For most sports, you expect the game to start at a simple time, like at the start of the hour or thirty minutes past. When it comes to baseball, though, the games always seem to be scheduled to begin at times like 6:08 or 3:07, rather than at 6:00 or 3:00. Have you ever wondered: Why does baseball start at odd times?
There are a number of reasons why baseball starts at odd times, but it is mainly down to the needs of the TV networks that are broadcasting the games and the general preamble that comes before the first pitch can be thrown. Advertising, fan recognition, the National Anthem, warming up, and various other pregame rituals need to happen before the game can actually begin.
Read ahead in this article to fully understand why you almost never see a baseball game start at a straightforward time, and how television in particular has affected when you actually start watching some proper baseball.
Why Doesn’t Baseball Start At Normal Times?
For most of us, quite a bit of planning goes into important game days. We schedule work and mealtimes, prepare snacks and drinks, and get our friends together in preparation for the big event, and we don’t want to miss a second of it. There are few sports that require as big of a time commitment as MLB – the average game lasts for over three hours!
Why is it, then, that the games themselves never seem to be set to start at a reasonable time? They’re always scheduled to begin at some strange minute past the hour, so you have to be a bit careful not to miss the beginning.
It’s all to do with everything that happens before the game actually starts.
Although you might sit down in front of the television (or find your seat in the stands) at around the hour mark, the actual first pitch won’t be thrown until quite a few minutes later. There are a lot of important pregame activities that occur, as well as some less essential rituals and formalities that often take place too.
Those odd start times also have a pretty positive benefit for the fans as it allows you to get yourself situated and sort things out without missing any of the action, even if you are running slightly late or find yourself caught up with something else for a moment.
What Pregame Activities Happen Before Baseball Can Begin?
While we always want to maximize the amount of time that baseball is actually being played, there are a lot of things that need to happen (or want to happen) before everything can get underway.
Some of them have more of an impact on the actual game itself than others, but they all take a bit of time to complete. The common pregame rituals and activities tend to include:
- National Anthem: Almost every baseball game will begin with the National Anthem, which might be played from a recording but is often performed live. For international games, the National Anthems of both teams are performed.
- Warming Up and Stretching: Before any game, the players will need to do a light warm-up and some stretching to prevent injury and improve recovery times.
- Fan and/or Player Recognition: There may well be special events that the teams or venue will want to acknowledge – like an anniversary, retirement, or celebration for a player or a fan in the stands. If a former player has passed, everyone will observe a moment of silence.
- Ceremonial First Pitch: The actual first pitch is often preceded by the ceremonial first pitch, which is a bit of traditional fun. This is generally a way of acknowledging and honoring a special guest.
- Line-up Announcement/Commentary: There will always be some commentary that gets you ready for the game, including the announcement of the players that will be on the field and in the dugout for both teams.
Of course, there is also all of the advertising and TV pregame footage to watch as well.
Why Has TV Broadcasting Changed Baseball Start Times?
So, we can completely understand that there are a lot of things that need to happen before the proper baseball can begin, but why is that moment not set at a sensible time? Couldn’t the preamble and pregame start 20 minutes earlier and then get everything ready to start as close to the hour as possible?
This is where the TV companies factor in.
The very beginning of any sports broadcast (particularly one as popular as baseball) is when they will have the most eyes on the screen, so this time is incredibly valuable to the network. They want you glued to every second – including everything that happens in the pregame.
It is much more convenient for the network to schedule all of their programming to begin on the hour, so that every other bit of television (and importantly, every bit of advertising) can fit comfortably around it.
To make sure that you don’t miss any of the advertisements, or any part of the broadcast, the network starts their planned showing of the game at the sensible time that you would expect the game itself to begin. They want you to sit down at 6:00 and watch everything that happens before the first pitch at 6:07.
If you ever go to a game that is not being aired on television, you won’t necessarily see them publishing the same strange start times.
Why Does Advertising Affect Baseball Start Times?
It can feel a little bit like the National Pastime is overly controlled by advertising, to the point where players and spectators alike end up waiting around and watching a bunch of marketing and promotion for all sorts of seemingly unrelated things.
Realistically, though, it is the advertising that allows us to watch the game in the way that we do.
TV networks do their best to please their advertisers by making sure they have as many eyes on the screen as possible during the pre-game ad break because it means that they will pay a much higher price to be featured in that slot.
That money is how the network can afford to dedicate multiple hours of their daily schedule to a single game, cover a huge number of games throughout the season, and fund the commentary, camerawork, presentation, and everything else that goes into broadcasting the games that we love.
If it weren’t for advertising, we wouldn’t see anywhere near as many games on our TVs. In many countries, it is only high-profile professional games that are broadcast at all. You will almost never see footage of university-level sports in other parts of the world – even for incredibly popular games like soccer.
Are Baseball Start Times Different To Other Sports?
There are quite a few reasons, then, that help to explain why baseball starts at such odd times, but are other sports scheduled in the same way?
Some sports have similar start times to baseball, for the same reasons, but other sports organize their broadcasting a little differently. They might have a separate start time for the programming and the beginning of the game itself that fits with a TV schedule, or they might arrange the broadcast to fit the game rather than the other way around.
If you are interested in some of the sports that are more popular in other parts of the world, then you will probably have noticed that games tend to actually start at more straightforward hours.
Soccer matches and rugby games, for example, usually have a “kick-off” time that seems to make more sense: like 6:00 or 3:30. This is partly because of how many viewers will be watching from different countries around the world.
It makes it a lot easier for fans in many different time zones to know when they need to tune in if the time is set at an hour or half-hour point.
Do Other Sports Have Less Preamble Before The Game?
With that being said, the “more convenient” start times of a lot of international sporting events definitely does not mean that less is going on before the game begins.
Instead, most tv networks for these games will start their programming well in advance of the actual start time, to make room for commentary, announcements, advertising, national anthems, and anything else that needs to happen before kick-off.
You often find that the programming for soccer or rugby games begins half an hour or an hour before the game actually starts.
Equally, the straightforward start times of a lot of sports games are rarely stuck to religiously. Most games don’t begin the second the clock ticks over, and delays are an expected part of the process. You often find that by the time the ball starts moving, it’s actually just as odd of an hour as you would expect for baseball!
Summary: Why Does Baseball Start At Odd Times?
So, why does baseball start at odd times? Well, it’s because of all of the things that need to happen before the game can begin, combined with the scheduling needs of the TV network that is broadcasting the action.
There are many rituals, activities, announcements, and more than occur before the actual first pitch, and the start of the game is organized so that you are around for all of it. These events are also scheduled around the way that TV networks broadcast the game itself, and the advertising that funds it.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The odd start times of baseball games give you a chance to settle in for the fun and allow you to be a little late without missing anything important.