Landon Donovan talks about making baseball fans as passionate as soccer fans

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U.S. soccer great Landon Donovan was on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM with Mike Ferrin and Jim Bowden today. Donovan is a big, big baseball fan. A Dodgers guy to be precise. Mike and Jim talked to him about how soccer does well engaging with young fans and keeping them interested and what baseball can learn from it.

Donovan had a couple of good insights. First, he noted the difference inherent in baseball and soccer fans, and that’s that baseball fans are more casual, at least until the playoffs, where soccer has a smaller fan base but a more “crazy and passionate” group. You could probably say the same about hockey fans too. I think a lot of it has to do with the number of games and meaning of each game. If baseball had 40-80 games I imagine it’d pare things down to a smaller, harder core as well. It’s hard to maintain that super fan level of intensity for 162 games over six months.

Ferrin asked Donovan about how baseball can get younger and more passionate fans the way soccer has. Donovan said that it’s about capturing short attention spans and highlighting the short bursts of excitement. Oftentimes people say baseball is doomed in this regard in that it’s an inherently slow game. Interestingly, though, Donovan noted that soccer, like baseball, is often accused of being boring and slow — he cited 0-0 games — but noted that at the stadium there is always something going on, be it chanting or cheering, which is often an organized activity. You see this in Asian baseball as well. In only the smallest of pockets of baseball stadiums do you ever see such things, and it usually only lasts an inning or two. In San Francisco last week I noticed some visiting A’s fans at AT&T Park doing organized cheers. The Yankees and Mets have a bit of this, but they don’t exactly capture the whole stadium.

They all noted how smart phones, iPads and similar devices are a near constant fact of young people’s lives as well, and talked about how better integrating those things into the in-stadium experience would help.

Interesting perspective from a knowledgable outsider. Listen:

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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