Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball's Challenge: Use TV to Lift Image

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baseball's Challenge: Use TV to Lift Image

Article excerpt

Back when Ray Sadecki was a boy around Kansas City - before he pitched for the Cardinals in the 1960s and got his current job as San Francisco minor-league instructor - he fell in love with big-league baseball without having to see a game.

"I would have a game on the radio and I stayed glued to that," Sadecki said. "Now, people watch a game on TV and flip around to other things while it's on. There was something neat about listening to a ballgame. It was so different than sitting back and having seven cameras show you all the different slow-motion angles of a play.

"I'm sure today a young guy flips between innings to another game or to cartoons or some music video. He never really stays with the game."

Don't call Sadecki a fuddy-duddy.

"I understand that's our way of life in America now," he said. "That's not just baseball."

But baseball had better accept the America that soon will be dashing into the 21st century. Television already has influenced baseball in ways good and bad. That might only intensify.

"The fan we're talking about is a young man from the Nintendo generation, and that's not his fault," Sadecki said. "Before, kids wanted to take it all in. Now, for a 10-year-old or 12-year-old, there's no thrill to go to a big-league game. He's already seen 500 on TV.

"He walks in and says, `OK, there's the field. There's the stadium and the seats. Now what?' He'd rather go hang out at the concession stand."

Part of the mission for Ken Schanzer, president and chief executive officer of The Baseball Network, is to entice young fans to the ballpark via television.

Viewed as an indication of baseball's failing health - ratings are down for national telecasts - baseball is seeking television's help to revive the audience.

"I know what people say about baseball: It's too slow, it takes too long to play, you need more equipment and people to play it than other sports," Schanzer said. "We're looking at baseball from the ground up and the way we present it on television. …

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