Unlike other big TV events, baseball games almost never start at the top of the hour.
You’ll notice that the first pitch is never at, for example, 6:00 PM. It’s always at some weird time, like 6:06, 6:09, or something similar.
For those who want everything in their life to be in perfect order, this may be maddening.
It certainly takes some time getting used to.
If you rarely tune in to watch baseball, you may think that this is a freak occurrence, a result of some unexpected delay.
However, avid fans know that this is something that happens all the time.
So, why do baseball games start at odd times?
It happens due to several reasons, which all sound perfectly logical once you hear them.
I’ll go through all of them and explain how they influence the starting time of the game.
Why Do Baseball Games Start at Odd Times?
Simply said, it’s because there’s plenty going on at an MLB game before the first pitch is even thrown.
The player’s warmups, National Anthem, player introductions, ceremonial first pitch all take place before the official start of the game.
Besides, teams have to take into account the traffic and weather considerations and allow broadcasters to make the introduction to the game and play commercials.
The main reason why do baseball games start at odd times is television. Or, to be more precise, television money.
How the Networks Influence Odd Starting Times at MLB Games
If you look at the TV schedule, you’ll notice that the networks mostly have their programs starting on the hour or half-hour.
That’s also the case with the baseball broadcasts, even though the first pitch doesn’t happen until at least several minutes later.
The networks use these 7 or 8 extra minutes to cram as many programs and commercials as possible.
The beginning of baseball time is prime time for networks. They know that it’s the time when most of the fans are glued to their TV sets.
Often, as the game drags on, fans doze off or switch to another channel.
So it’s important for them to use the short time before the game starts in a most effective way.
The announcers and the color commentators use this space to provide a short intro to the game.
They inform the viewers on who’s playing, what’s at stake, and what storylines are the most interesting to follow.
Due to the high viewership numbers, this is also when the best time to run the commercials.
The marketing experts use this space to put out their best commercials promoting the highest-paying clients.
Pushing the start time for just a few minutes can bring the network a small fortune.
It’s not hard to do the math when we know that the 30-seconds commercials during the most important games can cost well over half a million dollars.
Money is the driving factor behind many decisions in sports.
The traditionally odd starting times of MLB games are no different. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The money made before the first pitch is even thrown benefits the league, teams, networks, and the companies advertising their products.
If you’ve ever been to an MLB game, you know that certain activities take place before the first pitch of every matchup.
Just like everything else in baseball, these activities are a part of the years-long tradition.
Singing National Anthem is one of the most important pregame activities.
It’s usually sung by local artists, but at some of the important games, this honor belongs to the world’s biggest stars.
Before games that take place in Canada, two national anthems are performed.
Ceremonial First Pitch
Another traditional ritual before major league games.
The pitch is performed by a guest of honor. It serves to recognize and honor their social impact.
Over the last hundred years, all sitting presidents at the time threw the first pitch at an MLB game.
Often before the games, the home team will honor a significant member of the community, a former player, or a member of the troops.
These events also include a celebration of the Hall of Fame induction for a former player or retiring the jersey of one of the club legends.
If an important community member or a former player has passed away, this is also the time to observe a moment of silence
In order to prevent potential injuries during the game, MLB players do some light warmup at the field before the game.
They mostly jog a bit, do static stretches and short sprints, and perform a couple of team warmup routines.
To warm up their throwing arm, they’ll usually play a bit of a game of catch.
Another custom taking a couple of minutes before the start of the game is the lineup announcement.
Before the first pitch, the PA announcer will read the starting lineups for both home and away teams.
Traditionally, the away team lineup is read first, usually with a flat tone.
The home team announcement is much more exciting and serves to pump up the crowd for the game.
Most people are aware that baseball games start at odd times, but not many know why.
As you can see, it has a lot to do with tradition, but the main reason is the money and advertising revenue of both the league and the networks.
While these odd starting times may be annoying to some, it’s clear that most of the parties involved in a baseball game benefit from them.
Besides, having a first pitch right at the start of the broadcast would cause many viewers to miss it.
Furthermore, a couple of extra minutes can allow working fans to get to the game just in time for the start.
As, unlike football, baseball takes place on both weekdays and weekends, this can be very helpful.