On Aug. 19, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets put their talents on display in a Pennsylvania ballpark packed to the brim. Fans across the world traveled to Pennsylvania to watch this historic game, flooding the stands with youthful energy and charisma.
Unfortunately for Major League Baseball (MLB), this unique occasion was excruciatingly temporary. In honor of the annual Little League World Series, the MLB pitted the Phillies against the Mets in the Little League Classic in 2,500-seat Bowman Field. To celebrate the occasion, one player from each of the 16 teams in the iconic Little League baseball tournament touched the ball before the first pitch, serving to represent the idealistic future of baseball. After all, the game is intended to be enjoyed by fans from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, unifying present and future generations of fans.
However, despite the league’s most valiant efforts, baseball is becoming more inaccessible and less popular.
Carson Kessler, a writer for Fortune, reported that “MLB attendance has dropped to its lowest average in 15 years, down 6.6% from last year.” The MLB hasn’t seen a drop in fan attendance of this magnitude since 1995. Even though there were over 30 postponements during the 2018 season due to inclement weather and “unseasonable cold temperatures” during the early portion of the season, the MLB cannot continue to blame the weather for the lack of attendance at events.
One of the greatest issues with increasing attendance is the rise of ticket prices in recent years. According to an article by Matt Provenzano, writing for SBNation, team owners “not only don’t care that people can’t afford…they just decide to get a higher return on investment on the tickets they do have available.” According to the Fan Cost Index, the price of tickets for a family of four, including food and beverage, would average almost $400. The reality of increasingly unattainable tickets has led to a dramatic decrease in the popularity of Major League Baseball.
Furthermore, according to an article by USA Today, baseball team owners have found that the implementation of luxury boxes provide the wealthy with high class and luxurious entertainment, with fewer people of lower socioeconomic status willing to pay such large fees to attend games. And despite the consistent decrease in attendance at these stadiums, the overall league set a record for corporate industry revenues for the fifteenth consecutive year in 2017.
Another large issue that is decreasing the popularity of the game is the length of games. Fans often spend hours in the stands, cheering on their favorite teams. However, recent generations do not have the attention span to commit to such a long game, often opting to view the games on TV to avoid such commitment. However, by increasing the pace of the game through various avenues, from a pitch clock to minimizing the length of reviews, the league has seen relative success in increasing baseball’s popularity. In fact, the Commissioner of the MLB, Rob Manfred, praised the league for shortening the length of games by five minutes.
While this improvement is great, the absurd ticket prices make the game less accessible for even middle-class Americans. If the objective of the league is to become a sport for only the rich to enjoy, then commissioner Rob Manfred is doing a brilliant job of steering the game in the right direction. However, if the league wants to compete with the NBA and NFL in gaining the attention of younger generations, more must be done to make tickets affordable.
The MLB should lower ticket prices to ensure the future generation of potential fans has the ability to experience the magic a Major League ballpark has to offer, even if profits are low. Had I not been able to hear the crack of the bat after a Ryan Howard moonshot or the roar of the crowd after a Cole Hamels strikeout from the stands of Citizens Bank Park, I wouldn’t be as attached to the Philadelphia Phillies as I am today.
The MLB must realize the importance of lowering ticket prices in order to prevent baseball’s demise in America and maintain a loyal fan base. In order to recreate the special ambience on this year’s Little League Classic every night for years to come, Major League Baseball attendance must improve, and ticket prices must fall.