Four Ways Baseball Used Tech To Bounce Back
Baseball is a sport defined by numbers. This is a look at some metrics illustrating MLB’s growth throughout the 2023 season.
- 9%: Major League Baseball attendance increase – largest leap since 1998.
- Two hours, 39 minutes: The average length of an MLB game since May.
- 13: The number of baseball clubs that saw double-digit increases in attendance.
- 10: The number of weekends with 1.5 million fans in attendance.
- 28.9%: The increase in attendance seen at Tampa Bay Rays games since last year.
- 146 million: Number of games streamed on MLB.TV’s DTC platform.
- 172 million: Minutes of MLB watched on for Opening Day – shattering the previous high of 121 million minutes set in 2021.
⚾️ How Baseball Bounced Back
A year ago, baseball was in a slump. Attendance was down, games were ticking north of three or more hours, and the biggest question was how a uniquely American sport like baseball – our national pastime – would endure while attracting younger audiences.
These days, the charter of many professional sports leagues is to attract younger generations representing the future lifeblood of the sport – fans who devote their money, time, and resources.
Here is where technology and innovation come into play. Currently, no sport is embracing technology better than Major League Baseball. It’s a plan that has been years in the making. Some advancements, like the pitch clock, have been marinating in the minor leagues for a few years. In the words of commissioner Rob Manfred, the goal is to protect the game for decades to come: “I think that the next big question for us is how do we make sure that baseball is passed on to the next generation. Technology issues are a huge part of that. We’re making very extensive efforts to use technology.”
These are four of the technological innovations which have collectively come together to impact the game.
At the start of the season, we went to the Colorado Rockies home opener with more than 48,000 fans. The game was one of the shortest in Rockies’ Opening Day history, clocking in at two hours and eighteen minutes.
One of the most tangible updates to the game has been the improved pace of play. New pitch clock rules have drastically impacted the overall game time. Last year, average games were three hours and six minutes. Through the first two months of the MLB season, it has dropped to two hours thirty-nine minutes.
It was a startling but refreshing introduction to the new-look MLB. The game seemed much more entertaining, and the fast-paced nature kept our kiddoes occupied between concession stand visits for cotton candy and hot dogs.
Just look at how the times have changed over the last five seasons:
2019: Three hours, 10 minutes
2020: Three hours, six minutes
2021: Three hours, 11 minutes
2022: Three hours, six minutes
2023: Two hours, thirty-nine minutes
The drop-off in time this year has not seemingly impacted the runs – it rose to 9.15 runs per game, compared to 8.57 last year. The goal of this move was to keep the pace of the game moving and cut out dead time. So far, many fans and families have welcomed the change, while some baseball purists are not big fans.
Statcast & Bat Tracking Data
Data has reshaped how all sporting leagues and teams do their work. Tablets help players watch different angles of their play, and every data point represents a potential and crucial advantage over the opposing team. The latest version of MLB’s Statcast hones in on every detail and movement of the ball and every player on the field.
Hawk-Eye cameras were upgraded to 300 frames-per-second and tested last year with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The data results show unlimited potential to advance the storylines of broadcasts with swing speed, attack angle, and measure of contact on the bat’s sweet spot. MLB works with broadcast partners to illustrate these narratives on visualizations that add new dimensions to a game.
By the time the balls started flying out of the ballpark on opening weekend, MLB had smartly overhauled its apps. The league refreshed the official mobile, streaming, and ticketing apps, emphasizing personalization. Now, it’s easier to follow your favorite teams and players around a hub that showcases these preferences as an alternative to live coverage.
A reimagined “gameday” experience showcases the moments that matter, highlighted by stats overlays and plenty of highlights, stories, and live scores to keep fans focused on the action around the league. It also helps that the league has developed deep relationships with the folks at Apple with their Friday Night Baseball available to Apple TV+ subscribers. Fans also enjoy the live activity integration that allows them to add live scores of their favorite teams to their iPhone lock screens. Now, fans can follow the score by simply tapping their device. But the biggest developments are a foundation of the league’s strategy to cater to younger fans – the app’s best elements are designed to reel in younger fans with rich content, data-driven information, and crisp storytelling.
Enhancing the Ballpark Experience
The MLB also invested heavily in the experience of their fans at the ballparks. They retooled the MLB Ballpark app, which catered to fans watching the game live. For 2023, the priority was collaborating with ticketing providers to help keep the turnstiles moving. Now, it’s easier than ever for a fan to purchase a ticket to a game with streamlined SMS ticket delivery and verification features. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get into a game and focus their attention on the on-field product. Fans of nifty innovations like NFTs and other collectibles can claim NFT-based tickets as a digital souvenir of their attendance.
📸 Snapshot of Sports: Game Recognizes Game
When two of the brightest stars in the MLB universe recently played, they were in a viral moment. Reds sensation Elly De La Cruz came over to the otherworldly Shohei Ohtani and gently gave him a poke as if to say, “Dude, are you real?” Ohtani is real, and as a dual-threat pitcher and hitter, he is a generational talent changing the game in ways the league never imagined. Sadly, an arm injury cut short his pitching time for this season. Still, the offseason headlines will ripple through the sports landscape as he commands upwards of $500 million – a sizable marketing value that will arrive with his league-leading home run power.
💡 MLB Emerging Star Has LinkedIn Profile
The one thing you all have in common with us is that we all use our LinkedIn accounts to keep tabs on the professional world. For one of the game’s hottest players, LinkedIn is a showcase of a career that includes a stop as an associate at DICK’s Sporting Goods, followed by an incredible leap to the Detroit Tigers as a player. It’s an incredibly genuine look behind the jersey of one of baseball’s hottest hitters that touts his experience and the fact that he held responsibilities of “bagging, helping people to their cars, finding products for people, and greeting everyone with kindness and respect.” We are rooting hard for you, Kerry!
🎤 SportsTech + Sports Talk
As baseball season heads toward the playoffs, our SportsTech crew will be rooting for their favorite teams. Here are a few:
Taylor – As a Wisconsinite, I am pulling hard for the Brewers to make some noise in October. With numerous playoff appearances in the last decade, I hope they can finally dust off elite NL competition to end their World Series drought – they’re one of six teams in the Majors never to win. No matter what happens, the team has one of the most intriguing farm systems in the league and is stacked with talent to keep the Brew Crew competitive for seasons.
Bradi – Just two months ago, our Texas Rangers were one of the best teams in baseball, so their recent struggles have been like a slap in the face for a team setting league records at the beginning of the season. After spending nearly all season in 1st place, they are now 3rd in the division. But with 30 games left, they could still turn it around.
Tripp – It’s true that the Rockies could be on their way to losing 100 games for the first time. It’s also true that this year’s club gave up a record 13 runs in one inning and became the first team since 1900 to lose six in a row while holding a lead in the sixth inning or later IN ALL SIX GAMES. But it’s also true that they play ball in a beautiful park with the majestic Rocky Mountains in the background, where the setting sun, in all its blue-and-gold glory, reminds us that Broncos football is just around the corner …
Natalie – Being a Braves fan and having the best MLB record currently, you can imagine how excited I am this season for baseball! I was lucky enough to be at the game in 2021, sending us to the World Series, and fully believe we will be back this year, once again taking the trophy home to Atlanta. The games this year have been nothing short of electric at Truist Park, and it is nice to have a solid and reliable Atlanta sports team. We are taking the 2023 World Series home… You heard it here first!