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Like baseball, so does America
Like baseball, so does America

Like baseball, so does America

Baseball is often referred to as the national pastime because it is inherently associated with American culture, history and politics. Key moments in baseball history, such as Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, labor disputes and various presidents throwing ceremonial first places, are depicted in Ken Burns’ award-winning documentary miniseries, “Baseball” (1994).

On Tuesday, the Major League Baseballs World Series ended with the Atlanta Braves beating the Houston Astros, four games to two. This is a good time to reflect on what the state of baseball can tell us about the state of our nation. Not surprisingly, baseball is struggling with similar changes as the rest of the country is facing.

First, baseball struggles to expand and diversify its fan base. Average attendance at Major League Baseball (MLB) matches is declining and the fan base is getting older. Only 10.8 million viewers, a historic low for a series opening in a non-neutral location, set for the opening match of the World Series.

MLB is actively trying to find ways to appeal to a more diverse market as it competes with the NBA and NFL for popularity and fans.

MLB increased marketing on social media (MLB is even on TikTok) and works with the city’s mayors to encourage more youth participation in baseball through its Gambling initiative. Since 1981 has the number of African American MLB players went down significantly from 18 percent to just 7 percent in 2021, contributing to declining interest in the sport among African Americans.

In America, the electorate is also changing. According to data from the US Census for 2020, the white population declined, while Latino or Hispanic, Asian American, and black populations grew by 20 percent, 29 percent, and 8.5 percent, respectively, since 2010. It is estimated that the United States will be minority white by 2045. The future of political parties will depend on their ability to appeal to a more diverse electorate.

Texas, home of the Houston Astros, is the second most diverse state in the country. This diversity challenges the conventional political stance of Texas as a decidedly red state. A Democratic president has not won Texas since 1976, but it was branded a “throw-up” state by the Cook Political Report before the 2020 presidential election. While Trump won in 2020, the gap between Republicans and Democrats is narrowing.

Similarly, in Georgia, home of the Atlanta Braves, high turnout among minorities in the state to vote for a democratic president for the first time in 28 years. There is also a resurgence of intense national scrutiny of the team’s name and the use of fans’ “tomahawk chop” following recent changes in the previously named Cleveland Indians (MLB) and Washington Redskins (NFL).

Second, baseball is trying to find ways to “accelerate” the game by making it more efficient. Average length of a baseball game has increased. Changes have already been made, including limiting the number of trips to the mound and stipulating that pitchers must face at least three hits before being relieved.

The pressure to make changes to America’s favorite pastime is a sign of the fast-paced, impatient, and busy lifestyle of Americans who hate waiting for things and are willing to compromise on nuances of expediency.

This way of thinking is also evident in politics. Americans want to see the world in black and white – not shades of gray. The trend towards retail policy – oversimplifying political issues to make them more accessible to political consumers – is being helped by opinion-based news and social media. This trend erodes the quality of political discourse. Instead of looking at the complexity of an issue, problems are put into extreme views.

Finally, there are baseball players turns out with higher prices than ever before, and the stroke average decreases. Batters face jugs that throw at higher speeds than ever before.

This is a problem that has caused MLB to increase enforcement midway through the 2021 season against foreign substances used by pitchers to increase ball rotation. Some have even suggested extending the distance between the mound and the home plate.

In addition, baseball leaders often “change” the defense to take into account higher probabilities of where a batter will hit the ball. For left-handed hits, this often means that 3 of the 4 players are placed on the right side of the second base, which further puts the hit at a disadvantage.

Americans are also in unfavorable situations while struggling to navigate a pandemic-plagued world in the midst of an inflationary economy. The deck is increasingly stacked against them as relief programs, such as paid family leave, free community college and lower prescription drug costs, were scrapped from the bill for social spending amid intense negotiations between President Biden and his own party.

Meanwhile, it has been alleged that social media giants such as Facebook use statistical algorithms to sow political discord among users for profit. As technology giants’ stocks rise, everyday Americans report higher levels of stress and concern for financial security.

Yet, despite these changes, the fact is that baseball and America are resilient. Change provides opportunities to reflect, learn and grow. As former All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. It once said, “To succeed in baseball, as in life, you have to make adjustments.”

This column first appeared in Pennsylvania Capital Star, member of the Florida Phoenix of the States Newsroom Network.

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