In case I have not explained enough lately, I love the sport of baseball. As a kid, I played it on the little league level every year until I turned 16. My parents knew I would enjoy it and pushed me slightly into it. At first, I will admit I was afraid of getting hit but then with some work (and a year of softball), I learned to love it. I enjoyed playing other sports as a kid but nothing was ever as natural and enjoyable as baseball. Sitting back tonight while thinking about TV shows in my childhood (I honestly considered a post on my top 20 sitcom theme songs but changed my mind, too many options haha), I remembered a major reason I love baseball.
Growing up in the 70's-80's, I was also a TV freak. I loved sitcoms and sports especially but the occasional Knight Rider or Quantum Leap would be fine too occasionally. And almost like a tradition in my house was weekend morning television. Most of the time, we watched Cartoon Express on USA network or other cartoons like Smurfs or local shows like Saturday Morning Showboat (which I was actually on as a kid once). But my favorite of them all was an instructional show about the proper techniques in baseball starring Johnny Bench, Tommy Lasorda, and one of the most popular mascots of all time, the San Diego Chicken on a show called "The Baseball Bunch."
For those who have never seen it, you missed out if you like sports and humor. The idea was to bring top MLB stars on to show young kids how to play. So every week you could not only see Johnny Bench, one of the best catchers to ever play the game, but players like Ozzie Smith, whom I have used below because of my respect for his ability. Then you could always count on the Chicken to do some silly stuff to make you laugh occasionally as well.
Now obviously this was long before steroids and paying huge fees for camps, instructors or instructional tools like dvds. This helped build my interest in baseball and could very well be a huge reason why I love this sport still today. I think if the MLB wants to continue to attract younger viewers, it is time to remake this classic show. This Week In Baseball (TWIB) can still be found on TV at times and I loved that show as well but nearly as much as I did Baseball Bunch. The Baseball Bunch not only entertained but you got to see for yourself how the professionals made the plays and practice it for yourself. It was because of the video below, I spent many hours playing wall ball to help my fielding skills.
If your scared that the original show is too corny for younger viewers today, then try a new format but the same formula. Maybe the Chicken is too old school and his physical comedy will not attract the younger viewers but you can use modern technology instead to help enhance it if you feel it necassary. I would however try to be as realistic as you can with the baseball scenes whether it be in a major league ball park or a local little league park near the production studio and actually get the players to interact with the younger kids learning the game. Maybe you have major league players show up at little league practice somewhere as a surprise to actually work with them to add to the anticipation factor that Derek Jeter could show up at your practice one day and show you how to play shortstop or Johan Santana showing them how to properly throw at their age without risking permenant damage to their arm. So many ways and not enough reasons to try it whether it's on MLB Network or syndicated/network stations across this country and even in other countries as well.
Sometimes we forget the simplistic things in search for the ultimate goal but in reality we find it is the little things that leave a lasting impression and to me, it was this show. Is there not one retired pro who kids would look up to (Ozzie, Cal, Piazza, etc.) that could be the lead player to help as well as major leaguers eager to volunteer a little time to help develop the game they love? And would the costs really be more then MLB is willing to pay when the end result could bring more fans to this game that we love? Especially now with as many black eyes as this sport has seen and with the economy struggling as player contracts and ball parks costs reach astronomical figures, why try to attract the younger generation who could bring back the popularity this game once knew? Bring back my childhood and encourage the youth of America to practice and get out and play.