MLB/MLBPA Looking to Improve Batting Practice?

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The rumors and rumblings are true, we may see a heavier focus on batting practice being marketed towards the fans.

You’re welcome, I have gone about re-phrasing that New York Post article for you.  The illusion that the MLB and MLBPA care about making something more “fan-friendly” is hilarious.  If their track-record is to be taken into consideration, the focus on making things more fun, fan-focused, and “giving the fans more” will boil down to this:

More money.

In a fantasy reality I would be writing this article to detail the ways in which the MLB/MLBPA could go about making their changes in a fan-friendly/fan-focused way – aka: Dream On, Suckers!  I’ll still make this list, because it is fun to think about and discuss, but in no way will these changes be ones that are looked at by the powers that be (or ones that if implemented, won’t be monetized).

The harsh reality is that, like every major professional sports league in North America, the pursuit for your dollar is being targeted in “new and exciting ways.”  VIP experiences, add-ons, upgrades, and other ways add more revenue than just ticket sales and concessions are now the hot focus – an evil love-child between marketing and finance.

So, let’s look at the dark-side first, shall we?

A quick aside:
Dear (insert your MLB team here),
Isn’t the revenue from your television deal combined with your low building//stadium expense (thanks to tax payers) what make up an overwhelmingly large portion of your profits?  Do you really need that additional extra $5/person for ticket/experience upgrades from those willing to go out of their way and take in a game in person?
Sincerely yours,
Curious (insert team name) fan

Ways to Monetize Batting Practice:

  • VIP experiences – Many teams allow season ticket holders early entry and even sell stadium tour/field tours already, but why not really pump up that “experience”?  Don’t be surprised if you see more ads for these types of experiences (not limited to the MLB Ballpark app).
  • Alcohol sales – The trend to convert sections of seating into bar areas has been going on for years now.  So why not advertise BP as a sort of “tail-gate inside the stadium” thing or just a giant pre-game bar?  (MLB, you realize this focus on MORE alcohol sales goes against your so-called focus on growing the game for children, right?  Oh, and it goes against your domestic violence and drunk driving campaigns – issues we all know have affected the game as of late.)
  • Merchandise/Memorabilia sales – Do you like collecting autographs, catching a ball, or buying team-branded “stuff”?  Well, the MLB knows that all of those avenues are lucrative and can have a price-tag applied to them.  Early gate times for more BP (which is being more fan-friendly) may lead to autograph booths for current and former players.  Many teams do this on kids days – typically Sundays – but having it more widespread and chargeable means more cash.  Sections best for catching a ball in BP may suddenly have a BP premium attached to them, too.  Why not?  More revenue, right?

These ideas may sound crazy – and most probably are for the foreseeable future – but the idea of creating more revenue out of otherwise dead areas was already kicked around by my very own Twins a few years ago.  Do not be shocked when things start to head towards what was listed above.

But if we want to take the league at face value, in hopes that they realize that there are ways to combat people being bored with baseball without changing rules of the game, then maybe they can get creative.  The list below is one of true fan-friendly nature/spirit – a spirit not focused on additional cash-grabs, but ways to hook people (especially young folks) without giving up too much in return.

Ways to IMPROVE Batting Practice:

  • Allow fans to view home team – Many teams open gates 90 minutes before game time during the week and 2 hours early on the weekend.  This means that for most games the fans do not get to see their home team take batting practice (and maybe get to see the final round of their club on the weekend).  This should be fix #1.  Let young fans cheer on their favorites even more and maybe chase that batting practice autograph that could make them a fan for life.
  • Mandated batting practice – Within reason, batting practice should be league mandated.  If it is an evening game, then the fans should see some form of batting practice.  The recent trend set by Joe Maddon could be a scary one to baseball fans.  Joe has allowed his team to cut back or skip batting practice altogether for the past few years (going back to his days with the Rays).  This might help with locker room chemistry and the grind of the season, but it kills the vibe for those who attend a game early.
  • Encourage players to interact with fans – It should come to no surprise that some players have exclusive deals with companies when it comes to signing autographs.  Limiting autographs, toss-ups, and interactions during the times that gates are open but allowing these exclusive deals to happen outside of the game should be stopped.  No player should be forced into interacting, but the encouragement should be coming from the MLB, teams, and media.  Nothing wins over an impressionable kid like going home with a souvenir (ball, autograph, or selfie).

That is just a small sample, but a GREAT place to start, Major League Baseball.  Your demographics are atrocious – we know that it is a predominantly white, male, middle-aged group that watches baseball and one that is only growing older year after year.  Charging more only raises the bar on who can watch/attend baseball games, and you cannot afford to keep raising the bar.  Let’s go back to what was great about baseball – going to a game with your parent(s), scoring a souvenir, making a memory, and doing so during a modest upbringing.  Apple pie doesn’t cost $20 a slice, so let’s stop pricing out those who are the very foundation that made the game grow into what it is today.

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