Change the Experience, Not the Game

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I went to an Auburn football game back in 2020 and it was ELECTRIC! The music and energy pulsed the entire game and the jumbo had synced videos of players when said player made plays. It got me thinking about what baseball could be.

When I go to Truist, the energy outside feels like that, before and after the game. The music is blaring, the drummers drumming, the street dancers flat gettin’ it, and the DJs spinning. Entering the stadium, still feels a little like that vibe, but in-game, it all disappears and we’re left with middle-aged white men music blasting in-between innings while we as the regulars are left pondering why the game isn’t growing.

Sure, the players create their own energy with highlights of their own, but that excitement that’s pumped into the Battery doesn’t make it inside the stadium. Atlanta has an amazing history of talented artists that aren’t on CMT, & if we truly want to reach the next generation then we (yes, this includes me), have to adapt. That Auburn game was like one big party and it was GLORIOUS! Change the game by changing the experience. It might be uncomfortable at first, but holy sh*t, the game would benefit greatly.

The Braves have been doing the same dog and pony show inside the gates for years and it doesn’t match up to what they provide before and after the games in the Battery. For me, it’s time to adapt and grow the game and Atlanta should be the team to step out and show what baseball could be for the younger generation.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

23 thoughts on “Change the Experience, Not the Game”

  1. Around the turn of the century they would blast club music almost constantly during breaks in play at the SkyDome. It got so obnoxious that I found myself longing for the quaint organ-only experience I’d had while visiting Dodger Stadium.

    Obviously different things play for different generations. But I’m not sure if “partying-up” baseball is the long-term solution.

  2. @1: Season 4 of Brockmire shows what the future of baseball may look like. It was absurdly over the top but, then again, we all laughed when Roger Dorn sold ad space on the outfield walls in Major League II.

  3. I definitely think this is a great way of livening up the stadium experience. I’m right there with you on that. But it might be lipstick on a pig.

    You can’t be blaring stadium music when they’ve thrown 3 pitches in the last 3 minutes because the pitcher and batter are moving at a snail’s pace, and that’s right after they just threw 3 pitches in the previous 8 minutes because of an inning change, mound visit, and/or pitching change.

    This appears to be the conversation du joir on the Twitters, that the game is “boring”. Ryan’s solution is better music, which I agree with, but my solution is to simply make the game less boring. You’re just simply not going to move the needle in any substantive until you increase the frequency of game action. And the sport absolutely refuses to do so, and that’s a part of the reason why it’s in some of the mess they’re in. Enforce the pitch clock, stay on the rubber, stay in the box, 2 mound visits in the entire game, warm up in the pen and then you get 3 warm up tosses on the actual mound. Could you imagine how much better the game would be if there was some actual urgency. Actual pressure. Something remotely resembling the two-minute drill of football?

    These players are coddled. It’s pathetic. They’re multi-millionaires but so fragile that they can’t work quickly. My time’s valuable too, Mr. Decamillionaire. Stay in the box.

  4. I like this a lot! @1 I don’t know if “partying-up” baseball is necessarily the way I’d describe the changes I’d like to see, for me it’s more about highlighting on the aspects of the game that are exciting, and not suppressing peoples’ excitement with gatekeeping or disdain. I love seeing the vibrant, exuberant energy of this generation of players. I’d encourage all players: wear your pearls, wave your plastic swords, flip your bats, pound your chest, yell “F*** YEAH!” and point to your dugout when you hit a double, wear the chains, pump your fist, swing 3-0 with the bases loaded… crush baseballs and have fun, because that’s what sports fans generally want to see. (This is an entirely different discussion, but it sure does always seem to be minority players who are criticized for their exuberant celebrations… nobody ever called Tyler Matzek a “showboater” or said he’s ruining baseball when he fist-pumped and pirouetted off the field after striking out the side in the NLCS.)

    Life’s too damn short for baseball to be a solemn occasion, and it’s not the batter’s job to worry about the pitcher’s feelings. I’m still in favor of good sportsmanship and classy play, but “class” isn’t synonymous with emotionlessness. Class is Starling Marte going out of his way to collect Max Fried’s walk-off hit and personally delivering it to a Braves player, instead of just running off the field. Class is Freddie Freeman smiling and laughing in disbelief as Rizzo fans him with a gravity ball. Class is Aaron Judge striking out for the third time in a game and going right up on the dugout rail and encouraging his younger teammates instead of sulking by himself or destroying a Gatorade cooler.

    I know a lot of people express the opinion of “showboating is ruining baseball,” but I think telling guys they can’t enjoy themselves is what ruins baseball. I don’t know what exactly Tony La Russa told Yermín Mercedes after he nuked a 3-0 grand slam up by 7 runs, but it pretty much destroyed his confidence and ability to hit. Instead of publicly sticking up for Mercedes and saying “hey, we hired this kid to hit dongshots, I’ll never criticize him for murdering a tater,” La Russa called Yermín “clueless.” Spineless managers who throw their own players under the bus, that’s what ruins baseball.

    I’ve been to a LOT of hockey games, and even at a dinky college, the environment was awesome. The goal horns, the pyrotechnics… the whole place is buzzin’. I for one do not mind if baseball stadiums share that atmosphere! I was at Game 3 against the Brewers, which overall wasn’t a very exciting game (the only scoring play was Joc’s piss missile into the Chop House), but the environment there was awesome. Every strikeout, every double play, felt like a regular-season-Truist homer. I was also in the throng of people in the Battery, right in front of Live!, when Duvall hit the game-5 grand slam, and that was probably the best sports experience of my life. (Now, the next 5 innings or so… not so much.)

    I don’t think baseball itself needs to be changed much in order to make it more exciting; baseball CULTURE, however, has lots of room for improvement. A more energetic stadium experience would be nice, but there’s also times I prefer listening to a game on the radio. Really, though, there’s nothing MLB can do that’s going to keep me away from the ballpark. To quote the famous American philosopher William Frederick Burr, who said this in regards to the NFL: “the commissioner could literally punt a baby across his office, with his wingtips on, and I’m still gonna watch on Sunday.” I intend to be at Truist a couple times a year, and the only thing that can stop that is a guy with a gavel. No matter what Manfred does to the game, it’s still baseball, and it’s still awesome. I just wish people wouldn’t trash players for being excited about playing the game they love.

  5. @4, I like players showing emotion when they do well, and that’s part of what has made this team so much fun to root for over the last few years. However, that doesn’t mean all expressions of emotion are good or all criticism of them is bad. When RAJ shows emotion by stopping to admire his home runs (well, he & Chip thought they were home runs) that hit the wall, he deserves any criticism he gets, as would any other player.

    I was at NLDS game 3 too, and I thought it was exciting for the same reason you didn’t think it was – with not much scoring, it felt like any run might be decisive, so there were lots of crucial-seeming PAs. As you said, the crowd was really into it. I don’t think loud music blaring over the PA system adds to the atmosphere, but I’m probably not in the target demographic.

  6. I’ve been to a LOT of hockey games, and even at a dinky college, the environment was awesome. The goal horns, the pyrotechnics… the whole place is buzzin’.

    But you can do that at a hockey game because it’s a fast-paced game. Doing that at a baseball game is like taking a bullhorn to a funeral.

  7. Random question: how long until the ending of No Time To Die can be discussed? It came out in theaters in October and on BluRay/DVD/streaming in December. Is that fair game? It had a pretty… explosive… ending.

  8. @5 That’s a great point, I totally agree! Celebrating “homers” that end up hitting the wall doesn’t just make you look stupid, it costs you bases.
    I mis-spoke about the NLDS game, I didn’t mean to imply that it was boring; I meant pretty much exactly what you said. Since it was close the whole time, EVERYTHING was exciting. It’s just that there wasn’t a whole lot of “highlight reel” stuff, that’s all I meant by that. I LOVED the game, there was a double play early (2nd or 3rd inning, I think) that just rocked the place. It was awesome. That was also the game that had Chipper Jones drop a pop fly while sitting in the stands; an E5 from the 6th row!

    @6 Yeah, bullhorns ain’t the solution for baseball… although, now that you’ve mentioned it, if there are NOT bullhorns at my funeral I’ll be pretty disappointed!

    (Sort of to both @5 and @6) I’m not sure I’d say “loud music over the PA” is the solution either, I like more energetic crowds too but that energy has to come from people loving baseball, not from music. I like those party environments in the crowd but they have to be authentic, not forced. I really have no idea how to change the stadium experience to make it more “fun,” because you can’t just re-create it from hockey or basketball or anything. College football stadiums are so hyped because you have 85,000 people, with a large segment in their 20s and 30s, with plenty of alcohol, school spirit, and people who just LOVE being there. I don’t know if baseball can be like that, or if it even SHOULD be like that. I guess I’d say: I like it when baseball environments are hyped, and I wish everyone else was as into it (packed stadiums, playoff environment), but I want that to happen because people like baseball, not because the stadium is forcing it over the PA.

  9. For pro football, basketball & hockey, the eye-candy, confetti, music & explosions, etc., is all fine, IMO. Between all the action, make it a KISS concert. Doesn’t bother me.

    I’m a little different when it comes to college football games. Most schools have their own “traditions,” some more recent than others, and I’m cool with whatever they are (even if they’re cowbells or, gulp, “Rocky Top”). For example, when Tom Petty died, UF did a tribute to him & it’s become a nice thing they do at home games now – doesn’t need any explosions, it’s just a singalong. UGA does its cell-phone thing – looks cool, but it’s still relatively low-tech. EZ.

    Although I still attend loud music events for a living… for baseball, I actually prefer a less frantic approach… I’m there for the game & I go to a lot each year… I drink my beer, keep my scorebook, catch up with my buddies… it’s leisurely… I don’t really need the extra ka-booms.

    However, I also understand that, for many, it’s important to get the crowd going. Sad to say, not everyone is there for the baseball alone…

    One of my pals is the DJ for the Mets & Islanders and those franchises place a big premium on entertainment all thru the game – essentially every possible A/V moment is squeezed in… music, games, mascots, giveaways bazooka’d into stands. You wouldn’t believe the prep & behind-the-scenes production that goes into it… so much thought & effort goes into the walk-up music for the visiting team, for example.

    And then, you go across town & the Yanks don’t really go all-out on that front. In fact, they seem to have gotten rid of some of their fan interactions/sing-a-longs; for them, it’s mostly shots of celebs & fans in the stands and Yankee Trivia on the big board. Nothing too crazy, it’s mostly about watching the game & that’s just fine, too.

  10. I’m with Rob on pace of game. But I (predictably) don’t think the main reason the game is slow is “coddled” ballplayers.

    I think a lot of it is the TV ads, and most of the rest is sabermetrics-driven strategy. Groundball outs are a lot faster than three true outcomes. The more walks, strikeouts, and home runs you get, the longer the inning. I don’t think that’s easy for the league to mitigate, and I don’t support NBA-style rules changes like banning the shift.

    I DO support some of the kinds of things the players are proposing to address tanking. By far the worst thing to watch is a team that isn’t trying. If teams are rewarded less for refusing to spend money on the field, maybe we fans will get to see better competition between both teams. Nowadays, at any given point, half the teams in baseball are in various stages of a tanking strategy, or just aren’t trying.

  11. It doesn’t surprise me that this group, for the most part, is against the proposal. Do we see the reason behind why we’d be against it? I’ll reveal the secret…it’s our age. I’m 43 and likely on the younger side of the crew that regularly type in bravesjournal.com several times a day. This isn’t about us, or what we want as fans. I teach at a school where all of the kids, Kindergarten through 12th grade, are in Rock-N-Roll bands. Each band writes an original song and performs a cover song. I’d wager that the percentage of bands that pick pop country as their cover is 1%. The amount that picks pop country from 30 years ago is 0 and that’s because there’s nothing below 0.

    The last time I went to a game, the Braves had a contest to pick the song that would be played in a particular inning. All 3 choices were pop country. I mean, really? What are we doing here? To bring the next generation into the game, you have to give them something and this ain’t it.

    I’m not suggesting that baseball becomes a rock concert, but young people are visually stimulated, hence the jumbotron images of players screaming and/or doing remarkable things. Imagine before Ronald Acuña comes up to bat in a crucial spot, there’s this clip that comes on with the call blasting through the speakers:

    https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1395202511493992448s=20&t=ywF99wXvdr_hHzm1fi1LQg

    Or imagine when Tyler Matzek comes in, this clip goes up, but it’s recreated as a graphic novel.

    This can go on and on, but the point is to give the young ones what they want by stimulating their senses.

    What we see inside the stadium is the same thing that’s been going on for 30 years and there’s been 0 adaptation. There are a lot of people that go to the game because they love it. That’s me. That’s you. However, a lot of us have families now and want to take them to games and it be an enjoyable experience. Enhancing the media choices really helps with that.

  12. I used to care about this stuff, but I care way less now. My only request is that the stuff come bottom up and not top down…. even things I personally dislike. I personally hate The Wave, but at least it starts with fans and not with the stadium personnel. Fans rocking pearls, The Chop (when it started, at least, and the schizophrenia over it today from management makes my point,) handmade signs — acceptable. Cotton Eyed Joe, Let’s Get Loud, Third Down Hells Bells — STFU. I guess it’s the anti-authoritarian in me: if fans are being told what to do, or how to react, I feel like I’m in a Leni Riefenstahl film. And the worst is the ersatz celebration when the same stuff happens for a homer when you’re down 10-1 as when you’re tied. But I certainly agree with ububba that between innings anything goes…. except maybe Cotton Eyed Joe.

  13. Cotton Eyed Joe has a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with me; I do not like the song, I do not like hearing it, but when I DO hear it, it makes me think of Turner Field in the summers of 2007, ’08, ’09, ’10… and many more. Fond memories of hearing that thang, even though it annoys me. I’d love if they stopped playing it! @13 if I don’t see that clip on the jumbotron every time Matzek takes the field for the rest of his career, I’m going to be disappointed.

    Changing the topic, but what do y’all think about MLB’s blatant lying and self-contradicting today? Kinda pisses me off that they’re weaponizing game cancellations.

    To paraphrase what the owners said, per Heyman the puppet: “if we can get a deal done today, we can play 162; if not, we’ll cancel a second week.” If that’s the case, and there’s still a way to play 162 games, why did you need to cancel the first week anyway? It’s DEFINITIVE PROOF that there’s no need to cancel a second week, and that these deadlines are arbitrary bullcrap. And that MLB is lying to us.

  14. @12 No TV ad is telling a player to get out of the box or a pitcher take his time between pitches. The players are doing it to gain an advantage. They think slowing the process down gives them an advantage. And the logic by the pitcher is “Well, if the hitter is doing it, so will I,” and vice versa. There is no one other than the players telling them to take their sweet time.

  15. So I guess the owners have gone to $228M on the CBT with the players wanting $238M.

    I get it, players. A 2.5% increase when revenues continue to soar feels like a slap in the face. But how many teams in a given year go over the threshold? 3-4? So how big of a deal is this? And at this point, it’s clear this isn’t about the players who earn less. Removing the de facto salary cap is meant to increase the earnings of the highest paid players. They already got what they wanted for the lesser earning players with increasing the minimum to $700K and the pool for younger players.

    At what point do they stop missing games? They can say that they got most of everything they wanted already. There’s not a single thing that they asked for that they didn’t see positive steps forward. But in the case of the CBT, I just don’t see the owners going from $220M to $238M in one season and then all the way up to $263M by the end of the CBA.

    Everyone involved in this negotiation are all just a bunch of a-holes.

  16. #16
    Stockholm Syndrome indeed.

    The “Cotton Eye Joe” version played at Yankee Stadium during the 7th-inning stretch in the late-’90s/early-’00s was actually by a Swedish group called Rednex.

    Let that marinate.

  17. You’re right Kasper, I find it darkly amusing how MLB can’t get their stories straight. The reality is they could be playing baseball now under the terms of the previous CBA, so any loss of games is on the owners. But its a nice PR spin job to blame the Union for missing “checks notes” the third “final” deadline. What a bunch of cr*p.

    At least the owners finally moved on the CBT threshold. Why they couldn’t do that two months ago is beyond me. The makings of a deal are there, but it still will require more money for players in the pre-arb pool. We’ll see soon I guess.

    In regards to music, less is better. I go to the park to watch baseball, not have my ears blasted by music I don’t like. And yes I’m in my 40’s, why do you ask?

  18. There is no one other than the players telling them to take their sweet time.

    You think they’re doing it on their own? Mike Hargrove was a manager for 16 years! I would bet that team personnel up and down the minors and majors are telling both pitchers and hitters to take as much time as they like in order to disrupt the timing of the other guy.

  19. I’m 40, but I front a LOUD band and I gig/get out to shows on a regular basis. I don’t have a problem with loud music. I quite like it. (I listen to a lot of the same bands as Alex R it seems). I just don’t require every single one of my experiences to involve it.

    As for pace of play – TV ads is a big part of it. But so is the max-effort mentality that pervades the game. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever. So they need to take longer between pitches. And they don’t last as long in games. So we get more pitching changes. And more ads.

    Batters have to adjust their gloves and go for a stroll between every pitch. To be ready for those insane max-effort pitches. A bad habit that needs to be broken.

    A pitch clock and stay-in-the-box rule might piss off the current players, but the next wave will get used to the new rules and it won’t be a problem.

    These are things that can be fixed. Once the pitchers can’t throw as hard because of the clock, contact (and grounders) will come.

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