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Volume 26 No. 5
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Baseball Participation Rates Jump Again, Particularly Among Casuals

Casual play for baseball has grown 49.1% and baseball has added 2.5 million new participants
Photo: Getty Images

Participation in baseball has again posted sizable gains, according to new data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Measures for '17 showed baseball participation grew 6% overall and 12.9% for casual participation. That follows 7.7% and 18.4% growth, respectively, in ’16. Over a three-year span -- a period roughly corresponding with the implementation of MLB's Play Ball youth participation effort -- casual play for baseball has grown 49.1%, and baseball has added 2.5 million new participants. MLB Exec VP/Baseball & Softball Development Tony Reagins said, "The upticks we’re continuing to see are really encouraging. When you look at casual play in particular and the numbers of new people playing, that indicates a real level of engagement and that they are touching our game. And what that ideally translates to is the beginning of a lifelong period of fandom.”

ALL-AROUND EFFORT: MLB has brought in numerous partners to assist with Play Ball, including MLB teams, MiLB, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Little League Baseball & Softball, as well as MLB sponsors Scott’s, Chevrolet, Nathan’s and Kingsford. Numerous youth engagement efforts involving this wider group are planned for this spring and summer including a return to Williamsport, Pa., to stage a regular season MLB game parallel to the Little League World Series. The growth measures in overall participation for baseball outstrip that for any other major sport, including basketball (+4.7%), lacrosse (+3.9%), soccer (-0.1%), tackle football (-4.7%) and ice hockey (-5.7%).