Smedley: Opening Day has come and should bring higher viewership to the sport

<p>Nationals Park played host to the longest game in Major League Baseball history Oct. 4 2014. In Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Washington Nationals 2-1. The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers make up the remaining four teams in the 2021 MLB playoffs. <strong><em>Geoff Livingston</em></strong></p>

Nationals Park played host to the longest game in Major League Baseball history Oct. 4 2014. In Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Washington Nationals 2-1. The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers make up the remaining four teams in the 2021 MLB playoffs. Geoff Livingston

After 156 days, Major League Baseball (MLB) is back to playing games outside of Spring Training. 

There was a point in the offseason where many speculated there may be a significant amount of the regular season missed due to the lockout. Now that we’re here, it’s a good thing that the MLB is about to begin the 2022 season. 

The offseason was one of the most eventful of all time. The league experienced a 99-day lockout that ended when the MLB's front office and Players Association (MLBPA) reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Notable players joined new teams whether through free agency or trade. Injuries sprung as Spring Training began.

The MLB looks different. Baseball needs this. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the 2020 season, shortening the season to 60 games, and the 2021 season saw low fan attendance due to COVID-19, revenue was lost and fan interest was lowered, but it’s not all COVID’s fault. The MLB was in a down spot for fan interest to begin with. 

Baseball seems to be emerging from the ashes. Many years passed by when the sport wasn’t as fun as it used to be. Long gone were the days of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. No more Ken Griffey Jr. or Derek Jeter as more years passed. 

After years of low fan interest, a new crop of young stars has made the game fun again. Stars like the Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper led the charge to, “let the kids play”. 

Now, the kids are playing. Fans see more bat flips, more long balls and more dazzling plays on defense. The game is fun… for those who watch it. 

Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals is 23 years old and just finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, and already has a World Series title under his belt. Shohei Ohtani plays the outfield, pitches and he just made the All-Star team for both positions en route to winning American League MVP. 

Prospects like Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Cincinnati Reds right-handed pitcher Hunter Greene are on major league rosters after years of hype. The time is now, and this crop is here to stay. 

If this feels a little “listy”, that's by design. The amount of talent in the MLB right now is, perhaps, unparalleled in any other era. 

Fans often hear about how talented the modern National Football League is, and rightfully so, but what about the MLB? Baseball may be a slower-paced game, but the new faces (and old) make it fun to watch when the time is taken to do so.

Baseball is a mental game. It’s a game where every decision matters, and these young players give personalities to get on board with those decisions.

For those who are already baseball fans and don’t need convincing, stick with it. This offseason was a tough one, as the lockout killed interest for many, but that’s over and done with. 

This baseball season should be one of the most fun seasons in recent memory. Many notable prospects are making their debuts as well as superteams assembling. 

Here are my predictions:

The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Shohei Ohtani takes home AL MVP again and NL MVP goes to Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. 

Brace yourselves, because even through a long 162 game season, this will be one to remember.

Once again, baseball fans rejoice, because Opening Day is finally here. 

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at kyle.smedley@bsu.edu or on Twitter @smedley1932

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