Intended to be fan-friendly moves aimed at creating a game with less dead time between pitches and more balls in play, Major League Baseball’s implementation of a pitch clock and elimination of the defensive shift has shown immediate dividends, even if the players aren’t fans.
Overall TV ratings are up, game times are down and fans are coming back to the ballparks across the league with average attendance (28,404) up 8.1% from a similar time last year. While MLB is not drawing as many fans as it did before the pandemic, things are trending in the right direction.
Now, baseball’s also claiming that the median age of ticket buyers is 43, down from 46 in 2022 and 49 in 2019. That’s a major win for MLB as it means baseball is drawing a younger audience, something the game needs to happen if it wants to continue to grow and regain its pre-pandemic status.
Why Do So Many Young Americans Hate Sports?Market data paints a grim picture for the future of pro sports. In league offices around the country, the campaign to secure it is well underway.
He’s made lots of mistakes, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred deserves credit for pushing through the rule changes that have cut the average time of a nine-inning game from 3:04 last year and 3:09 in 2021 to two hours and 38 minutes in 2023. Manfred, who has four children of his own, has known that is something that needed to happen for a long time.
“The issue of attracting a younger audience and a pace of game is related,” he said all the way back in 2015. “I certainly want to reverse the trend of increasing the length of the game and I’m really intent on the idea that we’re going to have an average game time that’s going to start with a ‘two’ next year as opposed to a ‘three.’ I have said repeatedly that I think pace of play is going to be an ongoing, multi-year evolutions.”
It took Manfred long enough, but he has finally gotten the average time of a nine-inning game under three hours and the payoff has been obvious and immediate. For the first time in a long time, baseball feels relevant and the game has young stars like Shohei Ohtani and Elly De La Cruz who are as worthy of showing up on SportsCenter as LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes and Connor McDavid. MLB is getting faster and its fans are getting younger and that’s unquestionably a good thing for the future of baseball.