Tales of the Road Trip


h Stadium, Sarasota, FLI’ve noticed a trend lately – there seems to have been a lot of news stories recently about fans who make it their goal to see every MLB stadium (or at least a lot of them).  A few months ago I read an article about a couple being inducted into the Sports Travel and Tours Baseball Stadium Hall of Fame (turns out its for folks who sign up for stadium tours with a specific company).  Apparently, a lot of us have this goal.

So, in light of more solemn baseball news we’ve been getting lately, I thought we should have some fun with a rundown of the news about fans who want to see them all:

  • A Maryland fan who wants to see every stadium in the country – including minor league stadiums.
  • The national newspaper that’s counting down the stadiums

Obviously those of us who dream of baseball road trips are in good company!

Happy travels…

~ baseballrebecca

Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock, AR, 2012

Marlins Park, June 2012

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Fans and Race


Graphic from the Pulic Religion Research InstituteA while back I mentioned that, yet again, MLB has put together a panel to look at the issue of race and that I planned to look at the available data more closely.  The issue is a complicated one, and I am still trying to compile the data.

However, one argument put forth to explain the decline of blacks in baseball is that blacks, in general, are not interested in the game.  In fact, a lot of folks have pointed out that there are few black fans in the stands, but has anyone every tried to count them?  Not really.

This past April, the Public Religion Research Institute reported findings from its January 2013 Religion & Politics Tracking Survey.  The survey revealed that blacks were more likely than whites and Hispanics to agree that football has replaced baseball as the national pastime.

Fans at Camden Yards

Blacks account for 30% of the population in Maryland, and 64% of the population in Baltimore – but what percentage are they at Camden Yards?

Ok.  But that doesn’t tell us who baseball’s fans are.  Back in 2006, Business Week reported that the Chicago White Sox were one of the few teams that attempted to collect data on their fans.  The White Sox estimated that only 4.5 percent of those attending games were black (in a city where blacks accounted for nearly 40 percent of the population).

While there is a lot of good information on diversity within Major League Baseball, there is relatively little information on the fans themselves.  Observations suggest that there is a lack of diversity among those attending games, which could be related to economics and social class, but few have studied the extent of the problem or the reasons.

The Gallup Organization has been asking people if they are baseball fans for decades.  But the information they’ve put online does not discuss race.  What their data do show, however, is that the percentage of Americans stating that baseball is their favorite sport has declined over time.  In 1960, 34 percent of those polled stated that baseball was their favorite sport.  In 2008:  10 percent.

Obviously, though interesting, these data are insufficient to answer the question about the race and ethnicity of baseball fans.  Like the issue of why there are fewer blacks playing the game, we need more concrete research on who attends games and why.

To be continued …

~ baseballrebecca

Attendance This Season … So Far


AutoZone ParkLast month, a few folks sounded the alarm about declining MLB attendance this year.  One commentator attributed it mostly to rising ticket prices, while another blamed it on a combination of digital services, the slowness of the game, and other things.  Others offered a variety of explanations from team performance to the weather.

Of course, the hype has died down a bit, and now that its July we have better attendance data to analyze.  In fact, click here to check out a nifty table from Baseball-Reference.com  that provides practically up-to-the minute attendance stats.   It shows that 10 of the 30 MLB teams are enjoying increases in attendance:  Toronto, Washington, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Oakland, Atlanta, Colorado, San Diego, and St. Louis.  Seven of these are also in the top 12 for number of runs scored.  However, not all first place teams have experiCamden Yards during the 2012 playoffsenced increases in attendance.  Boston, for example, has had 171,275 fewer people in the stands so far this year.

Of course, we’ll have to see how the rest of the season plays out, but the discussion is basically a sociological one:  what are the factors, human, social, and environmental, that can impact overall attendance?  This has, in fact, been studied by some sociologists and economists.  (For example, Baade and Tiehen in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues a while back, or more recent studies on minor league baseball attendance from Google Scholar.)   However, there seems to be little consensus on which variables to test and which methods to use.

However, if you’re concerned about this issue, I think the best way to address it is to go out and see a game!

~ baseballrebecca

Fan Violence, Few Explanations


Obama, Yankees at White House ceremony, 2010The other night I decided to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN.  Probably because I was upset about the report of fan violence last week at Camden Yards. Apparently Orioles fans were harassing a Yankees fan during the Orioles-Nationals series last week.  The Yankees fan ended up getting hurt.  I wasn’t there, so I’ll just defer to the CNN report of the incident.  The whole thing was disturbing.  It brought to mind the incident of fan violence in Los Angeles in 2011. (Click here for the update on that incident.)

We like to pretend things like that don’t happen in our ballpark.  How a fun outing to the ballpark can end up in violence is hard to understand.  And much of the sociological literature on sport and violence really doesn’t explain individual instances of fan violence; it’s better at explaining instances of crowd violence and rowdiness, such as celebratory riots after a game.  For example, sport sociologist Jay Coakley states that general violence at a sporting event is related to three factors:  (1) the action in the sport itself, (2) crowd dynamics among the spectators at the event, and (3) the historical, social, economic, and political contexts in which the event is played.  This might explain some of bad behavior, but not all of it.

Sport psychology also looks closely at crowd behavior.  According to a recent article in Louisiana’s Health and Fitness Magazine, “Despite all of the positive bonding and emotional experiences that can occur rooting for a sports team, there are a number of ways in which the passion turns decidedly ugly. Being in a large crowd of emotionally charged people and having a tangible “enemy” in your presence can trigger terrible behavior. The nature of being in a crowd can affect the psyche of an individual. People lose their sense of inhibition (often aided by large quantities of alcohol).”

Thus, one explanation – from both sociology and psychology – is that identifying with your team provides a sense of belonging, and being at a stadium surrounded by other fans of your team can lead an individual to act differently than he or she might otherwise do.  (And, yes, the alcohol may help alter one’s behavior.)  If your sense of belonging or identity is threatened, you may act out violently to protect yourself or your team.  Individual factors, such as emotions and personality, can also play a role.  Emotions run high at sporting events – sometimes they get out of control.  While this provides some explanation – and certainly no excuse – for fan violence, it doesn’t quite explain it all to me.  More research needs to be done on this issue so solutions can be found.

As much as many of us love to hate the Yankees, we need to learn to separate our emotions from the game and realize that all fans share a love of the game.  Besides, as President Obama once said, “the Yankees [are] easy to love.”  That goes for their fans as well.

~ baseballrebecca

An Excellent Year for Baseball


Gio Gonzalez, Spring Training, 2012From Spring Training to the playoffs, 2012 was a phenomenal year in baseball.  Especially for O’s and Nats fans.  The Washington Nationals brought new excitement to the area with their run to the postseason and interesting cast of characters.  The team inspired Natitude throughout the city having an impact not only on the fans but on everything from  politicseconomics, and pop culture to — kittens?

Up in Baltimore, the Orioles and their amazing season were having a similar impact.  The entire city and surrounding areas supported the team in a variety of ways from the mayor holding an Orioles rally to schools “going Manny Machado in the 2012 ALDSorange” in support of the team.  Even the Baltimore Ravens participated in Orange Wednesdays. The result was increased local pride and an intensified love affair between the Orioles and their fans.  Of course, we already love our O’s, but seeing them in the postseason made us love them even more!

So, what’s in store for 2013?  My prediction is that these two teams will continue to excite their fans and surprise baseball throughout the 2013 season.  They will definitely have a sociological impact on Washington and Baltimore for years to come.

Happy New Year!

~ baseballrebecca

Orioles make in to the ALDS! DSCN2026

Baseball Attendance


Just a couple of weeks ago, the papers were criticizing Orioles fans for not coming out and supporting the team.  Seems everyone thought attendance at O’s games just wasn’t good enough.  One writer looked at attendance on a Tuesday night after school had started and was horrified that it was worse than “the lowest crowd in Minute Maid Park.”  They apparently overlooked the fact that O’s fans have been suffering for a very long time yet have still remained loyal. How dare they judge us so quickly!  Besides, isn’t there more to attendance than just having a good – or rather, surprisingly amazing – season? 

One of the first attempts at understanding the determinants of attendance was made by Baade and Tiehen in 1990.  They came up with a complicated-looking equation to see if things like the city’s population and per capita income, stadium age, ticket prices, number of star players on the team, number of other professional teams in town, and a few more things would determine attendance.   After analyzing the data a number of ways, the authors concluded that things like the previous year’s attendance, the presence of other teams, and the number of stars on the team all had an impact on attendance.

Of course, studies like these look at attendance after the fact.  They do not take into account events within the season that can affect the team.   Since that 1990 study, there have been other attempts at figuring out just what determines attendance.  Generally, however, those studies look at baseball as a whole.  Sure, they account for population size and other sociological-type stuff.  But how many individual factors do they include?

How about percentage of jobs lost or gained since last season – or since the team last had a winning season?  What about age of fans – I still think that back-to-school means fewer folks attending.  What about the fact that the Nats are in first place?  What about the number games televised and cost of cable TV?  I think there’s a lot more that goes into attendance and fan loyalty that just what a few numbers, or writers, have to say about it.  What do you think accounts for attendance, or the lack thereof?

~ baseballrebecca

A Week in the Life of a Baseball Fan


It’s been a roller coaster of a week in baseball.  With Kent State’s surprising run in the College World Series, I had to focus on yet another team.  So I had to carefully plan out my week:   

  • Monday: Nats off-day, watch O’s v. Mets while simultaneously keeping an eye on Kent State v. 1st place U. of Florida.  (Note to self: try to figure out how the CWS works.  Lose twice and you’re out?  How fair is that?)
  • Tuesday:  Alternate between Nats v. Rays and O’s v. Mets on TV (note to self:  I really need a TV room with more than one TV), while vaguely keeping an eye on the CWS because my nieces go to FSU, but I still don’t understand how so many teams are in a world series.
  • Wednesday:  KENT STATE v. #2 SOUTH CAROLINA in the elimination game (still don’t get why you only get two shots and they you’re done), while keeping an eye on O’s v. Mets.  Nats are on their own tonight – I just don’t have the time.
  • Thursday:  Hopefully watch Kent v. someone in the next game of the CWS.  Fortunately the O’s have the night off.  Will no longer have the energy to pay attention to the Nats.
  • Friday:  Go to Baysox game because I haven’t been since Opening Day and June is almost over, and I need to pick up my Birdland Passport and get working on getting to games; keep an eye on the Nats at the O’s (go O’s!); and hopefully keep up with whatever the CWS schedule is because it makes no sense to me.
  • Saturday:  Catch up on some much needed rest, go to the O’s v. Nats (go O’s!), and maybe something will make sense with the CWS.

 Phew!  It was an ambitious plan, but, unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way:

  • Monday:  Exhausted from work, went to kickboxing, caught the end of the Kent State game (yay! The Golden Flashes beat #1 UF to advance in the CWS!) (Which I still don’t understand.)  O’s lose to Mets in a 1-hit shutout. Seriously???
  • Tuesday:  Even more exhausted, but buoyed by a miraculous Kent State win.  Tried to simultaneously watch Nats and O’s.  O’s lose again.  Come on!
  • Wednesday:  Excited all day for the Kent State v. South Carolina “double elimination round” – whatever that really means.  Hurried home from gym, relieved to see game in rain delay so I haven’t missed anything.  Watched the O’s game while switching back to see if Kent game has started. Kent game rained out.  O’s lose.  Again.  To the Mets.  What a hugely disappointing day. 
  • Thursday:  Have to figure out how to be at a meeting at work while simultaneously keeping up with what’s going on in the noon CWS game between Kent and South Carolina.  Yay!  Meeting moved up to 9:30!  Meeting exhausting, but at least I can spend my lunch hour watching the game on my computer.  Found the ESPNU Score Center online, set it to refresh every 30 seconds.  Wait.  That’s annoying.  Every 60 seconds.  Kent takes early lead.  But then they seem to fall apart.  Can’t.  Hold.  On. Kent loses.  Double elimination.  They’re done for the year.  Must.  Stay.  Awake.  Rest.  Of.  Day.
  • Friday:  So exhausted I can barely stay awake at work.  Need to get to Baysox game.  Serious storm cloud hanging directly over Prince George’s Stadium.  Maybe next time.  Must.  Get.  Sleep.  Decided to watch O’s game.  It’s a close one.  Fall asleep somewhere in the 8th inning, with the O’s leading 2-1.  With the last out, the TV announcer gets very excited.  Wakes me up.  Yay O’s!  Fell back asleep.
  • Saturday:  Got much needed sleep, woke up around 11:30.  O’s v. Nats tonight!  Need to get there at least by 5:30 for free T-shirt.  I love free stuff!  Traffic.  More traffic.  We still get there by 6:15ish, but T-shirts are all gone.  Disappointed.  Crazy crowded at the ballpark.  Great seats!  Adam Jones HR!  But the O’s still lose 3-1. 

And I have more planned for this week!  Road trip to the Delmarva Shorebirds!!! 

~ baseballrebecca