For the Love of the Game: The Glory of Independent and Minor League Baseball

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Independent League Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, MLB
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By this time next week, all Major League Baseball players will have begun working out with their respective teams.  This year, the beginning of spring training has been overshadowed in the news by the contract status of Albert Pujols.

Puljols is arguably the best player in the game today, and is in the process of making his case for being considered one of the greatest players to ever play in the big leagues.  Like most other professional athletes, Pujols wants to be paid what he thinks he is worth.

At the age of 31, Pujols is looking for a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of $300 million.  Maybe he’ll get close to that much, maybe he won’t.  It doesn’t really matter much, because he will be heavily compensated either way.

Ultimately, the rising cost of player salaries gets passed through to the fans in the form of higher prices for tickets, parking and concessions at Major League stadiums.

Baseball used to be considered “America’s Pastime” largely because it touched the lives of almost every American in some way.  It was more than a game.  It was something that Americans bonded over.

When I was a kid, I would play baseball for hours on end because I loved the game.  My brother and I would make up different scenarios as we played, but one stood out above all others…

“It’s the bottom of the ninth…game seven of the World Series…two outs…three-and-two count…bases loaded…”

Most kids back then dreamed of making it to the big leagues for the chance to actually turn a lifetime of fantasy scenarios into reality.  Not once did we ever fantasize about the money that we would be making if our dream ever came true.  In all honesty, we would have gladly done it for free.

No one expects today’s players to play for free.  In fact, we fully expect that Major League Baseball players will earn millions of dollars to play the game that we all love.  Though we may not fully understand why they make so much money, it has never stopped us from rooting for our favorite teams with the same passion that we did before players earned small fortunes.

In 1990, Robin Yount was the highest paid player in baseball.  He earned $3.2 million.  By way of comparison, Alex Rodriguez earned $33 million in 2010 as the highest paid player in baseball.  Even the average player salaries are significantly higher.  In 1990, the average player earned just under $600,000.  In 2010, that number increased to $3.27 million.

The cost of attending professional sporting events has sky-rocketed along with players’ salaries.  Is enough ever going to be enough?  Is there a breaking point where fans will no longer be able to afford to attend baseball games and miss out on the opportunity to create lasting memories with family and friends?

Pujols deserves to be in the same salary range as Alex Rodriguez.  However, if his enormous demands are met, MLB salaries will continue their ascension into rarefied air.  And if this current pace continues, Major League baseball stadiums are going to be filled with more corporate attendees than dedicated fans.

Major League baseball caters to corporations and people with a lot of discretionary income.  While the average fan probably finds a way to make it to a game or two each year, even the most die-hard fan very likely ends up watching most games on television.

Thankfully, those of us who want to share the baseball experience with family and friends (without having to take out a loan to do so) have the option of attending Independent and Minor League baseball games.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both cater to all baseball fans, not just the wealthy ones.  In fact, it is probably just as cost-effective for a family to attend an Independent or Minor League Baseball game as it is for them to go to see a movie in the theater, and the experience is infinitely more memorable.

There are other advantages that Independent and Minor League Baseball have to offer as well:

  • The quality of play on the field is excellent because the players play with passion.  They are either working towards making it to the big leagues or playing for the love of the game when their Major League career has come to an end.
  • It’s not about the money.  You’ll never hear about contentious contract negotiations or demands for trades.
  • Intimate stadiums create a sense of community amongst fans who get to know each other because they see the same faces on a regular basis.
  • Because the stadiums are much smaller, every seat offers an outstanding vantage point, and the chance of catching a foul ball is much more likely than it is at a Major League stadium.
  • Between innings there are contests and games to keep kids engaged.
  • Team mascots roam the stadium to interact with kids, pose for pictures and sign autographs.
  • Concession-stand prices are much more reasonable than they are at Major League stadiums and often times even less expensive than movie theater prices.
  • Parking fees are minimal, and some teams even offer free parking.
  • Traffic usually flows very smoothly in and out of Independent and Minor League Baseball stadiums because there are far fewer cars to contend with.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both give fans of all ages and income brackets the chance to share bonding experiences that will last a lifetime.  Baseball purists, and nostalgic fans who long for days gone by, will be hard-pressed to find a better way to create lasting memories and bonding experiences with family and friends than attending Independent and Minor League Baseball games.



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