Father’s Day…and Baseball

June 18, 2015 by Mike Goff

“Want to have a catch?” It’s one of the most heart-tugging scenes ever in arguably one of the best sports movies ever. But, really, Field of Dreams is much more than a “sports movie”—it’s about the sometimes-complicated relationship between father and son, in this case between Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, and his father, John Kinsella.

Sadly, it appears that many fathers, sons and daughters aren’t playing as much catch these days, if recent numbers reported by the Wall Street Journal are true.

Youth baseball participation in the U.S., ages 7-17, has declined precipitously since 2000.  In numbers reported by the Journal, and from the National Sporting Goods Association, 5.3 million youth played baseball in 2013 compared to 8.8 million in 2000.  During that same period, softball numbers declined from 5.4 million to 3.2 million.

This decline has not gone unnoticed by Major League Baseball. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has noted the importance of playing the game as a driver for fan avidity.  The league even did fan polling last year that validated “playing the sport” as a big factor in building fan interest.

The decline in participation isn’t exclusive to baseball and softball—soccer and basketball numbers have also declined over the same period. 

One theory suggests that today’s emphasis on performance over fun and exercise has driven away the casual youth participant.  Regardless, it’s obvious that baseball has lost its former lock as the community sport and its long-lived designation as “America’s pastime.”

It’s our wish, on this Father’s Day weekend that Dads everywhere use the opportunity time with sons and daughters to pick up a ball and glove and “have a catch.”  Who knows—maybe this simple act of ball hitting leather will inspire a youngster or two to understand why that quality time with Dad will forever be one of life’s most treasured memories.  And, it might ignite interest in a team sport that can once again be the conduit for drawing communities together.