This weekend, the start of interleague play will kickoff for the 14th consecutive season. One person, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, thinks that has been about 13 seasons too long.
“It certainly was a brilliant idea to start with—it was a tremendous idea—but it has run its course," Leyland in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press. “It had a purpose, and I think in some cases it served that purpose, but it’s run its course.”
To be honest, I agree with Leyland. I think interleague play has certainly run its course. The novelty of the New York Mets vs. New York Yankees or Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox has become stale.
I worked in the Mets ticket department the second year of interleague play in 1998. It was the first time the Yankees were going to play at then Shea Stadium. The buzz around that game unparalleled.
People were buying season tickets just to get those three Yankee games (I kid you not, that’s a fact) because they didn’t know if the Yankees were ever coming to Shea for a regular season game again. Now, I talk to some people in the ticket department, and it’s just another game on the schedule.
But here is the thing that myself and Leyland need to come to grips with: Interleague play isn’t going away for a long time. Major League Baseball is a business and the sole purpose of a business is to find ways to make money, and interleague play makes MLB money.
Attendance for interleague games last year averaged 33,253, which was 17.8 percent greater than intraleague games to that point in the season. And since the inception of interleague play in 1997, interleague attendance is roughly 12 percent greater than the rest of the other games on the schedule.
More fans equals more money, and that’s the name of the game. Until interleague numbers fall below intraleague game numbers, it's here to stay.