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How can baseball make itself more appealing to young athletes?

There are multiple answers to a question that MLB has been asking for a while now.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Getting children involved and passionate about baseball has been a topic of discussion for a while now. From pace of play to the availability of baseball experiences to (a better version of) fantasy baseball, there are several possibilities.

Pace of play

While many people hate to admit it, pace of play is hurting the amount of viewership baseball gets — especially in children. Children don’t have enough patience to sit through more than three hours of a sport that can drag on at times. A perfect example came just a couple of weeks ago, when Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke took more than two minutes — the same amount of time as the length of the Kentucky Derby — to throw a pitch.

While it’ll hurt MLB, the league’s recent decision to shorten mid-inning breaks will improve all fans’ experience at the ballpark, making it more enjoyable for kids and adults alike to watch baseball rather than wait for a long period of in-action. It’s hard to take big steps in the pace-of-play discussion without hurting the game and its history, but MLB deserves an applaud for their recent attempts to make their games more enjoyable for their average youth fan.

Youth baseball leagues

Everyone can agree that children should have the opportunity to play sports for several years of their childhood. Fielding baseball teams where everyone makes the squad and nobody is cut is important for everyone from t-ball to the teen years. Furthermore, All-Star and travel teams should not be restricted to just one per town or program, but instead accommodations should be made to field additional teams if the number of applicants allows it.

Making players more available

Many young baseball fans adore a specific major-league baseball player, dubbing themselves the big-leaguer’s biggest fan. It is important for these players to be available to meet the young fans that look up to them and watch their every move. In recent years, some players who are finished signing autographs (which, by the way, is an amazing experience for kids at the ballpark) have decided to “warm up” by throwing with a child.

Oftentimes, it’s a couple kids in the stand throwing to the player in the field, but when Josh Donaldson played for the Cleveland Indians, he took a fan onto the field to throw with him:

It’s important that these opportunities remain free, so all children have the ability to see the players, coaches, and teams they love. It’s also important to remember that kids look up to the players that the teams employ, and any child’s day will be made when they meet someone from their favorite team.

Fantasy baseball (or something similar)

The youngest generation of football fans have been attracted to following their favorite teams or players closely thanks to fantasy football. Meanwhile, young hoops fans have been persuaded to watch college basketball because of the yearly March Madness competitions, thus leading to their interest in the NBA, too.

Well, Major League Baseball figures to have the chance to do the same too. Sure, there’s fantasy baseball on platforms such as Yahoo and ESPN, but these leagues are nowhere near as exciting as their football counterparts. While this may sound crazy, it would be in MLB’s best interest to figure out a new way to run fantasy baseball. Perhaps they still won’t quite be at the level of fantasy football, but even determining a way to keep children interested in managing a fake team for more than 162 days is a tough task that needs to be focused on, assuming there are intentions to make fantasy baseball more kid- and fan-friendly.

I’m no fantasy expert, so whether this would be in the form of scoring adjustments or roster adjustments or something else, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what I do know: today’s youth are completely able to understand sports and technology, so combining the two for a kid-friendly experience just makes sense.