Catering To The Next Generation Of Baseball Fans
You may have read that one of the 2014 World Series games was competing for viewers with a Thursday night football game. The television audience for the World Series ended up being less than half of that of the football game.
No surprise there as football has become the dominant televised sport in America. So besides letting World Series games be played at night when the next generation of fans is going to bed, what else is MLB doing to discourage young people from getting to like baseball?
This photograph below will clue you in:
This photo taken in mid-September 2013 shows a class trip of 12-year-olds at Citifield, the New York Mets ballpark.
It was a beautiful sunny weekday and the Mets and San Francisco Giants were playing for nothing, nada, zilch. Both teams had been eliminated from any playoff possibilities weeks earlier.
Obviously with group seating the Mets gave the kids the best possible seats in the house to get them engaged and interested in the game, right?
Well of course not. Group seats are usually in the farthest reaches of the ballpark and these were no exception, in the corner of the upper deck in right field in section 503.
Now I understand why the Mets and most other teams put group seats in generally undesirable places. These are seats that will usually never be sold, because who wants to pay $15 or more and sit in the stratosphere. The Mets are not going to give $75 seats away for $15 to a group.
But this photograph below shows the kids view of the game and the reality of how many fans were at the ballpark just 10 minutes before starting time.
It never got much more crowded than this when the game got underway. The announced attendance was 22,897. Everyone there knew that there was no possible way that there were even 12,000 people at this game. The ballpark remained as you see it: thousands of empty seats in huge clusters.
There were schoolgirls sitting on either side of me and both were attending their first baseball game. Being a chaperone on this trip, they asked me questions and tried to watch from our birds-eye vantage point. As the game progressed, with the exception of the few boys who follow baseball, most of the children lost interest rapidly.
For many of the kids who were in attendance this would be the only game they would ever go to because they had no interest in baseball before the game, and were not going to have any interest after the game.
What could the Mets have done?
They should have taken the thousand or so children that were in the four to five large groups seated in the far reaches of the upper deck and moved them to seats anywhere closer to the field. When I actually mentioned this to the Mets personnel man in charge of groups in our section he looked at me like I was crazy and said that was not possible.
It was indeed possible if someone from the Mets ticketing, marketing or publicity department could have had a bright idea and made an executive decision and said something like, “Hey, the season’s virtually over and our ballpark is pretty empty today. You know what might get us more fans in the future? Let’s move these kids down to decent seats so that they will be close enough to be involved in the game. Maybe some of them will come to appreciate and love baseball if they can actually see what is going on up close, rather than watching the jumbotron screen or straining to see the ant-size ballplayers from their mile away seats. This would be a good way to develop a new generation of Mets fans.”
Well that never happened and it probably never will happen. Unless MLB and their teams realize that they are rapidly losing a huge part of their future baseball audience, baseball will be as popular here as cricket.