Pitching Timeliness: Unraveling Why Baseball Games Start at Weird Times

Simon Hagerlund

Pitching Timeliness: Unraveling Why Baseball Games Start at Weird Times

Have you ever glanced at a baseball schedule and raised an eyebrow at the start times? Ever wondered why do baseball games start at weird times? It’s not random; it’s a carefully orchestrated dance between television broadcast obligations and the sacred pregame rituals that have become as much a part of the sport as the seventh-inning stretch. The clock may read 7:08 pm or 9:38 pm, and while it might seem odd, there’s method to the madness.

The Game Before The Game: Pregame Rituals Explained

The prelude to any baseball game is a spectacle in itself. It’s a time-honored sequence of events that both players and fans look forward to. The national anthem reverberates through the stadium, players limber up with stretches and warmups, and a lucky guest often takes the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. All these activities are steeped in tradition and serve to ramp up the excitement before the first official pitch is thrown.

But these rituals take time—often up to an hour. They’re not just for show; they’re essential for players to prepare mentally and physically. And for the fans, they’re a crucial part of the immersive experience. The anticipation builds as the clock ticks closer to the official start, but the game won’t begin until the pregame pageantry has had its moment in the sun.

Prime Time Play: Television’s Grip on Baseball Schedules

Television networks have a stronghold on the scheduling of baseball games. It’s a symbiotic relationship; the sport needs the exposure and revenue that comes from being broadcast into millions of homes, and the networks need engaging content to attract viewers and advertisers. The times at which games start are often aligned with hourly or half-hourly slots—prime real estate for advertisers who pay a premium for these spots.

This strategy ensures a captive audience for commercials just before the excitement of the first pitch. It’s a lucrative game of timing, with networks aiming to maximize advertising revenue. This is why games start at seemingly arbitrary times like 6:05 pm instead of on the hour. Those extra minutes are gold for broadcasters and advertisers alike.

Beyond the Broadcast: Other Factors Influencing Game Times

While TV plays a significant role, it’s not the only factor at play. Consideration for the fans pouring in after a long day at work leads to later start times, ensuring they don’t miss the opening act. Historical traditions also dictate certain game times, with afternoon games on weekends and evenings during the week.

The 2021-22 MLB Lockout had its impact too, with the delayed start to the season causing a ripple effect in scheduling. Every minute of game time is precious, and the league works hard to ensure that not a moment is wasted. Thus, the start times are a careful balance between honoring tradition and adapting to the modern demands of broadcasting and fan convenience.

When Mother Nature Calls the Shots: Weather and Delays

Sometimes, the best-laid plans of mice and men are laid to waste by the weather. A clear sky can turn stormy, and suddenly, the start time is at the mercy of Mother Nature. Rain, snow, and even extreme heat can delay the first pitch, as player safety and field conditions take precedence.

Stadium preparations are also subject to the whims of the weather. Grounds crews work tirelessly to ensure the field is in perfect condition, which can sometimes lead to a later start. It’s a delicate balance between the elements and the clock, with the latter often taking a backseat when the weather decides to intervene.

The Choreography of Baseball Scheduling

The history of baseball scheduling is a dance between the sport, its corporate sponsors, and the TV networks. It’s a choreography that has evolved over time, with the current standard of off-the-hour scheduling now a hallmark of the modern baseball experience.

Corporate sponsors and TV networks have shaped this landscape, creating a schedule that optimizes the broadcast for viewers at home and the experience for fans in the stands. It’s a testament to baseball’s ability to adapt and thrive, ensuring that America’s pastime continues to capture the hearts of new generations.

The next time you see a baseball game slated to start at an unconventional time, remember the intricate web of factors at play. From the pregame festivities to the power of television and the unpredictability of the weather, each game’s start time is a carefully considered decision. It’s a blend of tradition and commerce, ritual and revenue, all coming together to make every game a unique event, starting at a time that, while it may seem weird, is anything but arbitrary.

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