Early attendance numbers show growth of MLB baseball

The Detroit Tigers set an attendence record at Comerica Park on opening day 2012. (Josh Slagter/MLive.com)

It has been a long struggle for every sport, and in particular baseball, during these harsh economic times. But attendance over the past couple of years shows that at least one sport is recovering.

MLB Public Relations sent out a message on Twitter earlier this week saying attendance was up 5.8 percent through the same number of games as 2011. Not every team has had a home game yet, but almost every club has broken it’s single-game attendance record on opening day.

According to Fox 19 in Cincinnati, the Reds home opener at Great American Ball Park was the second-largest crowd of all time at 42,956. The only crowd larger was during the playoffs against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.

Detroit Tigers fans showed up to support their team on opening day as over 45,000 packed Comerica Park making it the largest crowd in its 13-year history. The Milwaukee Brewers drew over 46,000 for their second-largest crowd.

Similar stories could be told for every major league team. And it’s not like this is something new for the sport. Attendance has been on an incline for years now, even though the sport is being viewed as struggling.

Baseballreference.com shows that nine teams drew over 3 million fans last season and nearly half the league averaged over 30,000 fans a game.

Obviously, fans are going to show up in large-market areas like New York, Boston and Los Angeles, but it’s nice to see some small-market teams like Cincinnati and Milwaukee bringing in record crowds.

These two teams have shown a commitment to competing by spending money on players like Ryan Braun and Joey Votto, and the fans are showing their appreciation by showing up to the ballpark.

This also shows the improvement of the sport and is a telling sign that it’s heading in the right direction. While I was weary of the decision to add more teams to the postseason, because I’m normally a traditionalist, I think this will help keep fan interest and attendance up throughout the entire season. Teams in Miami, Cleveland, Toronto and Colorado now have hope that they can sneak into the playoffs with an extra wild card slot.

The game is coming out of the steroid area and despite the recent Braun incident, I believe the game is clean and we are beginning to see a new area of post-steroid baseball. Pitching and defense are dominating the game again and making it more entertaining, in my opinion.

There is a large crop of young talent coming into this league that draws excitement and hope for the future for teams that can’t contend right now. Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper will only add to the hype when he is called up, probably by June.

Teams are also getting creative with their ticket prices making it affordable to go to a game. At most stadiums today, it’s quite cheap to get see a ballgame, and during tough economic times like this, that’s important for the common fan. Baseball was so successful in the early days because it was affordable for a family of five to attend a game. We’re starting to see that be a trend again, and the more kids and families who get involved in this game, the more it will prosper.

I’m overjoyed to see the resurgence of this game, and both the fans and teams are to credit for the turnaround. We’ll continue to see numbers increase as summer comes along and the kids are out of school.

This is great news for the sport of baseball and its fans.

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