MLB: 5 Ways to Make Spring Training More Exciting
Spring training is the time of the baseball season dedicated mostly to baseball fanatics. It's a time of year for every team to have new hope, a time for fun.
The question Major League Baseball should be looking at is how do we turn around and appeal this, now, to every baseball fan in the world. What would they want to see that would make it more exciting?
What appears on the slides to follow are some ways I think you could make it more exciting. I plan on alternating between legitimate reasons and humorous reasons to make it much more interesting.
Improve the Fan Experience
The first slide is simple, improve the fan experience. Some fans travel from the home cities these teams play in. From Minnesota to Florida is no cheap or easy trip. Heck even Seattle down to Arizona.
Give these fans more reason for excitement.
How would you do that? It's pretty simple, really. Go above and beyond what you already do for them. Currently right now fans can watch workouts, go to games, get some autographs, but what else beyond that?
Imagine fans being able to pay to have a chance to step into the batters box and take a live at bat from the teams ace or power throwing reliever? What about the chance to toss some batting practice pitches to new bats Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder?
Heck even go as far as upgrading from arm-chair umpire to actual umpire in an inter-squad game for a half inning.
All three of those things, and some, would get fans even more excited to attend spring training, and stories like that will bring more people down. More people = more excitement.
If you were to go visit your favorite team at spring training, would you want to do this? I know I would.
The Great Homer-off
Warning, this slid contains humor.
How about following hockey's lead and after a tie game after nine in spring training and have a homer-off?
It's simple really, if the score is tied after nine innings, bring back out the batting cage and three of your big hitters. Each player gets three pitches from the teams pitching coach and the most homers after each teams nine pitches wins. If it's a tie after that you re-run out the batters for a single pitch each.
Oh wait, you could always bring back in the fans here to pitch!! Oh wait, sarcasm speaking there.
Could you imagine the excitement. Everyone loves the long-ball, and this could give you more of them. Oh, and no more tie ballgames.
My only thought is... Why don't more sports follow hockey's lead and use such a gimmick to decide games? Can't we just end a basketball tie with a dunk-off or three-point shootout. Or a football game with a field goal contest, or even 40-yard dash between the teams two fastest players.
Oh well, I guess I can only dream.
Fantasy Baseball...For the Spring
Fantasy sports are everywhere, period. As the caption of the photo reads, it's even taken over the NHL All-Star Game. Could imagine Fantasy Baseball, Spring Training Edition? I could.
Fantasy baseball, heck any fantasy game, has become extremely popular over the last 5-10 years, what's a preseason version to you? From non-roster invitees, to the star prospect invited camp, to the usual superstars, could you imagine the field of players to choose from?
Who would go first? Who would go second? How high up would you take the super-star that would basically just go through reps in the spring? How about that guy competing for a bench spot on your favorite team?
The possibilities really are endless. Not to mention a whole new brand of individuals now interested in spring training baseball. Heck let's even bring back a fantasy draft for an inter-squad game. Have two managers—HEY!! You could use the fans here—select the teams and go at it for nine innings.
Fantasy baseball, like I said, is HUGE. Capitalize on the average fan that while spring training is going on is watching some college basketball or drafting for the regular season, but could instead be watching their number one pick hit against their best pitcher.
Fantasy sports have already capitalized on the average fan. Why not add some more interest.
Bring at Least One Game to Your Home City Before Opening Day
Warning: This slide contains humor.
Oh come on, your team is down in beautiful sunny Florida or Arizona and your stuck in the freezing cold in Cleveland. Wouldn't you want your team to come keep you company? I know I do.
Before every season begins a team should play at least one game in their home city before the opener. Whether that is on March 1st or the 31st, every team should play at least one exhibition in their own city. Perhaps a home-and-home with the teams closest geographical rival?
I for one would love to go to PNC Park in early-mid March to watch them play the Phillies or the Pirates with the chance of it snowing on me, much the way it did to start the season a few years ago in Cleveland. Who wouldn't?
Or even just seeing some of these non-roster invitees fight for a spot in front of the hometown fans. Could you imagine non-roster invitee Joe Schmo hitting a walk-off home run off of Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell, or Brian Wilson. You think that guy would be getting a spot on the team with a massive reaction from your teams faithful?
Question is: Would you go to see your favorite team if there's a chance for snow?
More Televised Action
There needs to be more televised action. Of course I don't mean more action for the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels of the world. More action for the Pirates, Orioles, Royals, Padres of the world. Whether it's local stations or national outlets, we need more action from all 30 teams.
MLB Network does a fantastic job of getting plenty of games and providing coverage, but they should. After all they are the MLB NETWORK. What I want is more coverage from the local stations, the FSN's, Comcast's etc. of the world.
Most spring training games happen at 1 PM EST, and during that time on a lot of local sports networks are infomercials for the latest and greatest exercise equipment. Really?!? Really?!? You don't have the slot to put in YOUR baseball team?
I for one, am a baseball enthusiast and so far every day this spring I've watched at least one game on MLB network, or any of the other four localized sports channels I have in Root Sports Pittsburgh, Comcast Philadelphia, MASN 1 & 2.
If it's on local channels fans are more likely to see it. I live in a Philadelphia fan area and so many Phillies fans haven't even though of watching a game because they haven't seen it much on local networks. Play every game on a local channel whether it's live or tape delayed at midnight.
I understand not televising a live game at 7 PM when your hockey team or basketball team is playing meaningful late regular season games, but why can't you cut out the 1 PM infomercial or tennis greatest matches for a spring training game?
How would YOU, the reader make spring training more exciting?