Monday, October 22, 2018

National Baseball Day

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 9:15 AM

Baseball has its problems. For the first time in major-league history, fans saw more strikeouts over the course of a season than base hits. Eight-man bullpens and infield shifts have transformed the game into something that would be vaguely familiar to the likes of Jackie Robinson or Stan Musial. (Ty Cobb would spit, snarl, sharpen his spikes, and take the bunt single every time an opposing infield shifted against him.) Fans aren't exactly flocking to the new whale-or-whiff culture. Total attendance in 2018 fell below 70 million for the first time in 15 years.

Baseball needs to rekindle its long love affair with Americans, and it can be done. There's still no sport that cultivates leisure time like the one that gave us the seventh-inning stretch. The first significant step Major League Baseball could take toward attracting new fans — and reminding us longtime fans that it still cares — is to provide an extra day of leisure in the form of a holiday: National Baseball Day.
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Here's how National Baseball Day would work. On the day Game 1 of the World Series is played — typically a Tuesday — Americans would get to stay home in honor of the sport that gave us Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and a craving for Cracker Jack. No one plays like we do in the United States. National Baseball Day would bridge the holiday gap between Labor Day and Thanksgiving while celebrating an act of recreation.

The game would start at 3 p.m. Eastern, allowing every child from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, to see every pitch, hit, stolen base, and replay review (ugh) if he or she so chooses. Families split across time zones could connect via smart phone and share in the exploits of the latest October hero. Extra bonding time for friends and families around a baseball game. Imagine that.

If you’re not a baseball fan, stop the eye roll. This holiday is for you, too. Take a hike (literally). Grab your rod and reel. See a movie you’ve been meaning to see, and with the right person. Have a picnic lunch. Enjoy a day of leisure, courtesy the game of baseball.

Television will resist this movement, of course. Those at Fox or TBS or whoever happens to hold the rights to the Fall Classic will rope themselves to the mast of prime-time ad rates. Instead, they might consider another sporting event that does rather well as a stand-alone happening, begun before prime time, with most families together at home: the Super Bowl. Savvy ad execs will recognize their audience for National Baseball Day.

You wonder why kids aren't wearing Alex Bregman jerseys (outside Houston) or collecting Anthony Rizzo baseball cards (outside Chicago)? It might have something to do with their recent World Series heroics happening after the kids were in bed. Among baseball's eternal charms is its every-day quality, 162 games played by each team over six months. But it's showcase — its primary sales tool for the next generation — must be the World Series. Heck, the Fall Classic now has to compete with NBA games.

National Baseball Day is the first answer to baseball's woes. You say a holiday requires an act of Congress? Email your congressman and attach this column. Better yet, ask your kids (or grandkids) to write their congressman. It's not a sport we're saving. It's a country.

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