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How to Become a Baseball Fan in 2023
The MLB’s rule changes should make baseball infinitely more entertaining to watch. Here’s your guide to becoming a baseball fan in 2023.
Do you ever feel a little bit jealous of baseball fans? I do–especially during those dead summer months when the NFL and NBA are in their offseasons. Maybe it’s me, but it’s just hard to get excited about a sport where the players look as bored as I feel watching them. Well, this is the year that everything changes for you and me.
I’ve talked to every baseball fan in my life and done the research, and here’s everything I gathered about how to become a baseball fan in 2023.
Understanding the new rules
The MLB introduced new rules this season that will make the pace of play much more entertaining. In fact, these new rules are the sole reason why I’m so interested in becoming a baseball fan after 30+ years of baseball agnosticism.
First, we got the introduction of the pitch clock. It’s the same idea as the shot clock in the NBA, with the intention to speed up the game. Pitchers now have 15 seconds to throw a pitch while the bases are empty, and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Twitter user @PitchingNinja perfectly captured the difference between a game with a pitch clock and one without:
Secondly, we got the inclusion of the outfield shift rule. Apparently, defenses got so good at predicting where a player was going to hit the ball that they would get in ideal position before the pitcher even threw the ball. This behavior led to the lowest league-wide batting average since 1968, and a ton of boring pop-flys without any drama. Defenses are no longer allowed to shift until after the pitcher throws the ball, which means we should hopefully see more diving catches, and perhaps even, God forbid, some players actually get on base!
Also, the bases are a few inches bigger this year, and the league made changes to how many times a pitcher can throw to first base when a runner is there, encouraging way more stolen bases and action on the basepaths.
I’ve been watching baseball while writing this article, and the game feels dramatically different. Like, several exciting things have happened since I started this sentence (granted, this sentence took me like 5 minutes to write because I kept getting distracted by baseball things).
From the twittersphere, it’s clear that the early returns on the rule changes look very promising:
I’m also learning all the jargon, but SB%= Stolen base percentage. In other words, as mentioned above, on top of everything else, players are successfully stealing bases more often (which is more fun to watch!).
Knowing the biggest stars in baseball
Stars are what makes leagues interesting. LeBron James and Tom Brady (he’s retired, but you know what I mean) have been attracting audiences for two decades now. Love them or hate them, stars make for excellent drama in sports. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most interesting players in baseball according to lifetime Padres fan and Reviews.org’s own baseball nerd Ryan Parker:
Every night it feels like Ohtani is doing something no player has ever done in baseball history. Ohtani is the first true two-way player in decades, meaning he plays as both a pitcher and a hitter, and plays them both well. Ohtani is like if Patrick Mahomes was his usual all-pro self at quarterback every week, but then every other game he also ran out on defense to play safety, and was an all-pro at that too. He is a must-watch player.
However, even superstars like Ohtani need time to get used to the new rules.
Trout gets a gentleman’s acknowledgement as an all-time great baseball player who puts up MVP-caliber numbers every year (he could retire tomorrow at age 31 and still have a better resume than many actual Hall of Famers), though he is often criticized for being one of the least interesting personalities in the game. That’s no fault to him of course, just an acknowledgement that he’s interesting almost entirely because of what he does on the field.
Judge is the big man in pinstripes over in NYC, breaking home run records for the New York Yankees. Last year he broke the 61-year-old record for home runs hit in a single season in the American League, an impressive accomplishment in the post-steroid era where home runs aren’t nearly as plentiful as they were in the 90s and 00s when Sosa/McGwire/Bonds made short work of the National League home run records.
Betts went from Boston to Los Angeles in one of the most baffling trades of the last decade, and has continued to play electric, MVP-caliber baseball in a Dodger uniform. Oh, and he’s the 19th ranked bowler in the nation.
All Yordan Alvarez has ever done is mash the baseball, and he will continue to do so this year for the defending-champion Houston Astros.
How to choose a team to root for
I’m a staunch believer in rooting for one's hometown team, but I recognize I’m coming from a place of privilege growing up a basketball fan just outside Los Angeles. You can never be labeled a “band-wagoneer” when you’re rooting for your hometown team–it’s your birthright and no one can take that away from you. But if you live near Washington D.C. and don’t want to sign up for pain with the Nationals, I won’t blame you for hitching your wagon to one of the exciting stars mentioned in the previous section, like Shohei Ohtani.
Whatever team you choose, you gotta commit. Watch the games, listen to the podcasts breaking down the games, follow journalists and other fans on social media. Even if your team has a losing record, you can always find silver linings like up-and-coming rookies who just might become the next big star after a few more years of reps. This mentality kept me alive as a Laker fan from 2013–2018.
If you’re coming to this baseball season completely neutral, here’s some of the most exciting teams to root for in the upcoming season.
San Diego Padres
If you’ve already said in your head, “Really? The Padres? I barely remember they existed!” then you’re already halfway towards understanding why they’re one of the most interesting teams in baseball right now. Owner Peter Seidler has bucked every trend of so-called “small market” franchises, and has committed a record amount of money towards the superstar players on the Padres roster, to the point where many experts consider them the favorite to win the World Series in 2023. Their roster includes two of the most electric young players in the game, in Fernando Tatis Jr and Juan Soto, Japanese legend Yu Darvish, and MVP runner-up Manny Machado. They knocked off not one but TWO 100-win teams in the 2022 playoffs (Mets and Dodgers) to reach the National League Championship Series, and look to take the next step in 2023.
New York Mets
While the Padres get credit for their spending despite being in a small-market city, the Mets have used the New York media market plus the large pockets of Steve Cohen to bankroll the largest payroll in the history of the sport ($340 million in 2023). Their first round loss to the Padres last year was a massive disappointment, but they’ve since added Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga to their already impressive roster.
The Braves roster is stacked with exciting young talent, from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies to Max Fried and Spencer Strider, and they are the favorite to again win the loaded NL East. Their penchant for developing homegrown talent and then signing them to absurdly team-friendly deals is unmatched.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels make the list solely because they employ the #1 and #2 players on the list above, and while they quietly had a good offseason they’ve still managed to win just one (1) playoff game in the 11+ years they’ve had Mike Trout on their team. Will be interesting to see if 2023 is the year they break out, and can make a case to impending free agent Shohei Ohtani that they’re a team worth sticking around for.
Who to follow on social media
Half the fun of following live sports is seeing all the reactions and watching the news break in real time. Here are the Twitter feeds I follow in the baseball world.
- Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan)
- The “Adrian Wojnarowski” of MLB, Jeff is the best source for breaking MLB news and transactions.
- Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ)
- A popular baseball blog run by Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, whose passion for baseball in all its forms (majors, minors, college, international) is infectious. And if you’re wondering about that name …
- Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello)
- Writer for MLB.com, Mike is a great source for analytics-based analysis of the game. Just be prepared for STATS and LOTS OF THEM.
- Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal)
- Writer for The Athletic and another great source for breaking news, with more of a slant towards the day-to-day storylines happening in MLB.
How to stream and watch live baseball
Watching live baseball basically boils down to this:
- Catching a nationally televised game on ESPN, TBS, FOX, or the MLB Network
- Tuning into your regional sports station
- Subscribing to either MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV
If you plan on being a casual baseball fan, you’d be fine just getting a streaming or cable service and watching all the marquee matchups on the major sports networks.
If you want to become a true-blue fan of a team (highly recommended), you’ll want to make sure you can catch all the games on a regional sports station, or by subscribing to MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV. Regional sports networks can be very tricky to stream, so the easiest way to secure those channels is through a cable or satellite service.
Last but not least, we’ve got MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV. Reviews.org’s Chantel Buchi wrote a detailed guide about the difference between the two baseball streaming services, but here’s how she sums it all up:
“If you live near your favorite team, you should get MLB Extra Innings. If you live far from your favorite team or are only interested in streaming, you'll do just fine with MLB.TV.”