I’ve been to numerous baseball games and I never really thought too much about when the game starts, but before one game I overheard a fan ask someone why the game was starting at such an odd time. I started thinking about it and I also wasn’t sure why games started at such an odd time. I’m sure lots of fans wonder the same thing so I did some research and I wanted to share some answers I found to the question – why do baseball games start at odd times?
Baseball games start at odd times because of the pregame activities that occur prior to the first pitch, which includes activities like introducing each team, the national anthem, and the ceremonial first pitch. Additionally, the time before a game is a great time for marketing.
Baseball is a unique sport in many ways, but one of the most unusual aspects is the start time of games. Stick around as we expand on each reason why baseball starts at weird times.
1. The Beginning of a Game is a Great Time for Marketing
If a popular team has a sponsorship deal, starting the games a bit late after advertisements is a marketing strategy. Besides advertising, the sports networks also take a few minutes to introduce the game and excite the audience.
Like many other sports, baseball games are broadcasted across multiple television networks for fans to watch. But, if you understand how TV networks work, you should know they make a lot of money through advertising.
Baseball season is an excellent opportunity for marketers to reach a large number of people and for TV networks to capitalize on this audience.
Imagine how many baseball fans across the country are tuned in before the game starts. In TV jargon, they call it “primetime”, and the networks try to squeeze in as many commercials as possible before the game begins.
A baseball game can last about three hours, and the viewership significantly declines during this time. Therefore, these networks must make the most out of the first few minutes before the game begins.
Additionally, the longer the broadcast, the more money a TV network can make from advertising. Taking a few minutes to advertise before the game can equal millions of dollars.
2. Pregame Activities Take Time
Probably the biggest reason games start at odd times is due to all the pregame activities that occur before the first pitch. Many baseball traditions date back to World War II, so they are taken very seriously and allocated the appropriate time. Pregame activities in a baseball game can include the following:
Singing of the National Anthem
Singing the national anthem is a baseball tradition that caught on during the second world war. It was a way of honoring the brave young men serving in the military. This activity can eat up five minutes or more before a game, depending on the teams playing.
For example, if an American team is playing against a Canadian team, each team will sing its national anthem, which consumes more time.
Players do Light Warm Ups Before the Game
Have you ever seen players play catch before the game starts?
This is one of the warmups they do before a game. Players also jog and stretch on the field before the first pitch. Players warm up to get loose and help avoid injuries during the game.
Players are aware of the time and they typically have their own pregame activities to help them get ready for game time. These light casual activities take a few minutes, causing the game to start at an odd time.
Announcement of the Starting Lineup
Announcing each team’s starting lineup before a game is a well-known tradition in baseball games. The PA usually makes the announcement and starts by announcing the players for the visiting team, followed by the home team.
Announcing the starting lineup is a pregame activity that can sometimes take about 5 minutes, which delays that first pitch.
The lineup announcement lets the audience know which players are in the game and gets the crowd excited about the game. If you are paying attention during this time, you will notice the starting lineup for the away team is done in a flat tone while the home team gets an excited and enthusiastic tone. It is a strategy to get the crowd pumped up before the game and it’s an advantage of playing at home.
Honoring Special Guests
It is custom to honor former players retiring their jerseys or celebrate past players who have made it into the Hall of Fame.
If a former player has passed away or is in attendance, it is also a tradition to honor them and celebrate their achievements and presence in the game.
Like other pregame activities, honoring special guests will take a few minutes, which also causes a delay in the start time.
Ceremonial First Pitch
Another long-standing baseball tradition is the ceremonial first pitch. The ceremonial first pitch is what typically marks the end of the pregame activities.
The ceremonial first pitch is usually thrown by a guest of honor who was invited by the home team. This guest of honor can be an essential member of the community, a military member, a former player, or even a president.
President William Howard Taft did the first-ever ceremonial pitch in 1910 on Opening Day. Other presidents who have thrown the first pitch are Franklin Roosevelt, who threw the pitch eight times, Barack Obama in his hometown Chicago, and George W. Bush in 2001 for Game 3 of the World Series.
3. Baseball Tries to Accommodate Working Fans
Baseball games happen almost every day of the week (unlike other sports like football which mainly occur over the weekend). Most people who work on weekdays get off work around 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm in the evening. If the game starts early, most fans will not make it to the stadium or to their televisions to watch the game.
Because a lot of fans work a 9 to 5 job, clubs will intentionally schedule games at odd times to give their fans a chance to make it home or to their seat in the stadium. For example, the Braves moved to SunTrust Park because traffic around that area cleared early, making it easier for their fans to make it to the game.
Getting to the venue is one thing…finding your way to your seat is another! Fans might want to grab food or drinks before getting to their seat, and clubs have all this in mind when scheduling game times.
Clubs usually have some leeway to determine when their home games should start. Therefore, they also consider traffic and weather conditions when deciding to delay a pitch by a few minutes.
Additionally, TV networks prefer later start times because it allows people to get home in time before the game starts. The extra five, seven, or ten minutes before the game gives working fans the time to relax and tune in to the game.