Ahh, the radio. One of the most important inventions of all time, yet people my age not only take it for granted but think of it as a relic. Sure, it might be good for making short car rides a bit less boring (oh who am I kidding, we all have aux cords now), but I feel like us younger folk don’t really appreciate what the radio still has to offer us. While radio has some general advantages over TV (like more compelling storytelling because the speaker’s ability is their only limitation), I’m gonna focus on why we should still cherish baseball on the radio. I can’t pretend that I even almost remember the hey-day of baseball on the radio, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a crucial part of my MLB fan experience. Let me tell you why you should make it part of yours, if it isn’t already.
First of all, when I say baseball over the radio, I pretty much just mean live audio broadcasts of baseball games, whether it’s through an actual radio, MLB At Bat or somewhere else on your computer. The list of options shows you right away how accessible this is. Anyways, much like an announcer has to give you the lineup before the game so you’re not confused, let me break down why baseball on the radio is so great. It’s pretty simple, it comes down to: nice pricing, convenience no matter your situation, and of course, quality. After all, convenience and affordability wouldn’t really matter if baseball on the radio wasn’t so good.
One immediate benefit to baseball on the radio over baseball on TV is that it’s almost always cheaper. For example, paying for a premium MLB At Bat subscription gives you unlimited MLB games on the radio for less than 1/10 of the price of subscribing to MLB.TV. By the way, in case you don’t want MLB.TV on your phone because the local games are blacked out, spring for the radio broadcasts on At Bat because those aren’t locally blacked out. Of course, if you’re local, you can probably get at least some games for free on TV and radio, but even then radio will still probably get you more games. So yeah, baseball on the radio is an affordable option for any MLB fan.
Radio announcers, on the other hand, know that it’s up to them to not only explain the game but describe it too.
Now that we’ve established that listening to baseball on the radio is nice on your wallet, let’s talk about convenience. I’m talking about one simple thing here: the fact that you only have to listen to the radio, and can do something else with your eyes. Of course, you can put a game on TV and listen to it while doing something else, but TV announcers operate under the premise that you’re not only listening to them but also watching the game yourself. Radio announcers, on the other hand, know that it’s up to them to not only explain the game but describe it too. This means that while baseball on TV may allow you to do something else with your eyes, radio is built for you to be able to do something else with your eyes. If this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to you, that’s because your daily schedule probably doesn’t involve long car rides, paperwork or manual labor.
If your day does involve things like that, you know the value of having some good podcasts, albums or audiobooks to fill your time. Why not bring your favorite baseball team into the mix? Sometimes people claim it’s hard to follow a team through all 162 games of a baseball season, but I think that’s because they’re thinking of how they watch football games or something. That is, people act like they have to invite all their friends over for nachos and beer for each game, but that’s just not true. You can sneak a few innings in whenever your ears aren’t occupied, and easily catch at least some of every game. That’s the beauty of baseball, even if you can only catch snippets of a lot of games, you’ll know your team pretty well by the time the all star break approaches. When you realize that you can bring some baseball into your life every day even without a TV and a couch, your April-September (at least) will start being a lot more enjoyable. That makes baseball on the radio very convenient, on top of affordable.
But who cares if something is cheap and convenient if it’s not any good? Let’s talk about what makes listening to baseball on the radio so great. To bring back the comparison to football, let’s look at player positioning. When you’re listening to football on the radio, the play-by-play guy has to describe to you how 22 players are positioned in about 7 seconds pre-snap (which, don’t get me wrong, is incredibly impressive when done well.) When it comes to baseball, on the other hand, you know roughly where the 9 defensive players are positioned (unless there’s a shift, in which case the announcer will describe it for you), and you definitely know where the players up to bat or on the basepaths are positioned. That makes it much easier to envision the situation in a baseball game when you’re listening to it than pretty much any other sport.
Since it’s easier to describe baseball, that leaves more time for baseball announcers to tell stories , making it like talk radio at bits. This also means that you don’t have to be paying rapt attention at all times, so if you need to focus on something you can tune out the game for a second. Once you’re done concentrating, you won’t be too confused by the time you get back to the game since the announcers will probably catch you up on baserunners and outs. If you think of baseball games like this rather than something you have to plan each day around, it all of a sudden seems less imposing to track a team through the MLB season. In fact, you’ll soon see the benefit of having a game just about every day to look forward to when you don’t worry about necessarily having to catch the first pitch or every single inning.
So stop being afraid of baseball season and start embracing it. If you already catch a lot of games on TV, get even more innings from the radio when you’re away from your couch! Now I am by no means trying to claim that I’m some sort of purist, nor preaching against games on TV. I catch a lot of Cubs games on MLB.TV, and it’s nothing against TV announcers or anything because Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies are great. I’m just saying that you can use the radio to get that much closer to your favorite baseball team, and it’s neither hard on your wallet nor on your schedule to fit in a few radio innings here and there every day. The radio’s been going strong for a while now, and it should keep kicking for a long time yet.