The Wall Street Journal reported on May 20 children are losing interest in the sport of baseball.
Are children really losing interest in baseball?
According to The Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa, children are voicing their preference for other sports. He says "this shift threatens to cost Major League Baseball millions of potential fans."
This comes at a time when the league has seen a spike in attendance and revenue, per The Wall Street Journal.
"The biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told Costa. Since Manfred replaced Bud Selig in January, he has placed an emphasis on youth interest in the sport.
An example of this is MLB's collaboration with ESPN in featuring local Little League teams during Sunday Night baseball telecasts. The league brings the children to the games while ESPN shows them during the program. An MLB spokesman also told Costa the league is planning a major youth initiative which will be announced soon.
The league spokesman cited a poll MLB conducted last year involving fans whose ages ranged from 12 to 17 years old. The participants identified participation as the main factor which helped maintain their interest in a certain sport, per The Wall Street Joural.
More particularly, 70 percent of male fans in that age bracket said playing in a certain sport helped sustain their interest, per Costa.
Costa then refers to a 2002 survey conducted by an industry trade group known as the National Sporting Goods Association which revealed there were nine million baseball players aged to 17. Eleven years later, the number plummeted to more than 41 percent ot just 5.3 million.
Softball also saw a dip from 5.4 million to 3.2 million during that same time frame, per The Wall Street Journal.
Costa then chimes in on this alarming trend:
"Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants.
"But the decline of baseball as a community sport has been especially precipitous."
Costa cites New York's 19th Little League district as an example. John Lacey, the league's administrator who has 42 years of Little League management experience, said he is recommending five of the 28 leagues he oversees either disband or merge.
The Wall Street Journal article also stresses a youth baseball lifestyle is becoming even more expensive. A 15-year survey by University of Nebraska researcher David Ogden reveals only three percent of youth baseball players are black. In Costa's words the sport "skews heavily white."
Not only is youth baseball expensive, it is also tiring.
Costa spoke with Miami-based, 9-and-under team MVP Juniors elite manager Ismael Gonzalez, who says his team plays more than 100 games annually. His kids also practice two to three times a week.
"These kids work like machines," Gonzalez told The Wall Street Journal. "This is not just for fun. This is their lifestyle."
Football has long been the United State's most popular sport. The gap between football and baseball was just one percent in 1984. It has ballooned to 21 percent in 2014, per The Harris Poll (via Cronkite News' Nick Krueger).
Baseball games averaged 2.5 hours in 1972. In 2014, games lasted an avearge of three hours and eight minutes. Krueger says this presents a problem for the sport of baseball and youth players taking into account shorter attention spans.
Manfred told Cronkite News last month the league needs to speed things up.
"We wanted to make changes. We wanted to be responsive, but we never wanted to do anything with the play of the game on the field that's going to change the way the game is played. <
"I think the players are supporive of what we're trying to do with (the) pace of (the) game, and they understand the significance of the undertaking."
On May 1, the league imposed a $500 fine on batters who fail to plant one foot inside the batter's box and pitchers who run out of time on the inning-break clock of 2:25, per Krueger.
As of April 24, the league has already sent 10 letters to players who violated the new timing rules during the first five days of the 2015 MLB season, per Cronkite News.
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