Baseball has been played on the same size diamond with the same positions since its earliest inceptions began captivating the country around the turn of the twentieth century. Unlike football and basketball, two sports that have surpassed baseball in the national eye, the game today looks much like it has since its creation. Watch a video from the 1950’s, and if you can look beyond the grainy black and white screen, you will see a game that looks very much like the one that is still played out in Major League stadiums across the country.
This connection with the past permeates every single aspect of the game, right down to the promotional videos produced by the league’s marketing office. Nearly every single promotional spot created in the past decade contains at least one element that hearkens back to the “Glory Days” of baseball, be it footage or production value meant to lend an air of antiquity. I love footage of Willie Mays making a basket catch or Henry Aaron passing Babe Ruth, but the game is clearly losing its foothold with the younger generations whose parents may not have been born when either of those two were playing.
Baseball’s latest promotional spot finally breaks free of this trend, and the result is a powerful message, “Baseball’s best is yet to come.” Voiced by one of the best baseball men of all time, Buck Showalter, this welcome break from tradition is a fast-paced, modern introduction to the game’s best players. It shows baseball as a kinetic, rapidly moving sport, with rapidly spliced action shots. It shows Mike Trout without having to compare him to Mickey Mantle or David Price to Bob Gibson.
Where this promo also make a break from its most recent brethren is in failing to mention “the face of baseball,” at least not implicitly. You can make an argument for each of the players shown in the video as the public face of the game, but why does there need to be just one? As fans, we are blessed with a chance to watch 50 special athletes each time we go to the ballpark. On any given night, each of the 750 players cited by Showalter can be the hero, and it is a treat to watch each of them play. It is not the one face, but rather the 749 others that make up the sport what it is.
Baseball’s backward-looking ways may appeal to some, but they do not appeal to the most crucial fans — the young who will teach their kids about the game. Yes, I will one day tell my children about seeing Cal Ripken Jr. play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but I also want to instill in them a healthy love for the best currently playing the game. Nostalgia dulls away the worst part of every memory and looking at baseball through a time warped prism gives today’s viewer an impression that what is on the field right now will never be as good as the past. To keep young people from actually believing that and turning away from the game of baseball, this much needed breath of fresh air and an absolute grand slam by Major League Baseball. These are indeed the good old days for Major League Baseball!
Take a second to watch the video below: