Legends On Deck

Let the Kids Watch! The Case for Earlier Postseason Start Times

It was after 11:30 pm EST on November 2, when the Atlanta Braves officially became World Series Champions. Most of America’s youngest fans had been asleep for hours.  Tuesday is a school night, after all.  In Episode 1:  Grassroots Baseball of the Legends on Deck Podcast this week, David Conde and I touch on MLB Postseason start times.  We both concluded that if MLB wants young fans to watch, they have to move up the start times of the games.

October Insomnia

Early rounds of the postseason include early games.  To accommodate an entire day of postseason action, MLB starts games as early as 1:00 pm.  By the time they reach the ALCS and NLDS, the games do not begin until after 8:00 pm EST.  While this might be ideal for advertisers and possibly some fans trying to get to the game from work, it’s not great for viewers at home.  Every October, I suffer from a severe lack of sleep, due to my late night baseball habit.

But what makes matters worse is that my son, who is now six years old and is now excited about watching games, cannot watch.  My leniency with his bedtime during the World Series didn’t matter much.  By 9:15-9:30 he was sound asleep and it was still in the early innings.  He’d wake up the next morning and ask first thing, “who won?”  Then I’d show him the highlight on my phone.

This is no way to treat young baseball fans.  If MLB should care about anything, it should be to encourage kids who already like the game of baseball to have as much access to their product as possible.  This is what creates lifelong fans.  Typically speaking, young adults who didn’t grow up as baseball fans will not become fans.  Therefore, a “prime time” audience is less important.  Every weekday ALCS, NLCS and World Series Game should around 6:00 pm rather that 8:00 pm.  Maybe 7:00 pm, if these are West Coast teams.  Weekend games could start even earlier.

Don’t Worry About Football

Football is always going to share time with the MLB Postseason in October.  College Football starts at noon on Saturday and doesn’t end until midnight.  The NFL runs 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm games on Sunday, as well as Sunday Night Football.  Don’t worry about what football is doing.  Dedicated baseball fans will choose postseason baseball over mid-season football.  Fans of both sports will make choices about what to watch and when, as keep their remote handy for commercial breaks.  And those fans that would prioritize watching a mid-season football game over a postseason baseball game, you might have lost anyway.  More often than not, fans are concerned with their teams.  If their team is in the ALCS/NLCS and World Series, they’ll make it a priority to see the game.

And it’s not just football, MLB is competing with.  October is the start of the NHL and NBA season.  There are many sports converging at once.  And there are seemingly endless amounts of streaming series and movies available at the click of a remote.  MLB’s approach should be simple — worry about pleasing baseball fans!

Let the Kids Watch

Every year I read articles about how there’s not enough kids following baseball.  Writers go on and on about the average age of an MLB is 57.  About how the pace of play needs to be addressed (and maybe it does).  The average MLB Postseason game in 2021 lasted 3 hours and 42 minutes (longest ever).  That’s a topic for another day.

Baseball remains a very popular sport to play among America’s youth.  It’s second only to soccer.  Kids that play baseball are kids who also watch baseball.  But, how are they (kids in Eastern and Central time zones) going to watch the most exciting part of the MLB season, if the games aren’t over until almost midnight?  They can’t.  And this is a problem MLB can easily fix.

As discussion of an updated postseason format take place this winter, let’s make start time a high priority issue.

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