Why do Major League Baseball Games Start at Odd Times?

Why do Major League Baseball Games Start at Odd Times?

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If you happen to be an avid baseball fan, you may have noticed that all Major League Baseball games seem to start at odd times.  For example, why is it that baseball games start at 7:05 or 7:08 instead of the standard 7:00?  Why does there always seem to be that typical 5-to-8-minute delay?

Major League Baseball games start at odd times for the following reasons:

  • Traditional Pregame Activities
  • Player Warmups and Stretching
  • Announcement of Starting Lineups
  • Honoring a Special Former Player, Fan, or Military Service Member
  • TV Network Contract Obligations (*Biggest reason*)
  • Provides the Working Fans Extra Time

To learn more about the odd start times in Major League Baseball, as well as a full breakdown of the reasons for these weird start times, keep reading!

What are some of the traditional Pregame activities for baseball?

Baseball is a game that is built on traditions.  A great deal of these traditions take place before the first pitch of the game. For example, the National Anthem is sung before each MLB game which usually takes about 5 minutes of time.  Also, a pregame prayer or moment of silence is observed before the game begins.  All of these things tend to delay the game’s start time by a few minutes.

The singing of America’s National Anthem before each Major League Baseball game has been a long-standing tradition.  This pregame activity became popular during World War II as a way of honoring folks that were serving in the military.  Some baseball purists believe that the first National Anthem was sung during the 7th inning stretch of the 1918 World Series.  However, other baseball historians believe the first National Anthem was sung in 1897 for Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Also, during special events the start time of a baseball game may get delayed.  Baseball teams love to honor their past players and often use some minutes before the game to do this. This often occurs if a baseball team’s former player was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The team often gives players and their families a framed jersey and the crowd responds with cheers and a standing ovation.

Why do MLB players warm up and stretch before games?

Players engage in some light jogging and various full body stretches to help prevent any injuries.  All baseball players engage in pregame warmup activities a few minutes prior to the first pitch.  Players will play light games of catch to gradually warm up their throwing arms. As we have discussed in a previous blog post, many hitters like to play casual games of Pepper before the game starts to get their eyes used to seeing the ball.

Why do they announce the starting lineup before every game?

The PA Announcer for the home team will always go over the starting lineups for each team before the game. This also tends to take around 5 minutes of time which often delays the first pitch.  The starting lineups are announced primarily to inform the fans of who is playing that day and also to get the crowd pumped up for the game!

How does the home team honor a special guest such as a particular fan or military service member?

The home teams usually ask an “honorary guest” to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game starts.  Most of the time this honorary guest is a former player, a special fan who has down good work in the community, or a military service member who has fought for the country. 

Also, the current presidents at the time have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch during MLB’s rich history.  William Howard Taft started this tradition way back in 1910 when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to celebrate Opening Day for the Washington Senators.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt threw out a ceremonial first pitch a record 8 times!

What are the most common start times for a Major League Baseball game?

Though there is not necessarily a most common start time for a baseball game, some of the most frequently used start times are 7:05, 7:08, and 7:15 (these examples are Eastern Standard Time).  This cadence is repeated every hour until the West Coast games start in the Pacific Standard Time Zone. America has 4 unique time zones of Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific so that is why start times of baseball games tend to vary so much. 

Also, Major League Baseball schedules lots of day games, especially on the weekends.  Popular weekend start times are 1:05, 1:07, 1:10, and 1:15.  The Chicago Cubs are famous for often scheduling more day games than any other Big-League team.  This is a big tradition for the Cubs because for the longest time their home stadium of Wrigley Field did not have lights!

What is the biggest reason why MLB games start at odd times?

Though the above reasons are all valid, the biggest reason MLB games start at odd times is due to TV contract obligations.  Here are a couple reasons why the TV networks want to start the baseball games at odd times.

  • Commercial break– The beginning of a baseball game is often when the most fans are watching the game on TV. The television networks and their team of executives know that this is a prime time to run their best commercials for their highest paying advertising clients. 

Viewership often declines sharply as baseball games go along because it takes so long to complete a full game.  In fact, the average baseball game usually takes at least 3 hours to complete!  The TV marketing experts are well aware of this, so they push the start time back by a few minutes.  Major League Baseball has even explored ways of shortening the games in hopes of sparking more of an interest from younger generations.

  • MONEY– As with most things in sports and in life, money is the driving factor behind lots of decisions.  It is no different when it comes to Major League Baseball and the odd start times. The TV networks know that the longer their respective broadcast lasts, the more money they can bring in from advertising dollars. 

Think about how much more money the TV networks get to make by simply starting the game at 7:08 instead of 7:00.  Eight tiny minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but as the saying goes, “Time is Money!”  For example, the going rate for a 30-second commercial during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was $674,000!

Do Not Forget about the Average Working Fan

Another reason that baseball games start at odd times is to allow fans who may be running a little late due to their work schedule.  In America, the average workday lasts until at least 5:00 or 6:00.  By the time the average working fan drives to the ballpark, finds a place to park, and waits in line for a hot dog and a beer it will be cutting it close to game time!  The extra 5 to 8 minutes allows for these busy working professionals to find their seats before the first pitch is thrown!

Also, we must remember that unlike professional football, which is played primarily on the weekends, professional baseball is played almost every day!  Most folks do not work on the weekends, so the NFL does not have to worry the way the MLB does about the working fans finding their seats on time.  The TV networks also want to allow the extra few minutes for the baseball fans to get home from work and be able to tune in to the game on time.

Related Questions

Do Other Sports Start at Odd Times?

Unlike Major League Baseball, other professional sports (such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL) usually follow a more standardized script of game start times.  For example, all early NFL games kickoff at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time.  All afternoon NFL games start at either 4:05 or 4:25, and there is only one night game on Sundays at 8:20.

How long do baseball games last on average?

According to records kept by Major League Baseball for the 2019 season, the average game lasted 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 35 seconds.  MLB executives have explored ways of reducing the length of games such as limited mound visits per game and shaving off some of the break time between innings.

What should a fan bring to a baseball game?

Here are 3 of the most helpful items to bring to a Major League Baseball game:

  • Baseball Glove– This is useful to catch a foul ball as a souvenir.  Also, the glove will help protect you and your date from getting hit by a scorching line drive if you are sitting close to the field.
  • Umbrella and Rain Suit– Check your local weather forecast before driving to the ballpark.  If there is a chance of chain, an umbrella and raincoat will help you stay dry.
  • Sunscreen– If you are attending a game in an open-air stadium and not a dome, please wear and bring sunscreen to avoid a dangerous sunburn.  This is especially important for middle of the day games during the summer months.

See Also:
How Long Does an Inning Last in Baseball on Average?
Why are Baseball Players Fat: Perception or Reality?
Why Do MLB Players Use Wooden Bats? (Explained)
Why Is Baseball So Popular In Taiwan?

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