Major League Baseball (MLB), who has the oldest average audience across the major sports in the US, is exploring avenues to grow its appeal to younger fans.
It follows on from TV ratings from last August which were up and boosted by younger demographics and female fans too.
According to a survey by Sports Business Journal, MLB's average fan age is 57, which is far higher than that of the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and National Hockey League (NHL), whose average ages are 42, 50 and 49 respectively.
The first task that MLB is looking at changing is the pace of the game. Baseball is bringing back two changes that was made for the 2020 season, including double-header games having seven innings and extra innings will start with a runner on second base.
The league has also committed to investigating pitchers using illegal substances to add more spin on the ball, which would therefore reduce strikeout rates, which have risen year-on-year since 2005.
The minor leagues are using even more experimental rules to produce a faster and more action-packed game, including a pitch clock, limiting defensive shifts to allow for more hits, larger bases and limited pick-off attempts to encourage stolen base attempts and an automated strike zone.
However, there is a suggestion that cultural issues may hold MLB's pursuit of a younger audience back. NBA are encouraged to show emotion and personality, whereas in MLB, players are often punished, for example, Fernando Tatis Jr., one of baseball’s most exciting players, was forced into apologising for hitting a grand slam with a big lead late in one game last season.
Author: Jake Wilkin