Baseball games start at weird times. You will often see games start at five minutes after the hour, like at 1:05 or 7:05. You may even see a baseball start time of 7:07 or 7:08 or something random like that. Why do baseball games start at odd times?
Baseball games start at odd times due to pregame festivities and television contracts. Baseball stadiums will usually start pregame festivities at the top of the hour. This also provides television broadcasts 5-10 minutes to do a game introduction and get in a commercial break before first pitch.
Pregame festivities and television broadcast policies differ from team to team. Below we discuss specifics as to why games start at weird times in Major League Baseball.
Why Do Baseball Games Start at Odd Times?
Baseball games start at weird times for two main reasons:
- Allow time for pregame festivities such as national anthems and a ceremonial first pitch
- Allow television broadcast time for game introductions and a commercial break prior to first pitch
Pregame Festivities in baseball can include things such as:
- National Anthems – Games in Toronto have to do two separate anthems.
- Ceremonial First Pitch – A ceremonial first pitch is usually thrown out by a fan or special member of the community to recognize their social impact.
- Player Introductions – This is usually done on the video board and can last a couple minutes.
- Fan or Player Recognition – This will include special player achievements or recognizing a player from the past or recognizing a fan or family from the community.
Weird start times such as 7:05 or 7:08 allow baseball teams to start pregame festivities at the top of the hour. This does not fully explain why baseball starts games at weird times like 7:08 when other sports (who also have national anthems and other pregame festivities) don’t.
Nevertheless, these weird start times do allow a window of time for these pregame festivities to be started at the top of the hour and to be completed before first pitch.
Television broadcasts benefit from odd start times like 7:08. This is likely the main reason why baseball starts games at weird times.
A start time of 7:08 allows for a television broadcast to begin at 7:00 and do a quick game introduction, then get in a full commercial break before first pitch.
Viewership at the beginning of a game is larger than at most any other point in a game. Time to do a quick introduction and a commercial break can be very valuable.
Baseball has struggled in recent years with declining interest among fans (read here why baseball is so boring to some fans). The late start can help the broadcasts sneak in a commercial break while fans are engaged.
Another reason baseball games may start at weird times like 7:05 or 7:08 is to help accommodate the after-work crowd that is trying to get to the stadium.
Baseball, unlike football, has many games on a 162-game schedule that are played on weeknights. This means a large majority of the crowd in attendance must leave work and scramble to get to the game on time an hour or two later.
Having a start time of 7:08 is a way of building in a handful of extra minutes for someone who has it set in their mind that the game starts at “7:00” to get to the game and into their seats prior to first pitch.
Do Baseball Games Start on Time?
So, despite the odd starting times, do games even start on time? The answer is no, not all the time. It is quite common for a baseball game to start a minute or two after its scheduled start time. This again is usually due to pregame festivities or may include a pregame discussion between umpires and managers that delay the first pitch.
How Long Do Baseball Games Usually Last?
In 2018, the average game lasted 3 hours and 4 minutes. Baseball has drawn criticism from fans for the length of Major League Baseball games.
There are several things that make games last a long time, and several steps that Major League Baseball is taking to try and shorten the length of games. Check out our article here that covers these issues.
Why Do Baseball Games Start So Late?
Baseball games start late due to time zone differences. If you are on the east coast and your favorite team is playing on the west coast, this will cause a 7:00 pm game (on the west coast) to start at 10:00 pm in your eastern time zone. This can be very aggravating to many fans who cannot stay up that late to watch their favorite team.
Also, world series and playoff games may start at odd, late times. Some games don’t start until after 8:00 pm eastern time zone. This is because Major League Baseball and television networks are attempting to capture the prime-time attention of all the major US time zones, and have decided a late eastern time zone start is the best opportunity to capture both an eastern time zone viewer and a pacific time zone viewer.
Do Other Sports Start at Odd Times?
For the most part, professional basketball and football have much more standard start times than Major League Baseball. The NFL may stagger its Sunday afternoon slate to start at the top of the hour, 15 minutes past the hour, and 30 minutes past the hour. This subsequently also staggers the end of games and can allow a viewer to watch live the completion of more than just one game.
2018 MLB TV Ratings
Major League Baseball saw a 2% increase in ratings compared to 2017. Major League Baseball has struggled to engage younger fans and has come under scrutiny for the length of games and the slow pace of play during games. Baseball has taken active strides to make their sport more enjoyable and relatable to average fans. Despite this being only a small increase in TV ratings, Major League baseball is sure to take this small win and hope that it is a sign that perception may be changing in a positive way towards the sport.
We discussed earlier some pregame festivities that surround baseball, but what about post-game festivities? What are some things that teams do after the game is complete?
The most common is post-game fireworks. These are very popular and almost always occur on weekends (and 4th of July). Teams use firework promotions to get fans to bring the family to the ballpark.
Teams also may allow fans to run the bases after occasional games. Music concerts may also take place on the field after some Major League Baseball games.
Most teams will also have an in-stadium post game show for the television network that carries their games. These post-game shows will often have a live set in the stadium where fans can watch. This may attract some fans to stick around after the game.