I recently attended a game between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C..
Cheering for the visiting team is always risky business when it comes to teams in the same division. But regardless of that, when walking into Nationals Stadium, there is a certain atmosphere that surrounds the ballpark being created by just one player, Bryce Harper.
I’ll get to him in a little. Watching your favorite players taking batting practice or watching the starting pitcher come out of the dugout to start his warm-up, it’s something every fan enjoys. I had the pleasure of seeing a game ending with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. It is not just Washington. It is the entire league. Baseball IS fun again.
In the beginning of the 2016 season, Nationals right fielder, Bryce Harper, wore a hat during a press conference that read, “Make Baseball Fun Again,” making it his mission to make America’s pastime better. This act comes off a heavily criticized playoff home run bat-flip from Blue Jays, Jose Bautista.
Fast forward to July 2017, baseball is on pace to set a new record for most home runs in a season by as many as 500 home runs. The Milwaukee Brewers, who finished 16 games under .500 last season and 4th in the NL Central, are currently first in the division with a 48-40 record, 4.5 games ahead of the defending champion, Cubs.
Speaking of the World Series, game 7 between the Indians and the Cubs had 40 million viewers, while game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2016 only had 30.8 million.
The Cubs winning their first championship since 1908 was great for baseball. It wasn’t the Giants, Yankees, or Red Sox in the World Series, it was the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. Two teams that have had a history of losing.
But why isn’t baseball as popular as the other four professional sports?
Baseball is a long season. It takes dedicated players, teams, fans, and organizations. A season that takes almost 7 months from start to finish. In basketball, they are now outrageous contracts, players leaving teams every few seasons, and the popular “Superteams”. In Major League Baseball, there are no superteams, but there are more than a handful of superstars. Players like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Manny Machado, among many others are great for their respective teams.
This season like I said has been like no other. There are two rookies that are rewriting the history books. Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers have had an immediate impact for their teams and the league. Judge leads the Major Leagues with 29 home runs, and Bellinger is third in the majors with 24 home runs, but controls the National League.
Baseball’s All-Star festivities are one of the best of the big four sports. The home run derby has been run the same way for years and has yet to become boring. The dunk contest on the other hand, has changed a couple times, and many could argue not for the better either.
All of these things are continuing to draw more fans to ballparks. Young players coming through the minors and helping their teams the way they are. The youth movement in the MLB is among us, and is only going to continue improve the game of baseball. They are having fun, and making fans happy as well.
Now you tell me, would you rather watch players hit 450 foot-plus home runs? Or, wait for the Warriors and the Cavs to play each other for the fourth straight year?
Photo Credit to The Washington Post.