With the heat of the summer upon the Midwest, my friends and I try to play a game of pick up baseball every day at noon at our local field.
It’s been a tradition ever since high school started, and I am very glad we’ve continued to play once everyone got back from college.
Baseball has been in my family’s life, really my whole town’s life, since I could remember. My grandpa was the head coach and my uncle was a player on Highland’s (my hometown) first team to make it to the Little League World Series, where they placed fourth.
I’ve played baseball ever since I could walk.
I stopped playing organized baseball after Little League because of how politicized it had gotten in my town and moved on to focusing on soccer and tennis, but I never (and have never) stopped playing baseball.
Despite me deciding to not play organized baseball, my love for the game has only grown. I continue to make trips up to Chicago to see the Cubs lose, and I will even be going to up to Milwaukee to see a few Brewers games.
While I still continue to play and focus my attention on baseball, the younger kids have stopped.
The Little League in my town has only seven teams at the “Major League” level. The Babe Ruth League that comes after Little League has only four teams.
Just six years ago, when I was in Little League, we had no problem filling up 10-12 teams. We had some of the best talent in the county and even the state. That’s because my generation of kids played a game of baseball or even a simple game of catch in our front yard nearly every single day if the weather permitted.
But kids just aren’t playing baseball anymore.
It’s not just happening in my town. It’s also happening nationwide.
Little League participation has decreased a whopping 24% from 2000-2009. The amount of high school baseball programs in the country has remained steady, but with fewer kids picking up a bat and mitt, you have to assume that number will decrease in the future.
The days of kids playing catch in their front yard are about over too, and it’s saddening to me.
While youth participation in baseball decreases year-by-year, youth participation in hockey (which is great to see) and football has grown 38% and 21% respectively.
Studies are being done right now to find out exactly why fewer children are playing baseball. While I love to see any sports program grow, if there’s one sport that shouldn’t be marginalized, it’s baseball.