The day my world expanded. Opening day 2024 is around the corner.

My uncle had sprung me and my cousin from school that Tuesday. As we walked through the huge parking lot, I was surrounded by every car in Los Angeles. Well…maybe not every, but that’s how it appeared through these eleven-year-old eyes.

We walked through a gate and up some stairs, and when we emerged with a clear view of the neatly manicured field, I was filled with awe and wonder. There lay Chavez Ravine, in all its majesty, vastness, and color. A feast for a young boy’s eyes.

There was the reddish mixture of clay and dirt on the base paths and the pitcher’s mound…

The vibrant and lush green grass covering the infield and the entire outfield up to the warning track…

Some 52,000 fans in the stands—more people in one place than I’d ever seen before—cheering on their beloved Dodgers.

This was opening day of the 1962 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, and the L.A. Dodgers’ first game in the brand-spanking new stadium. Future Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda later nicknamed it “Blue Heaven on Earth.”

The Dodgers lost to the Cincinnati Reds that day (6-3). They finished the regular season tied for first place but lost the tie-breaker series to the San Francisco Giants.

Thus began this kid’s love-affair with our national pastime. You must forgive me. Despite my current residency in Washington State, I am still, and will forever be, devoted to Dodger blue.

I played Little League, Pony League, and Babe Ruth League in my youth, and watched every televised game I could. Through the years I listened to the great Vin Scully, the iconic Dodgers announcer, call some of baseball’s most memorable moments: Game Four of the 1963 World Series on Oct. 6, when the Dodgers swept the New York Yankees; pitcher Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965; and Kirk Gibson’s legendary homer on Oct. 15, 1988, a milestone in the history of MLB.

I’ve attached a link to this historic at-bat. Watch it…you won’t be sorry.

Baseball has forged its rightful place in American culture since it first appeared around the mid-1800s. The game’s long history is intertwined with the nation’s growth and development.

Thus, my lament.

Interest among fans in watching the sport appears to be waning. Why?

Maybe it’s the investment of three-plus hours to watch a single game, or the attention span required to follow the home team through 162 games in the regular season. A bridge too far for the I-want-it-now generation that requires meaning from each interaction. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of down time in a typical baseball game.

In contrast, football’s 16-game season means that every match is consequential for the team. Likewise, a soccer game takes about two hours, including periods of play and a half-time break, and there are 34 games in the regular season. And there is lots of action in every play.

Truth be told, my love for our national pastime began to wane a few years back. And I’m not alone. Over the last decade, the 30-year trend of increased attendance at MLB games has fallen significantly. Consider…

The time commitment when factoring in travel.

The average ticket price of $37, or nearly $150 for a family of four, and that doesn’t include food. The tab for three hours of entertainment can easily exceed $200. Unaffordable for many fans.

And the popularity of faster-paced sports.

These and other factors are causing many to wonder if baseball has had its run. New strategies are required to capture the next generation of fans. For one, the stadiums need to make it affordable again for families to bring starry-eyed kids like me out to the ballpark. MLB’s survival requires it.

Why is this important? Because baseball has contributed so much to America’s identity and served as a reflection of her values and history.

Baseball helped to break down racial barriers in America when Jackie Robinson became the first black to play in the major leagues in 1947. It now brings together all walks of life into a shared sense of belonging and shared passion.

It prompted on-screen classics like Field of Dreams and The Natural, and the Ken Burns documentary series simply titled…Baseball. (This fascinating history of the game is a must see.)

It has fanned the flames of patriotism with the singing of the national anthem before the first pitch, a tradition since WWII.

The late-Vin Scully’s final sign-off as the voice of the Dodgers occurred in October 2016, at the age of 88. This Hall of Fame broadcaster’s words give me comfort when I consider the future of baseball.

“You know, friends, so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball, and they’ve wished me a wonderful retirement with my family, and now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you. May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life seems, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer.

“You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know, in my heart, I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But, you know what? There will be a new day, and, eventually, a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ooh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball. So, this is Vin Scully wishing you a pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”

Indeed, our current winter will soon give way to spring, and opening day will be here before we know it. One more time we’ll hear the home plate umpire shout those reassuring words welcomed by every baseball enthusiast—men and women of all ages, and every kid who has played the game, let alone attended an MLB matchup.

“Batter up!”

Vin Scully