Francisco, the passion increases in the later innings. A Milwaukee Brewer fan stands up several rows from us and flexes his muscles. Fans boo, until he laughs and says, “Okay, I’ll buy a beer for everybody in my row.” The boos are replaced by cheers, but the man seated next to me mutters, “If I were in his row, I’d drink his beer – but I’d refuse it if it were from a damn Dodger fan!”

This Giant fan has his principles! And he whooped and hollered when the Giants won the game on a seldom-seen walk. λ