Baseball, Softball Combine To Rank As Most Participated Team Sport In '16
Baseball and softball "combined to rank as the most participated team sport" in '16, according to a Sports & Fitness Industry Association report cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. SFIA President & CEO Tom Cove said that "equally important from baseball’s perspective" is that the sport "showed growth in both casual and core participation over one-, three- and five-year periods at a time when the trends in other team sports are less encouraging." MLB Senior VP/Youth Programs Tony Reagins said, "The narrative that you hear is, ‘Decline, decline, decline.' To see the numbers where they are, it’s really exciting. And we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep pushing and try to get more kids playing." Rosenthal reports the participation increase "almost certainly stems from MLB’s 'Play Ball' initiative," which the sport launched in June '15 in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, USA Baseball and USA Softball. The goal of the initiative was to "inspire young people to play the game, even if just in a casual form." Cove said that the SFIA report is "based on the findings of a survey research company that conducts 25,000 interviews, half with individuals, half with households." Respondents are "asked about participation in 118 different physical activities, ages 6 and up." The results are then "weighted appropriately to determine a nationally representative sample." The report said that casual participation in the sport showed an average annual growth of 6.5% over five years, 10.7% over three years and 18.1% from '15 to '16. The trend in core participation "was the same, though with less dramatic increases" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/18).