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Baseball providing timely release

By Jim Caltagirone

For the Mirror

Americans are well aware that the cost of everything continues to rise. Depending on the source, the factors that are cited for runaway inflation vary.

The specific reason why all but three MLB teams enjoyed an increase in average attendance through the first third of their 2022 home schedule, when compared to last season’s overall home average, is similarly variable.

With discretionary income at a premium, only Texas, Cincinnati and Oakland are suffering a drop in average home attendance compared to 2021 numbers.

All three teams sport records that are among the worst in the big leagues, so that helps to explain their decline in attendance.

But what accounts for the increase that the twenty-seven other MLB teams experienced?

Fielding a winner always helps boost attendance.

Six of the seven teams that have recorded an increase of at least 10,000 fans per game — the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mets, Giants, Yankees and Blue Jays — are all postseason contenders.

Conversely, attendance at Angels games is up 13,000 from a year ago, despite a 14-game losing streak in late May and early June.

In an article for CNBC’s website, Jabari Young wrote, “People are changing their spending habits as prices surge at rates not seen in four decades, making choices that favor experiences. That means big demand for live sports.”

Winning enhances the overall ballpark experience, but it comes without cost. Baseball’s version of “pain at the pump” is “pain at the concession stand.”

Added together, game tickets, parking fees and standard ballpark staples account for a sizeable deduction from the family’s monthly budget.

According to a formula utilized by Fan Cost Index, a group of four spent an average of $253 to attend an MLB game in 2021.

Surprisingly, reports of falling stocks and shrinking 401(ks) are not impeding the trek to major league ballparks. At least not yet.

In the minors, where the dollar stretches a bit farther, Hartford averaged 6,194 fans during an early June series against Reading. The series spanned five days and included three sellouts.

In the International League, a late May game in Nashville drew over 9,000 fans.

With all the bad news that has been flowing from the news outlets, people simply need a release.

Baseball at every level provides that.

Which makes you wonder why the powers that be in the sport are continually seeking ways to shorten the amount of time that fans spend at the park.

The tinkering with mound visits, intentional walks, pitch clocks and extra innings has already marred the sanctity of the game. All in the name of expedience.

The Apollo 11 moon landing notwithstanding, the ballpark is the original Sea of Tranquility. Contentment at a baseball game is a collective product of the ballpark’s unique ambience, the pace of play and all the diversions that evolve into cherished memories.

Apparently, no one knows how much more suffering is in store for the American consumer over the next few months.

For many families, hard calls will have to be made this summer regarding whether attendance at a baseball game is a worthy sacrifice of their limited finances or a luxury that must be forfeited.

Early season attendance figures demonstrate that fans still value the opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening at the ballpark.

Whether they will have the financial means to do so in the coming weeks is another matter.

Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He contributes monthly to Voice of the Fan.

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