Fri. Feb 14th, 2020

… Because we all have opinions.

What’s Really Keeping MLB Fans Away?

The state of baseball continues to be one of the hottest talking points of the summer and fans are continuing to vote with their feet, with half of MLB’s 30 teams experiencing yet another a decline in attendances in 2019.

The 2019 season is also set to become the fourth consecutive season where overall attendance figures have declined, and just the second season since 2003 where the average game attendance figure dips below 30,000. The other? Last year.

Of even more concern for MLB is the nature of the teams experiencing a decline, with many of its small and mid sized market teams witnessing plummeting ticket sales – some by more than 20%. Notably, MLB’s only non-US team, the Toronto Blue Jays, lead the pack.

While television ratings are fluctuating, experiencing short periods of both decline and growth in recent times, there is absolutely no denying some of baseball’s most important teams are struggling with revenue being lost through nosediving attendance figures. Sadly, the situation is so dire that relocation rumors are already being speculated in some cities.

Seemingly on a failed mission to buck the trend, Rob Manfred and his team of executives at MLB, in partnership with Independent Baseball’s the Atlantic League, continue upon their so-called quest for ‘innovation’ through the introduction of obscure new rules that seek to attract new fans and keep existing ones engaged. This theory, leading to ridiculous experiments like being able to steal first base, has created a growing sense of resentment within the baseball community and one which indicates MLB’s Executive has lost touch with the game and the common fan.

Despite what the national media will tell you, which I find is often terribly biased, written by puppets who fear their media passes being revoked, or even at times subject to clearance from those in higher places, baseball needs a dramatic shift in focus if it wants to bring fans back to the ballpark and turn around a four-year demise which seems increasingly likely to continue. Oh, and by “dramatic shift in focus”, I don’t mean gimmick new rules, TwitterHitter hashtags, or other comical approaches, I mean genuine and significant change.

Last month I wrote a piece responding to the latest round of rule changes being trialed in the Atlantic League. I was critical of these changes and questioned whether baseball was actually focusing on the real reasons fans were staying away. Is it the rules, which have largely remained untouched for well over a century, they want to see changed? Or is it the countless other elements associated with attending a game of baseball? Further to this, I question whether MLB has actually spent an adequate amount of time or resources delving deep into discussions with the common baseball fan to see what truly are the factors behind the decreasing levels of engagement.

In the weeks since, I’ve dipped my toes into the water with my large following on both Twitter and Facebook, seeking feedback through a series of polls and probing questions that aim to dispel the myths associated with (a) what fans want to see, and (b) why they’re choosing not to attend as many games as they have done in years prior. The results are fascinating, and something which really needs to be considered carefully by MLB.

The poll below, while quite simple in nature and only active for 24 hours, received responses from almost 900 participants and clearly indicates that fans are almost just as interested in watching a low-scoring pitching duel, as they are watching a high scoring slugfest. This tends to sway from the commonly held belief nowadays that fans want to see more home runs being hit and scoring resembling that of a football game. Whether you’re of the opinion #JuicedBalls is actually a legitimate happening or not (personally, I need to see some more proof before joining that parade), one cannot deny MLB has altered its rules, or is at least trialing them in other leagues (i.e. Atlantic League), to suit the batter and generate more offense.

Meanwhile, the graph below collates responses from more than 2,000 fans on Twitter and Facebook to the following question:

What is the number one factor behind you not attending more MLB games?

The results are simply staggering and ought to cause alarm bells within Rob Manfred’s office.

As demonstrated, price related factors account for 52.1% of all responses received, clearly indicating fans simply cannot afford the privileged of attending games anymore. Of respondents who expanded their comments, a common theme was the nature of purchasing a ticket online, typically via ticket exchange platforms which demand exorbitant prices. Another common theme was the inability to have a family outing at the ballpark, with a night out often costing well over $200 when tickets, concessions, parking, and transportation are considered. So much for baseball being ‘America’s Favorite Pastime’.

Poor transportation options, be it traffic congestion by car or a lack of adequate public transport, also accounted for a significant amount of responses – 13.7% in total. This confirms a theory I’ve mentioned on numerous podcast appearances this season, that the lack of adequate infrastructure surrounding ballparks is causing people to stay away. As many respondents noted, it’s simply far easier to stay home and watch on television.

Of other interesting results, just 2.2% of fans indicted they’re not attending games because of game duration. This is actually quite fascinating as once again it appears to be inconsistent with MLB’s rhetoric of fans avoiding baseball because of the time it takes for games to be completed. I guess this confirms pitch clocks (among other things) are pointless, right?

So where to from here?

If MLB is serious in its so-called desire to bring fans back to the Nation’s ballparks, it needs to become more fan friendly, with substantive changes put in place that help families and allow them to experience a fun night out together. Lowering ticket costs and working closely with stadiums to lower food, beverage, and parking costs will have a dramatic and almost instantaneous impact. Additionally, it needs to instruct its ballclubs to work more collaboratively and in partnership with city councils to improve supporting infrastructure around stadiums. This will lead to lessened commute times and enhancing convenience.

These are the substantive changes that will bring fans back to the game they once loved attending, not home run frenzies, social media gimmicks, or ridiculous rule changes.

Scroll down – there’s a comment box below… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

82 thoughts on “What’s Really Keeping MLB Fans Away?

  1. This was interesting. I figured ticket prices would be top reason. But you can always find cheap tix on other sites. My work schedule doesn’t allow for games. When you work at 2am, attending a 7:10pm game doesn’t work. I love going to a ⚾️ game. It helps when the team wins. 😆

  2. Regarding the poll of pitching duel vs slugfest, I would prefer to see more strategy like the Japanese games. Smart/risky baserunning and competent bunts (to destroy the shift) is much more exciting than a few home runs and nothing else.

    1. For me, I look to see who is pitching… If its #1s going at it – then I’m fine with a pitchers duel… But if its on the lower end of the rotation – then I want to see the 10-8 duel into the 9th…

    2. Yeah, it’ll be fun to watch MLB players start adjusting to the shift over the next few years. I’m shocked there aren’t A LOT more bunts down the third base line, especially the faster players….

  3. Without even looking, I knew it would be cost.

    We went to a minor league game last week and spent around $60 bucks for tickets (fireworks night!), plenty of food and drinks for the 5 of us, & 3 ball caps for the kids. This would easily be over $200 at an MLB game.

  4. Absolutely cost. I have the means to buy whatever ticket I want to at the ball park for me and my wife. My children are grown. But they are not going to spend their money on baseball tickets at the current rates. Consequently I see the fan base is growing smaller and older at a

  5. The cost. Tickets, getting to the game (transit/parking) and concessions while inside really make it expensive. I can’t imagine how families can afford it.

    Also, as an aside, why can’t baseball stadiums offer healthy food options?

  6. The last game I attended (Cubs at SF, July 22nd) my husband felt upset the game ended so quickly

    Since we rented a car, drive 18 hours round trip, stayed in a hotel, and still had to walk 2 miles to and from the ballpark, I can’t blame him

    Please stop speeding the game up, MLB

  7. Sure, the tickets are expensive & driving is expensive & food is expensive & the drinks are expensive & the hotels are expensive & the merch is expensive and the team is someone you don’t even know because you’re blacked out

    It’s really cool to know they want you out faster

    1. Your assessment of what stops fans from seeing a Ballgame or multiple Ballgames is right on and should be as easy to grasp as a can of corn for a Gold glove centerfielder.. But Baseball executives who make Baseballs planning descisions are as out of touch with the REAL world as most of our Washington Lawmakers.

  8. Interesting reading, has there been a drop in MiLB attendances too? Some of these teams appear to have greater fan engagement / community integration.

  9. I wouldn’t worry until I see a drop in September and playoff attendance. If teams are in a race and still can’t attract people you have a serious problem. (Tampa)

  10. Interesting. All good points. It’s actually turned into a hassle to go to the game, and an expesive one at that. Perhaps they’ve finally killed the golden goose….

  11. I’m not surprised it’s price related. $33 to sit in the last row of the 400s. $35-45 to park. I’m out $80 before I even walk in and get to the concessions. The alternative is watching on an (already paid for) HD TV, which offers better views, from the comfort of your couch.

  12. Definitely price all across the board. It’s the main factor why I typically only get to 1 game during the season. I’d love to attend more games, but it’s just not possible.

  13. I just bought two $20 tickets from the team’s website and my processing fee or whatever it’s called was like $19 bucks…the price of another ticket!

  14. Not surprised. Price is the main factor for me. The year I graduated college, I went to 12 Indians games…at least 4 times my tickets were company seats so I didn’t have to pay. I probably still ended up spending well over $1000 that summer on baseball games.

  15. Tried to do a game cheap recently:

    $43 for tickets (advertised as $18 per ticket but of course there’s fees)

    $10 for parking (only 2 blocks from progressive field, my friend took his bike)

    $50 on two beers each

    $34 for a sandwiches and drinks.

    That’s $137.

  16. Non-American here, although I have been to a game and enjoyed it thoroughly.

    The most bizarre thing to me about the MLB is the sheer number of games. Your team is playing multiple times per week for an extended period of time, no wonder people can’t afford to attend! I’m used to sporting competitions where your team plays once per week, and might play out of town every second week.

    In the summer I might go to 2 or 3 cricket games during the Xmas break, and watch the rest on TV.

    My cricket team might only have 10-15 games per summer though.

  17. Agree 100% with the top 3 reasons keeping fans from attending more MLB games: price of tickets, price of refreshments and proximity to ballparks are the same obstacles I encounter

  18. MLB teams experiencing a decline in attendance: the BlueJays lead the pack with a 27% decline. Many small and mid sized market teams experiencing plummeting ticket sales – more than a handful by more than 10%

  19. I have been a 20 pack holder(2 seats) for the milwuakee brewers for 3 years now…assume seats great benefits but I can get rid of the 2nd ticket. No one wants to go with as baseball is “boring” and it hurts my heart. So will have to cancel this year.

  20. I don’t understand cost being the issue. $60 can get you a couple tickets if you do it right. If cost is an issue why is the NFL and college football selling out games at well over $100 per ticket? I’ve been to multiple games for less than $60 at ticket price.

    1. 81 home MLB games versus 8 home NFL games. I could drop $200 to go to an NFL game and I would have attended 12.5% of the available games for the season. Or I could drop $100 (after parking/concessions) for an MLB game and only attend 1.23% of the home games. To have the same impact on attendance as a NFL season, I would have to attend 10-11 games. That’s well over $1000 and that’s 10 times I would have to find time to go.

    2. Were talking about cost/ticket. What does a full season of home games have to do with the cost of 1game?I just think there’s an issue with the product with baseball more than cost and it’s getting blamed on cost.cowboys games almost always sell out and it’s over $100 a ticket

    3. Your kind of proving our point. The NFL games are rare and people are willing to pay more. The MLB owners have more opportunity for revenue by having more games but they can’t get us in the park because they want diamond prices for their cubit zirconium.

    4. If I’m proving a point I’m at a complete loss. Don’t get how no one else has issues with cost when it’s significantly more expensive lol. $6 is pretty cheap for a professional playoff team event 🤷‍♂️. And if anything is to blame for cost it’s more the ticket flippers than anything.

  21. Fans drop hundreds of dollars for a game. Keeps me away for sure. But nothing will done because this is Merica.

  22. Yeah, pretty clear that owners just want more people at the current prices, not more people in general. Only Mets game I’m going to this season, for now, is with free tickets I got by taking a team survey

  23. The NBA has grown immensely in popularity over the last 5-8 years among young fans. The NFL dominates TV ratings every year in the US. People just aren’t finding that same satisfaction within baseball and it’s driving the “disconnect” even further

  24. Bmore has a problem with getting to & from OPCY. Not only is the Light Rail shut down between the Falls Rd Station & the park, meaning you have to change to a bus halfway through your journey, but ongoing infrastructure problems have closed main downtown streets

  25. Too many stops in play while television commercials are aired, intoxicated fans wanting to fight people wearing hats of the visiting team (baseball has less of these than football), too much noise from the sound system blaring throughout the game.

  26. 100% agree.

    I haven’t attended an Indians game this year, although I’d like to. It’s more cost effective to watch the Akron Rubber Ducks.

  27. Great article! And thank you for pointing out “just $60” is absolutely not possible for some families. I think that shows a whole other issue with wealthy sports fans but I guess that’s an article for another day. Haha

  28. That’s why I don’t go.. my wife wants to go see cubs vs brewers in Sept in WI and bleacher tix are $90 ea. right now

  29. @tommyzografos I’d bet you agree with a lot of these findings. You seem to love the game, but your tweet about the concessions at last night’s game falls in line with this survey! I’d rather take my kids to a minor-league game at this point.

    1. Yep. I get charging when the team is good. But Ticket prices for a family are really high. Concessions are stunningly outrageous. And Parking is ridiculous too. The other factors are low IMO. Those I mentioned are the culprit.

    2. Agreed. That really goes for all sports, but with the parity in baseball, it’s especially accentuated. Baseball has traditionally been a sport where you take your kids. It’s getting harder to justify.

  30. Price is the number 1 reason. As you stated for my family to go to a baseball game it’s going to cost me a minimum of $150-200 unless I tell my kids no to everything and bring my own water.

  31. Is it expensive in seeing a good product like the Dodgers vs. a shit product like the Detroit Tigers? Teams have gotten fat and lazy with media contracts in building competent business. No sense of urgency to improve the entertainment ON THE FIELD.

  32. I agree with everyone. Price is definitely the reason. I used to go to 3 or 4 games a year even though I live about 90 minutes from the stadium but now I work part time and just can’t afford to go.

  33. Twins should have learned this in the Spring. Attendance was really low even though team was winning. They offered $5 seats and boom, the place magically started looking better for attendance.

  34. Crappy small market teams that are under .500 ?

    The were more Yankee fans at Camden that O’s fans in today’s game…… at least it sounded like it.

  35. We’ve done many road trips to see MiLB games (incl AkronRubberDuck) & the experience is way better! Games are great, players engage with fans, game events & promos are fun, tickets & concessions are way cheaper. Overall, MiLB games offer better value & experience vs MLB

  36. Toronto jacks ticket prices while simultaneously declaring they won’t put a competitive team together for 3 years is why they lost 30% of attendance

  37. Professional sports have forgotten they are entertainment for fans. They have priced themselves out of the entertainment market for families.

  38. Tickets to sit lower level at @yankeestadium is unreasonably expensive ($200-500) a game on @StubHub. The real fans sit in the bleachers for tickets priced 20-100$ depending on the team & whether or not it’s a postseason game

  39. As a father of a toddler, our attendance at MLB games has decreased to (MAYBE) 1 game/year.

    Concessions/parking can cost close to $100 at some parks, and most teams force parents to buy a ticket for young kids who will never sit in a seat for a 3 hour game. It’s crazy.

  40. Probably need a salary cap or something like it and higher salary floor. Half the league isn’t even trying to win games right now. The tanking and trading for prospects is hurting both ⚾️ and 🏀

  41. Also think there’s a been a slight culture shift where younger folks have WAY more outlets for their time than sports than we had as kids. The less they play, the less they get into watching others play. Also, there are so many ways to watch games for free online now too. 2 cents

  42. I have 4 kids. I won 2 free tickets and still had to spend $60 on tickets and $20 for parking before we even got in. Even on $1 hot dog night, Drinks were $7 each, basic nachos were $6, and other treats are $4-10. It adds up fast!

  43. Proximity to nearest MLB team/stadium is biggest reason for lack of attendance for me. The costs are a bit high(transportation, concessions, ticket) but I believe people just don’t see value in attending 1 of 162 “regular” season games compared to other alternative entertainment

  44. Ticket price, although I am a Brewers fan, we live in Washington state and have attended Mariners games for years. I will not go to Mariners games anymore cause ticket prices are too high. Lack of and Cost for parking, location of the Stadium is second reason

  45. Price? Yet people pay much more for basketball and NFL. At NFL they pay more in beer before, during and after to tailgate and parking is worse. I don’t “buy” its all price.

    1. I’d say (1) length of games, though I have no problem with it, (2) star players not remaining with teams long enough, (3) too many meaningless games a season (Yankees v. Orioles nearly 20 times), etc.

    2. I still say price and expense. The other things are just baseball. But I would say small market teams have a disadvantage and a small window to win. A salary cap…a real cap might help.

  46. 3 of the top 4… price! Travel distance understandable… but the pricing is a huge turnoff, and I love going to the ballyard…

  47. been saying cost around all sports is main reason for decline in attendance. I love sports but can only afford to take my family to a game or 2 a yr. If I could afford more I would . Have 6 person family to go to game, tickets (nose bleed seats),park & eat $250 minimum my kids don’t enjoy sports like I do. I found my love at the stadiums/arenas. I grew up 3 hours from closest professional team my family went 6-10 a yr We now live minutes from stadium & go 1-2 a year All sports need to realize this and fast. They r losing a generation of fans.

    1. Same here. I can’t make my kids sit to watch any game on tv. But if I ask who wants to go watch a game at the ballpark, everyone is ready to go. Sadly we can only make it once a year.

  48. Number 1 for me is non competitive team/no playoff chance. Right now 10 teams out of 30 make playoffs. Why not double that to 20? End the regular season a month early and make Sept/Oct a month of playoff games, ALCS and World Series? That would be a shot in the arm for MLB.

  49. Orioles are doing things right in this department. Kids cheer free this year and you can bring in food and beverage (just not alcohol). I suspect the answers for this team would be different than other markets. Can you tell from your data?

  50. It’s still cheaper than the movies. An immediate reaction to everything will always be price. I don’t buy it. Generational decline is what I see

  51. The tickets aren’t even that expensive and if you don’t mind standing you can even just chill in the concourse for 10 dollars a ticket but the price of everything else makes it obscene

    But how come price hasn’t effected other sports

  52. You can find less expensive seats if using Stub hub or vivid seats. Parking can be much cheaper if you’re willing to walk a few blocks. Rangers allow fans to bring in a small soft side cooler with waters, Gatorades, and sodas(no beer) which helps expenses as well. One of the great things about AAA baseball. $15 tickets, $5 parking and high quality baseball with lots of players who have been up and down from the big leagues. Think I would rather have a quality AAA franchise in town versus a MLB team as I can see a lot more ball games

  53. Games and season too long. Go to 7 inning game, fewer pitching changes, shorten the regular season by 30 games and expand playoffs. Baseball is exciting when there is a sense of urgency which doesn’t happen til Oct. Who cares about a game in June when there’s still 90 games left?

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