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An argument for the Minor Leagues for the skeptics out there

You don’t have to have a personal connection to MiLB for it to be important for baseball fans

South Bend Cubs vs. Lansing Lugnuts, July 29, 2019
Al Yellon

In the last few pieces I’ve written about Major League Baseball’s plans to restructure Minor League Baseball (in a transparent attempt to squeeze a few dollars out of their substantially less profitable subsidiaries, but I digress) I’ve noticed a running trend. Quite a few of you have commented with remarks like ‘this isn’t a big deal to me,” or “I just can’t get all that worked up about this.”

Well, I hear you. In fact, I’ll be perfectly clear — I don’t have a personal story of how MiLB changed my fandom or anything like that. My love of baseball was solidified in games with the neighbors in our yards growing up and Little League fields in Carbon County, Utah. I didn’t see a Minor League Baseball game until I was in college, long after I’d fallen in love with the Cubs on WGN. However, all of our stories are a bit different so I posted on Twitter to see what relationship, if any, the baseball fans I follow had to MiLB.

I got a lot of great responses that I am going to share with you all below, but the biggest takeaway from the thread is that the extensive presence of Minor League Baseball in America is only helpful for increasing the number of baseball fans. What I mean by this is there wasn’t a single reply to my thread that indicated the presence of a Minor League team was harmful to someone’s formative baseball experience. Minor League Baseball is only positive or neutral in terms of creating new fans, which means limiting Minor League Baseball can only be a net negative for the overall popularity of the sport.

Let’s let the fans speak for themselves, here is a sampling of the dozens of responses I received:

Admittedly, this isn’t scientific. And I will admit I got a handful of responses like the one below:

But I took some time to follow up with a few of those responses and noticed a trend, specifically those were fans who had a lot of access to MLB, either through TV or proximity. They weren’t averse to farm systems or MiLB, it just didn’t factor into their fandom, sort of like my own story above:

The superstation age that allowed so many of us to become fans of the Cubs and the Braves is long gone, and despite mountains of evidence that those stations created generations of baseball fans, we seem to be stuck with the flailing regional sports network model that chokes off access for so many fans. I mean seriously, can you imagine anything worse than loving baseball and living in Iowa?

MLB Blackout Map

People become fans of baseball when they have access to it. Access requires a number of elements, including, but not limited to, affordability, proximity and knowledge of the game. Minor League Baseball boosts access for thousands of would-be fans each year and for a sport that claims to want to grow its fanbase, it’s an unfathomably bad idea to further limit access to baseball.