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Baseball's Dedicated Core of Players Drive Sales

Date: 10/24/11

Baseball Play Is Strong For Those Aged 18+

SILVER SPRING, MD – October 24, 2011 – Question:  Can you describe your typical baseball player in the U.S. today?  Answer:  Today’s American baseball player is male, 6-17 years old, lives in a large metropolitan area (two million plus residents), is a student, and comes from a household where the annual income is at least $75,000/year.  According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), there are 14.5 million baseball players in the U.S. that play at least once during the course of the year.  That ranks baseball as the second-most popular team sport in this country.  Basketball is the number one team sport in the U.S. with 26.3 million players. 

While baseball is the ‘national pastime’ for the U.S., it truly has become a ‘national obsession’ for more than half of all players as nearly 51% of all baseball players are considered ‘frequent’ participants, i.e. those who play 25+ days a year. Basketball is the only team sport which has a higher percentage of ‘frequent’ players than baseball as roughly 55% of all basketball players are ‘frequent’ players. 

Among team sports, lacrosse and ice hockey have similar percentages of a dedicated group of players, but baseball’s participation base is far bigger which makes a big difference for retailers who sell baseball products.  From a business perspective, sales of baseball (and softball) gear, uniforms, and cleats were $1.048 billion (at wholesale) in 2010, down slightly from $1.085 billion in 2007.  Among team sports, only basketball gear sales ranked higher in 2010 -- $1.362 billion.

While baseball has a reputation of being a game played by young children and teenagers, that’s not really the case as roughly 40% of all baseball players are over the age of 25.  Those are mainly people who are playing in adult leagues during the spring, summer, and fall.  It also includes those players at the collegiate level and baseball-playing professionals (in either the minors or majors). 

Listed below are some additional details on America’s baseball-playing population:

On the Upswing.  The 14.5 million baseball players represent a 5.2% increase over 2009 participation levels when there were 13.8 million players.
Powerful Minority.  The most popular age group for baseball players is 6-12 year olds as 32% of all baseball players are in that age group.
Boys Love to Play Ball.  More than 80% of all baseball players are male.

Passionate People.  Nearly 70% of all baseball players are ‘core’ participants (those who play 13+ days a year)…..and 63% of all ‘core’ baseball players are age 6-17.

Future Superstars.  50% of all ‘core’ baseball participants play their baseball in an organized, sanctioned league.

“Those who start playing baseball as youngsters often become quite passionate about the game and remain so throughout their lives,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “The popularity of these adult leagues has given many players another opportunity to play the game that was probably their favorite sport as a child.  Many of these adults are making the time to travel out of town for tournaments.  In some cases, those journeys take them from one state to another.”

“Baseball is in a unique situation as opposed to other team sports,” said Neil Schwartz, director of business development for SGMA Research.  “For baseball, league play as well as elite and travel teams tend to dominate this sport more than the level of play that occurs at the school level.  As athletes get older, they tend to play at the school level except for baseball players which still seek to play in sanctioned leagues and with elite/travel teams.”

“There are definitely more men who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s walking into our store looking for baseball product now than five years ago,” said Kevin Licata, store manager for Medellion Sporting Goods in Jupiter, Florida.

“In addition to core baseball equipment like bats, gloves, batting helmets, and catcher’s gear, we and other manufacturers have been able to grow other areas of the baseball category like equipment bags, accessories and training aids,” said Rick Redman, vice president of corporate communications for Louisville Slugger (Louisville, KY).  “That’s not only good for us.  It’s also great for our retail partners.”

"I returned to competitive baseball in my early 40s and I'm now in my early 60s," said Dusty Stauffer, 60, of Knoxville, Tennessee.  "It's a great game that can be played and enjoyed for decades.  I have the heart and passion for the game of baseball.  It helps keep me fit, it's lots of fun, and I am in touch with baseball teammates and competitors from around the country."

The sources of these figures on baseball are SGMA’s Baseball Single-Sport Participation Study and U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2011 edition).  Both are available from SGMA by clicking on Research at www.sgma.com.  This is the first in a series of many news releases on specific team sports in the U.S.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the global business trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.  SGMA leads the sports and fitness industries while enhancing industry vitality and fostering sports, fitness, and active lifestyle participation.  More information about SGMA can be found at www.sgma.com.

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