Dear Major League Baseball,
I am writing to express my concern for the future of the game of baseball. I would like to preface this letter by admitting that I live in Alabama, the heart of college football country, and that I don’t know what it’s like living in cities like New York or Boston or Houston or somewhere else where baseball matters more than it does here. Nevertheless, I’m worried.
Recently, I asked a buddy of mine—who by no means is a dunce on American sport—to name just one Major League Baseball player. Just one. After stammering for several seconds he could not produce a soul. That alone should probably concern you.
Here in Alabama, I talk to so few people who still watch baseball, even fewer who are baseball fanatics like myself. They say things like, “I can’t watch it.” “Too slow.” “Boring.” “Can’t watch a full nine innings.”
While that may be true, I believe the main reason people don’t watch baseball is that they don’t know the players. Last night, the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in an overtime thriller. Folks tuned in because they wanted to watch Tom Brady. Everyone in the country knows who Tom Brady is. Heck, my mom, who doesn’t even turn the TV on, really, knows who Tom Brady is.
The same cannot be said for Major League Baseball. Who in Major League Baseball is the equivalent of Tom Brady, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, James Harden, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Stephen Curry? That’s right—no one.
Back in the day, baseball players were the uber-famous. Mantle. Ruth. Rose. Mays. They married Marilyn Monroe and dined at the Copacabana. Kids from Butte, Montana, to Clermont, Florida, idolized them.
Our country doesn’t fawn over baseball players like we used to. Why is that?
Americans won’t watch the game if they don’t know the players. And right now, America doesn’t know the players. So this is my suggestion to Commissioner Rob Manfred: do a better job promoting your most exciting ballplayers. If you do that, people will tune in again, I promise.
That said, here are five players who will make people want to watch baseball again:
Outfield, Cincinnati Reds
The tongue-wagging left fielder who was recently traded to the Reds always seems to put on a show. His passion for the game is evident, his delivery is often unorthodox. From licking his bat to assaulting second base with a head-first slide, Yasiel Puig is a thrill on the diamond.
Right field, New York Yankees
The first thing you’ll notice about Aaron Judge is his immense size. At 6’7”, 282, he’s the largest position player in the history of baseball. An entire outfield section in Yankee Stadium—called the “Judge’s Chambers”—is dedicated to him. In his first season, Judge belted 52 home runs. That’s more than Babe Ruth.
Center field, Los Angeles Angels
Trout is the closest thing MLB has to LeBron James. Largely considered the best all-around player in the game, Trout gets less recognition because he’s stationed on the outskirts of L.A. in Anaheim, versus downtown, where the stars come out in droves. He also shuns the spotlight, preferring to remain inconspicuous and quiet. But his greatness alone makes him worth watching. He’s part of a handful of players that make you stop what you are doing and tune in for his at-bat.
Right field, Free agent
If any player on the list could be a rock star, Bryce Harper is it. First, he’s got the hair. Second, he’s got the face. And third, he’s got the swagger. Last year, Harper sported an American flag bandana/headband as he captured the Home Run Derby. After crushing the winning home run into the outfield bleachers, he performed a two-hand bat flip that made the Washington Nationals home crowd go literally insane.
Pitcher, Washington Nationals
Scherzer is the workhorse of the group. On any given night, the sweat dripping from the bill of his low-profile cap evidences his seriousness. Fiery, intense, and good are words that aptly describe him, and his physical appearance reminds me of the old baseball players of old—the Waner brothers or even Honus Wagner. His nervous ticks, though more subtle, allude to those of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. As Southerners might say, “he’s a sight to behold.”
So there you have it, Major League Baseball. These are your most promotable stars.
It’s up to you to make sure America knows who they are.
Cover photo of Aaron Judge courtesy New York Yankees
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