At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

World Baseball Classic a Good Idea – But Shouldn’t Outreach Start at Home?

Let me go on record right now as saying that the World Baseball Classic is a good idea. Baseball already is a global phenomenon, and I am one who feels that the World Series should one day actually be a world series. Putting together a World Cup-style competition is a natural first step towards the true globalization of the sport, and it promises to be a lot of fun for players and fans alike. (Field and general managers, on the other hand, will sweat the prospect of injury right to the very end!)

By continuing to tout the virtue of the tournament as an outreach mechanism, however, major league baseball executives in one way are skipping over what I believe should be one of their primary areas of focus, namely the reestablishment of baseball as the National Pastime here at home in the way that it was for so long.

Now, I'm not suggesting that baseball is in any imminent danger of receding into the background of our national consciousness. But I am concerned that – as evidenced by many measures including the all-important television ratings – the sport is becoming just one of a number of available choices, and that, in this observer’s view, too little is being done to imbue this and the next generation of fans in North America with the emotional attachment that prior generations had to the game. As long as the majority of postseason games are scheduled past bedtime for most kids (and many adults), and as long as the majority of the headlines center on the use of performance-enhancing drugs and the length and value of player contracts, it will be hard to convince the fans of tomorrow that baseball is supposed to be fun!

None of this is new of course, so I will not go on about it. But I do wonder just what could be accomplished in terms of recapturing baseball’s magic in this part of the world if even a fraction of the attention, time, and money being spent on the World Baseball Classic were applied here at home. Minor league teams do it all the time in the form of kids’ clinics, ties to civic organizations, and between-inning silliness. Why executives at the major-league level feel this is beneath them I’ll never know, and I do worry that this will catch up with them – and us – at some future point.

2 Comments:

  • An intersting idea! Yet, the fact that baseball is going to be out as an Olympic sport as of 2012 makes me wonder about the real draw of baseball on a global scale. I also agree with you about the hurdles MLB faces with "tomorrow's fans" as most kids today don't get to watch as many games as I did as a kid (or even better, listening to on the radio) because of scheduling.

    By Anonymous Michael Goff, At 11/09/2005 10:42 AM  

  • Excellent point about the Olympics ... no doubt attendance at and coverage of the WBC will go a long way toward determining the success or failure of the move to reinstitute baseball as an Olympic event. Good question!

    By Blogger Steve Weissman, At 11/10/2005 9:29 AM  

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