Last night’s win by the Red Sox was sweet.
Those of us who pulled our hair out year-after-year as Boston’s baseball franchise regularly faded in August and September feel vindicated as the team came back from its disastrous 2012 season with an epic turnaround. General Manager Ben Cherington deserves a lot of the credit. Last year’s mega-swap with the Dodgers freed up capital and allowed him to invest in steadier, lower-cost assets. The team also made good use of their home-grown talent—players in their first six years of service.
But there’s a problem in paradise. Even though this year’s Series had over 10% more viewers than last year, the audience is getting older. According to market research firms, the average fan this year was 54.4 years old, up from 49.9 in 2009. Kids age 6 to 17 were only 4.3% of the audience for the League Championship Series this year, compared with 7.4% a decade ago.
Not all of those missing kids are watching baseball on their smartphone apps. In spite of a higher population and 10 million app downloads this year, participation rates are falling: 500 thousand fewer kids are playing Little League now than in the late ‘90s. This isn’t good. Children who grow up playing the game and rooting for the home team are far more likely to be fans as adults.
If baseball were a stock, analysts would approve of its recent performance but worry about its long-term prospects. The sport has to do something to improve mind-share among its future audience. Otherwise, baseball will go the way of boxing—a once great game whose star has faded.
And that would be a shame. Big Papi and those goofy beards deserve better.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer