First, Chipotle warned of peak guacamole. Now, Major League Baseball is claiming that it may need to raise ticket prices across the board for the 2015 season because the cost of baseballs is expected to rise due to climate change. The warning came in a quarterly filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
There are many reasons to believe that the league is serious. Baseballs feature a cork center, and over the past 18 months, the price of cork has risen 700%. The increase is due to a number of factors, but the consequences of climate change on coastal Portugal—where storms have ravaged one of the world’s most productive cork-oak forests—are largely to blame.
Baseball expenditures are not trivial. The American League spent $52.1 million on balls in 2013, while the National League spent $48.7 million. The new costs could add hundreds of millions of dollars to their annual budgets.
Sources say that Selig has already ruled out synthetic substances, a move that the players union strongly supports. “If we get rid of cork-filled baseballs, why don’t we just move over to aluminum bats?” rhetorically asked former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, a former union steward.
“Foul Ball Surcharges” Coming
Independent leagues have already instituted cost control measures when it comes to baseballs. The Pennsylvania Lehigh Valley Ironpigs this year are introducing a “foul ball surcharge” for every ticket bought along the first and third base lines (no comment from this writer as to why the Pigs aren’t extending the surcharge to the outfield).
Business analysts believe these fees will be met with grumbles and annoyance, but that there will be no drop in attendance. “It’s similar to what some airlines do in terms of charging you for checked and carry on bags,” said Leon Durham of Lefty and Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm. “But I doubt it’s going to be enough to stop people from filling the bleachers at Wrigley or Fenway.”
Suggestions that fans be required to return foul balls were met with derision. “That would be a foolish move,” legendary former Chicago Cubs catcher Jody Davis told me over the phone. “The game has been slowed down enough already by TV timeouts and finicky relief pitchers.”
Fans were not any more enthusiastic about a change. “Can you imagine my kid bringing his glove to the game and catching a foul and me having to tell him to throw it back?” asked Minnesota Twins season ticket holder Ole Petersen. “He wouldn’t speak to me for a month.”
But there was at least one person who says he would be more than happy for the major leagues to adopt a “throw back” policy: the Cubs fan who famously interfered with a fly ball during a division championship game between the Cubs and the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were four outs away from a trip to the World Series, but the interference led to eight runs by the Florida Marlins and brought half the city of Chicago to its knees. “My hands would have been nowhere near the field if I knew I couldn’t keep the ball,” the fan told the Chicago Tribune. “So perhaps we should just remove that temptation.”
Climate change is already affecting many aspects of American life; for example, recent UCD analysis has predicted that coffee temperatures will rise nine degrees by mid-century.
The yarn used to stitch the ball (as well as this story) remains unchanged. For other bizarre stories in the news, see the high school swim meet that is set to be staged in fracking fluid and the EPA’s unbelievable plans to set the Cuyahoga River on fire.
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