Are You Ready for Some (Faster-Paced) Baseball?

Yankee Stadium
Major League Baseball needed to transform and innovate its product to effectively engage today's consumers and potential fans, says marketing expert Mark Beal.

Opening day is here, but games may look a little different this season due to some rule changes meant to speed up play. Marketing expert Mark Beal from the School of Communication and Information, who is also affiliated with the Global Sports Business Program in the School of Arts and Sciences, breaks down what the changes mean and which viewers they are likely to attract.

How much time will a pitch clock shave from games and why was it needed?

According to well publicized reports this week from ESPN, the pitch clock has reduced the average length of Major League Baseball games by 26 minutes, to 2 hours, 35 minutes when comparing games played during the recently completed 2023 spring training and 2022 regular season games. Major League Baseball has been criticized in recent years for being too slow. Sports fans today, especially Generation Z (ages 11-26), have short attention spans. They are not looking to attend a sports event for three or more hours and they do not want to sit on their couch and watch a game on television for that long. Major League Baseball needed to transform and innovate their product to effectively engage today's consumers and potential fans.   

There will also be larger bases this season. How do they improve the game?

Larger bases increase the action during games. Now, there will be more steal attempts and there will be even closer plays at each base. Larger bases elevate the level of in-game action and excitement and that is exactly what fans crave. While fans love the home run, they also get excited by stolen bases, bang-bang plays and doubles and triples. Larger bases will deliver the exciting plays that fans crave. It will also result in more sharable content that will be distributed across TikTok, Instagram and YouTube where Major League Baseball has a chance to engage the next generations of fans, Gen Z and Gen Alpha (ages 1-10).  

Can you tell us about changes to the shift, and will games look different?

The recent prevalence of infielders shifting in order to play in a position where a batter statistically hits the ball led to more outs and less runners on base. Now, the elimination of the shift will result in more hard-hit balls getting through the gaps and more men reaching base safely, which will ultimately result in more stolen bases and more action in the base paths. That action is exactly what fans are looking for and what makes for engaging content.   

Do you think these changes will boost interest, and among which audiences?

The changes that Major League Baseball will implement in the 2023 season will reduce the average length of games and increase the action. That is a winning formula to win back existing fans who may be millennials (ages 27-43), Gen X (ages 44-58) and boomers while serving as exciting content to effectively engage Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers in an attempt to convert them into fans for life.