SANTA MONICA, CA – FEBRUARY 09: David Price attends the GBK & Cartoon Network’s Official Backstage Thank You Lounge at Barker Hangar on February 9, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rule changes. Improved time of game. All of it has been surfaced as necessities in order to drop the average age of baseball fans.
But David Price has hope.
“I remember looking at the Yankees a couple of years ago. I was like, ‘Man, there are 15 guys on this team with 10-plus years in the big leagues.’ I don’t know how many they have now, but it’s not double digits. It’s probably nowhere near,” Price told WEEI.com. “When the Yankees are getting younger, you know baseball is getting younger. That’s for sure.”
He might be on to something.
Neither the Yankees and Red Sox have a player born in the 1970’s. And in the majors, there’s not a single participant over 38 years old, with John Lackey currently serving as the game’s elder statesman.
Sure, the pace of baseball might not play to the attention span of the younger demographics, but there might be something to be said for the power that is not having wrinkles on the face of MLB. Just two years ago, a study by ESPN stated that the median age of MLB viewers were 53 years old, compared to 37 for the National Basketball Association.
“As time goes, it will probably get younger and younger,” Price said. “We’ll continue to have fans and it will continue to get younger and younger, just like the game is. Look at the last couple of All-Star Games. There are a lot of first-timers, a lot of guys under the age of 24 or 25. I feel like the younger the game continues to get, the younger the audience is going to get.”
But according to Price, there is something very simple the game can do to help along the demographic dilemma, and it has nothing to do with altering the flow of the product. As he stated last spring training, the Red Sox pitcher is all in when it comes to getting MLB to loosen its regulations on the color cleats.
Even with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the rule still states that players can’t wear cleats that are made up of more than 51 percent of their team’s designated color. (For instance, the Red Sox have identified black as their main color.)
“Let us wear whatever cleats we want, that will increase interest,” Price said. “I think that’s very simple and would make everyone happy.”
Price has broached the subject with both MLBPA chief Tony Clark, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. When it town earlier in the week, Clark said that he is full agreement with Price, but MLB continues to dig in on the rule (which is penalized with a fine).
“That’s one of the easiest thing we can do that is going to please everybody,” he said. “There’s nobody who is going to be mad. If you want to wear all black cleats like Jackie Bradley, you can wear all black cleats. For guys who want to express themselves, they need to be able to do that. Guys are turning to express themselves on the field with their play and whatever it is. You should be able to do it on your shoes and express themselves that way as well.”
It’s a dynamic that we’re about to see in the World Baseball Classic, and have already witnessed via Johnny Cueto’s bright orange footwear in the All-Star Game.
“Guys get to the locker room and they don’t look at anything else in their locker,” Price said. “They open their shoes, take a picture of them and tweet. That’s all I’m looking for when I go to an All-Star Game is my cleats. I don’t care what else is in my locker. I want to see what kind of cleats I’ve got. Everybody loves shoes.”
As for all the other ideas to improve interest the game, Price likes some of the ideas, but hopes the motivation is universal.
“I hope what why we’re doing it, to improve the fan base and not just make the game go by faster,” he said.