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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Fixing Baseball’s Age Issue
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I’ve been a huge baseball fan since I was a child, so it shocked me to learn that I still, at age 35, bring down the average age of people tuning in to baseball games. This is troubling to me for a number of reasons. Not only do I love the game, but going to baseball games with my dad was a huge part of my childhood, and it saddens me to think that entire generations are missing out on that bond.

Critics have pointed to the length of the game as being the problem, but I don’t believe that. Yes, the games are a bit longer than they were 50 years ago, but as a National League fan I'm used to most games ending somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours, which is the same length as most football games, and football is the most popular sport in the country.

There have been a myriad of terrible, and impossible, ideas on how to rectify the aging fan base situation. Everything from shortening games, to shortening the season, to installing the DH in both leagues (yeah, because that would really speed up the game). Personally, I’d phase out the DH if I was commissioner (every three years reduce the number of divisions it can be used in, until it’s completely gone), but so far he hasn’t asked my opinion.

If he ever does decide to call me, I have a few ideas that would be easy to implement, and might get the youth back into baseball.

Day/Night Doubleheaders Every Saturday – Yes, I know this would stretch bullpens, but by having two games every Saturday teams could get the kids to the early game, clear everyone out, and have separate tickets for the night game (so the organizations wouldn’t lose any money). With this in place the league could schedule an extra ten days off during the season to get the players the extra rest they’d need, and STILL start the playoffs nearly two weeks earlier than they do now. In addition to those bonuses, this could make Saturday “Baseball Day,” finally giving the sport its own version of the day-encompassing celebration that is football on Sundays.

Afternoon LCS and World Series Games – The amount of importance placed on prime time ratings has been a huge determent to reaching younger fans, and having the NLCS, ALCS, and World Series in prime time isn’t drawing in anyone new. To rectify this, baseball should have all weekend LCS and World Series games played in the afternoon. There’s nothing wrong with 1pm and 4pm est start times. It works pretty well for football. There could even be a pre-game show, much like football has each week, and the games could be seen at a reasonable hour on both coasts. Would the ratings be as high? I’d actually wager that they would be, but even if they slipped a bit in the first few years, this is a long term plan to develop a younger fan base, and how can a sport expect to develop young fans if its biggest games are on too late for them to see?

Tiered Pricing Based On Age – Teams now have tiered pricing based on the opponent they’re playing. The better the opponent, the higher the ticket price. I think this should be illegal, but it’s not going to change. What CAN be done, however, is creating tiered pricing based on age. Basically, the younger the kid, the cheaper they can get in. Teams shouldn’t think of this as losing money on a ticket, they should think of it as gaining money on concessions, and gaining money in the future, because as the child grows to love baseball, because he, or she, can actually be there, they’re developing a fan, and a customer, for a life.

Player Appearances At Kid Friendly Places – Every year MLB licensed video games are released. It seems like a no brainer that if you want to reach the youth market you should send players from every team to the stores the day these games are released. This would also work perfectly with sporting goods stores. In-store signings used to be one of the big marketing techniques used by record labels. The prevailing thought being, get the artists in the record store, and fans will buy the record of that artist, and possibly other things while they’re there. Well, get the players in front of kids, and suddenly you have a connection that wasn’t there before. The players could bring cards to autograph, and each autograph could come with coupon for a ticket to a game, or concessions at a game. This would create a connection, and give every kid there a way to further that connection.

These are just a few ideas I have, and I know the commissioner doesn’t have me on speed dial, but that said, I love the game of baseball, and hope that I won’t have to wait until I’m in my 50s to raise the average viewer age.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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