Baseball has always been in my blood. My grandfather played professionally as a young man in the 1940’s. He went to spring training with the Chicago White Sox one year but never did make it to the majors. He instilled a love of the game in my family; my father loves it, and I love it. After his playing days my grandfather took a job with the Kansas City Royals. My fondest memories of growing up in Kansas City were going to Royals games with my dad and seeing my heroes like Mike Sweeny and Kevin Appier play. My father would always tell me stories about how much better it was to be a baseball fan in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when players were approachable and before prices got outrageous.
I believe that baseball today is detached from its fans. The 1994 players’ strike hit a lot of baseball fans hard, including my father. The game has changed so much that he has just lost interest. In the last 10 years we’ve gone to less than one game a year. Part of the reason was our move to New England, where the closest team is the Red Sox. Bleacher seats at Fenway Park cost $26 each, and box seats go from $90 to $200 each. Add in at least $30 for parking and another $20 for concessions and the family can only afford to go to a few games a year. It’s a far cry from the days when my father could enjoy a game for only a few dollars.
This is also a totally different generation of players. The players’ strike of 1994 turned baseball players into millionaires. A player used to have to take another job in the off-season in order to get by. At least one Kansas City player lived in the same neighborhood as my father when he was growing up. And now my father sees their labor disputes as millionaires arguing with billionaires. My father’s heroes played with pride and hustle, they had loyalty to their team, and were approachable. He would tell me about the old time players who would stand in the corner of the dugout during the game and interact with fans. Today players move from team to team like a game of musical chairs. They play less for love of the game than for their next contract.
Baseball’s headlines today are about money and steroids, rather than where it should be: the game on the field. We don’t even go to the games when the Royals are in town, because our beloved Royals cannot compete financially with Boston. The Royals have lost all their good players, players who I once cheered for, to teams who could afford to pay them a higher salary. I believe that baseball needs to reconnect with the fans. Maybe then will my father enjoy going to a game.
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