The Case For An Annual Major League Baseball Game In Nebraska

The Case For An Annual Major League Baseball Game In Nebraska


A couple of months ago Omaha hosted its first ever Major League Baseball game. The game pitted the Detroit Tigers against the Kansas City Royals and Nebraska's own Alex Gordon. The game attracted a sellout crowd of 25,454 to TD Ameritrade Park, even though Gordon was sidelined due to injury. And given this strong showing, as well as the MLB's growing tendency to hold showcase games (after all, the Yankees and Red Sox played an abbreviated series in London this summer), it seems fair to ask: Is there a case for Nebraska to host an annual MLB game?

Based on the Royals-Tigers game alone, the answer is a resounding yes. Naturally the sellout crowd was impressive - per ESPN, 12 MLB teams currently average fewer than 25,454 fans per game. And the fact that this was accomplished with two teams at the bottom of the standings - the Royals having had a 21-46 record, and the Tigers 25-39 - made it even more noteworthy. Indeed, the current projections in the MLB have both teams well out of the playoff picture, and facing virtually impossible odds to climb back into it. In other words, this wasn't exactly the Yankees (who are favored by some betting firms to win the World Series) and Red Sox (a potential playoff team) in London. And yet, again, TD Ameritrade Park was packed to capacity - likely speaking more to the surrounding area's interest in professional baseball than the quality or meaning of the matchup.

That said, Nebraskans' love of the Royals also clearly had something to do with the event's success. According to an interesting, in-depth look at MLB fandom on a geographical basis, the Royals are (bizarrely) second only to the Atlanta Braves when it comes to having out-of-state fans. Despite playing in Missouri, it's clear that the Royals have substantial fan bases in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and, yes, Nebraska. This would seem to prove two things relevant to the question of putting an annual showcase in the Cornhusker State: first, that baseball is popular even in states without their own teams, and second that Nebraska, specifically, loves its baseball (and particularly the Royals).

That the MLB could hold a game or two in Nebraska every year really doesn't seem in doubt. It might be a minor logistical hassle, but it's perfectly doable and canna clearly be successful. The next question would be whether or not the game would have to feature the Royals every year to match the sellout potential established this summer. Our take is that it certainly couldn't hurt for the Royals to be involved, at least more often than not - but Nebraska has baseball roots well beyond MLB fandom as well. Keep in mind, for instance, that this state is the home of the College World Series, which makes baseball a fairly big deal years in and year out, regardless of which schools are involved.

Royals GM Dayton Moore, in fact, has made note of the baseball culture in Nebraska beyond his own team's showcase. "Omaha is an unbelievable baseball town', Moore was quoted as saying in a story that ran this summer. “Baseball has been celebrated there for many years. Not only is it home for the College World Series, but during that period of time, they have three to four weeks of youth league tournaments and games. It's really a magical baseball place, and you have kids of all ages, they play baseball during the day and go to the College World Series at night." The same article went on to argue Omaha is the “capital of the non-big-league-baseball universe,” a testament to baseball’s deep roots in the state.

Really, when you read and look back on all of this at once, it starts to seem odd that Nebraska doesn't have its own MLB team already. In lieu of expansion though (which is very unlikely anytime in the near future), an annual showcase or two would seem like a terrific idea. 

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