Published on August 13, 2015 by Derek Partridge  

Over the past few years there has been a decrease in attendance and viewership of MLB games and also a decline in participation of the sport around the country. These occurrences raise the following question: Is baseball still America’s pastime? Well the answer is “yes” and “no.”

Baseball is a sport that has well over a 100 years of rich history and evolvement that brought the world sporting legends like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. These are all players that most people have heard of today even if they did not grow up watching the game. During their time, these people were the pinnacle of celebrity status and people around the country wanted to be them. This is a different story in today’s world. Instead of having baseball players heralded as icons that are defining the sports entertainment world, it seems like athletes from other sports have more influence.

When you think of today’s NBA, you think of LeBron and Kobe. When you think of the NFL, you think of Brady, Peyton Manning, and even players that have a hard time staying on a team like Tim Tebow. Every other sport has somebody that people recognize almost instantly whether it is Sidney Crosby, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Alex Morgan, Lionel Messi, or some other star. Is this the case with the MLB though?

I have a feeling that if I ask somebody to name the face of the MLB, they would say Derek Jeter. Though Derek Jeter was amazing for the sport and provided a boost in interest of baseball, he retired last year and it felt like the end of a generation for the MLB. The player that more than likely is the face of the sport now is Mike Trout, but it just does not feel like a relationship that is as strong as say LeBron and the NBA or Peyton Manning and the NFL.

When watching the Little League World Series last year, I noticed that a lot of the kids from the U.S. teams said their favorite athlete was from another sport. They’re the pinnacle of talent at that age for baseball, and yet their favorite sports athlete doesn’t even play baseball. This is reflective of the deep problem that baseball now faces.

The lack of marketable superstars is not the only problem hounding baseball. Many people just view baseball as boring. Whether it be watching or playing the game, baseball just doesn’t excite people like football or basketball does. It is a sport that sticks to its classical ways, but this could be one of the problems with it as it is very time consuming to watch and action is spread out in extremely small bursts. This absence of action could be a major reason in the decline of viewership in the sport, as people want to constantly be engaged in what they are watching. The following chart provides an insight on the viewership trends of the MLB over the past few years:

Viewership Trends of Major League Baseball
Fans and Age Groups 2011 2012 2013 2014
Total # of fans (view/attend - add 000) 119,730 120,292 112,538 110,975
By Age Group (Percentage of age group)
13-17 7.1 6.8 6.2 4.4
18-34 27.7 23.5 24.6 27.8
35-49 26.3 21.7 23 21.4
50-64 28.1 27.7 25.1 27.3
65+ 10.8 20.3 21.1 19.1

The most troubling stat in viewership of the MLB is that the age group with the biggest decline is that of the 13-18 year old range. This group is the generation that decides whether or not that baseball is going to thrive in the future. So is baseball still America’s pastime? Right now it might still be among the older generation in United States. It won’t be for long though if interest keeps declining with every new generation.

Written by Samford University student Derek Partridge.