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The Major League Baseball season is in full swing again. With the NFL season still months away and the NBA and NHL playoffs just wrapped up, MLB dominates the summer schedule for fans of the “Big Four” professional sports leagues.
While baseball has the summer months all to itself, in recent years sports pundits have noted signs that general interest in the game is waning. These commentators often cite drop in television ratings for national broadcasts as a signal of baseball’s backward position in American life. By this measure, baseball pales in comparison to the NFL ratings dominance and the NBA growing popularity with younger viewers.
But concerns about baseball’s status as a national pastime miss the point that baseball remains hugely popular in local markets. MLB has much higher full presence in person than any other sports league due to its longer season, regularly attracting more than 70 million fans a year, and that remains a strong draw for regional tv shows. Perhaps most importantly, baseball’s long history as the oldest professional sport in the United States has made MLB franchises an important part of the social and cultural life of many American cities. In baseball-obsessed places like Boston or St. Louis, the home team and the city can seem almost synonymous.