Originally Posted by SandyD
I agree with MWM. It's much more than a matter of marketing.
If I had a child in the city, I'm not sure I'd let him/her roam like we used to. Or play ball in front of the house. We're more tightly packed these days, and there's much more chance of a ball going into a window of a home or a car.
And breaking someone's window can be more dangerous in some areas than it used to be.
Also, baseball takes longer to appreciate than football and basketball. Couple that with the instant success stories of young players right out of HS or College making big bucks almost immediately, and the inner city kids are naturally going to gravitate to those sports.
And now that so many sports train pretty much year round, you're not going to have as many multi-sport athletes as time goes on.
It would be nice to see a push to revive the inner city youth leagues in some areas. Just not sure the interest is there.
I don't know about the first part. People have alway been pretty tightly packed in the cities and have always had a certain level of danger. The neighborhood I lived in in Lima wasn't exactly safety town. We would rarely go to the park because of the rough element that hung out there. But it was no big deal to head down to the church parking lot on the corner of our street to ride our bikes and maybe play some HR Derby. And equipment isn't so much an issue. Sure it's important if you want to have a proper league. But all that was needed when I was a kid was a tennis ball and some sort of implement to hit it with, a bat, a broomstick, even a whiffle ball bat. Kids don't need fancy equipment and a manicured lot to play on. They just need to know it's a fun game.
I fully agree with the second part. I think it's a combination of marketing and economics. On the one hand, baseball has generally focused its marketing on the game as a whole, instead of individual players. I can't help but think this is a product of the antagonistic attitude between players and owners in the free agent era. Kids don't care so much about owners or baseball as a spiritual experience. They like players and having fun.
But there are other issues as well. As you said, the time it takes to hit the big payday is longer in baseball. Because of the marketing behind college sports, kids can make a name for themselves while playing on scholarship at a big school. In fact, kids look to LeBron James and see someone who was already getting the media attention in HS. Why deal with 5 years toiling in obscurity to make the majors when you could be getting your face on TV now?
I also think that moving most of the games to cable tv outlets has really cut down on the number of games inner city kids get to see. If baseball wants to market towards African Americans in the inner cities, I think baseball needs to get more games on TV on the major networks and more local games available on over-the-air broadcast channels. Baseball has done a great job of marketing toward the luxury box set with all the new stadium building and seems to do a great job of making the game available to those who can afford high-speed internet connections or cable/satellite TV. But for the lower income families, MLB has a "Let them eat cake" attitude.