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Baseball's Dedicated Core of Players Drive Sales

Date: 10/20/08

Baseball is #2 in Team Sports; Baseball Participation Strong for Those 18+

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 20, 2008 – While baseball has the reputation of being America’s ‘national pastime,’ it’s really a ‘national obsession’ for the majority of its players.  According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), there are more than 16 million baseball players in the U.S.  That ranks baseball as the second most popular team sport in this country.  Basketball is number one with nearly 26 million players.  

What’s significant about the baseball business is the high percentage of players who participate on a ‘frequent’ level, i.e. 25 days or more a year.  Nearly 55% of all baseball players participate on a ‘frequent’ basis in the U.S.  Only lacrosse and ice hockey have similar percentages of such 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 $1.085 billion in 2007, up from $1.044 billion in 2006.  Among team sports, only basketball gear sales ranked higher in 2007 -- $1.552 billion.

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

Strong & Steady.  The 16.1 million baseball players represent a 10.1% increase over 2006 participation levels when there were 14.6 million players.

Dedicated Dudes.  Nearly 75% of all baseball players are considered “core” participants, i.e. those playing the game 13 days or more a year. 

Passionate Players.  Of those 11.6 million “core” participants, 8.8 million of them are classified as ‘frequent’ participants.

Diamond Dandies.  More than four million players are registered with one of the five major youth baseball leagues.

Collegiate Connection.  Baseball is the second most popular NCAA sport for men, second only to football.

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 18.  Those are mainly players over the age of 18 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). 

“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.”

“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 of Hillerich & Bradsby (Louisville, KY).  “That’s not only good for us.  It’s also great for our retail partners.”

“Baseball is our second strongest category, right behind football,” said Bob Webster of Webster’s Team Sports (Pompano Beach, FL).  “There’s strong year-round demand for baseball product and gear in Florida.”

“In Indiana, the development of fall baseball leagues has been a big boost to our business,” said Jim Brown of Kratz Sporting Goods (Clarksville, IN).  “Demand continues to be strong in recent years for baseball gear for children aged 7-12.”

The sources of these facts and figures on baseball are SGMA’s Baseball Single-Sport Participation Study and U.S. Trends in Team Sports (2008 edition).  Both are available from SGMA by clicking on Research at www.sgma.com.

Since Team Athletic Goods, Athletic Dealers of America, Nation’s Best Sports, and Sports, Inc. will be staging the four fall buying shows between mid-October and late November, SGMA will be producing a series of four news releases that reflect on various aspects of the team sports industry.  This is the first in that series of four news releases.

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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