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What’s wrong with the Old Ball Game?

As baseball season is about to begin once again, for me it doesn’t feel the same anymore, I’m not excited as I used to be, I’ll explain more.

When I made my first trip to old Yankee Stadium in 2007, I immediately fell in love with the game of baseball. I watched every Yankees game, including spring training, even while I was in class at school, I didn’t care. I was so passionate that I watched spring training games on MLB.TV instead of a big Champions League knockout match. I was very weird among people in my school.

But it all changed in the summer of 2015. Suddenly, soccer started to become more attractive to me, and it wasn’t because of the beauty of the game itself, it was more because of how passionate fans are, the atmosphere in the stadiums, the fan chants, the variety of cultures involved. It was a sports scene and a celebration like no other. For me, soccer has replaced America’s pastime as my favorite sport, even there are many things that I hate about it.

In the past few years, I began to realize that there are some things that I don’t like about baseball – the “unwritten rules,” how conservative the game is, the typically boring atmosphere at the ballpark, compared to soccer and basketball, where fans are way more vibrant. Baseball is a game that doesn’t want to accept change, that doesn’t want to modernize.

The reality is that baseball isn’t attracting young people anymore. According to MarketWatch, baseball has the oldest viewers of major sports, with half of its audience 55 or older. Young people who become fans of the game are mostly children whose parents love baseball. And without attracting younger generations, the game faces trouble moving forward.

MLB is not global. Stars like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout are just names for people who don’t really follow baseball, even in the US, whereas soccer’s Messi and NBA’s LeBron James are known around the world even by people who don’t follow their sports, they are global stars. MLB attracts viewers in the US, Canada and a few countries in Latin America and Asia, but not in other places around the globe.

Even the NFL (a league, where almost all of the players are American) does a great job marketing itself around the world with fan events and playing games in London and Mexico (except when the field is in awful conditions, as it happened a few months ago); anyway, the NFL is far more global than MLB. While MLB is playing games in Tokyo, London and Monterrey, Mexico this year, it still has a long way to go to attract new fans abroad.

Yes, I know MLB recently announced new rules to speed up the game, which is great in my opinion, but there are still certain things that I don’t like about it.

Among my pet peeves about baseball, the following stand out:

“Unwritten” rules

Baseball is too conservative. Its hard-core fans and some of the players criticize players for celebrating a home run or a strikeout or not knowing the sport’s history. Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña, one of the game’s rising stars, is from Venezuela but got heat for not knowing who Mickey Mantle is. I don’t think most NBA fans would care if Luka Doncic said he didn’t know who Bill Russell is.

The older generation of fans and some old-school managers become angered when a player flips his bat after a towering homer or a pitcher who struts off the mound after a rally-killing strikeout.

Uniforms

Baseball uniforms do not appear “athletic” in my opinion. As a friend of my grandfather used to say, MLB uniforms look like pajamas. It’s 2019 and jerseys still have buttons and they wear belts.

But it’s especially ridiculous that managers and coaches also wear uniforms. In my opinion, they should dress similar to football coaches – khakis, a polo, and a team cap.

Although I love these uniforms, especially the Yankees uniforms that are simply beautiful, I think that they all should be modernized, even that this hurts for many of us, baseball fans. We must move on.

For the players, uniforms should be modernized, something more athletic, maybe that would improve players’ performance. Nike has the opportunity to do that as they will start making the MLB uniforms beginning in 2020 and it will be interesting what kind of designs it comes up with. Nike should also create new “City Edition” uniforms for every team, every year, like they do with the NBA.

I still love baseball, I grew up watching and playing this game, but it has become archaic and it has to change. We have to think about the future of the game, the next generation of fans. It should become a more global game, a more diverse game. Players should be able to express themselves on the field and that could lead to increased fan involvement. Baseball can be a beautiful game; it just needs to modernize.

Changing things that we love is tough. But, as the funny character Chava Iglesias from the famous Mexican Netflix series “Club de Cuervos” says; “Growing is painful… but it’s worse to be stagnant”.

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