Indians Experimenting With New Start Time

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Apr 4, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans walk to the concourse during a rain delay before a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Thinking Outside the Box For Early Season Games

Don’t ever say the Indians aren’t trying.

Looking for ways to further improve the fan experience and get more butts in the seats at the same time, the Indians will use games in the early portion of their schedule to experiment with start times. It may not sound like much on the surface, but upon taking a deeper look, the idea, which was presented yesterday morning, has some merit.

Starting off as a novelty with the installation of light towers, the traditional start time for a major league baseball game is now between 7:05 and 7:10. It’s the new norm unless you’re the Chicago Cubs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with night games, but they aren’t without their flaws; flaws that are only exacerbated by uncooperative weather and an often times fickle market.

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The Indians are hoping to change that by experimenting with a new start time for games in April and May, or as Clevelander’s prefer to call it… winter. I kid, but seriously, winter in Cleveland sometimes feels like it can last until June.

The idea is still very much in its infancy. If this were the scientific method, we’d be after the hypothesis stage, but not quite into the full-blown experimental stage. The hypothesis is that by starting games earlier in April and May, there will be more flexibility for inclement weather and also more accessibility for families with young children. Earlier start times equates to earlier end times which ultimately means less interference with school, if you’re the type not to keep your kids out late on a school night.

For two early season series, April 27-29 against Kansas City and May 12-13 against the Cardinals, games will start at 6:10 instead of 7:05. It’s a subtle change, but one that could pay off huge dividends. How so you ask? Well here are four reasons why a 6:10 start time might actually work and become the new early season norm.

1. More day light

May 7, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans watch a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the days a starting to get longer, but that doesn’t mean much until the calendar flips over to June. Starting games an hour earlier means warmer temperatures thanks to more sun light. As anyone who has attended an Indians game in April can attest, once the sun goes behind Quicken Loans Arena it can become unbearably cold. This should help make an April night game with the threat of winter-like temperature a bit more bearable.

2. More time

Not to beat a dead horse, but the April weather in Cleveland sucks. By moving the start time up an hour, it allows for more time to squeeze in the necessary five innings to make a game official. With that extra hour, teams might not be forced to play in unsafe conditions for the sake of getting a game in. More time, could lead to more safety and ultimately fewer injuries. It also means that a game delayed by weather still has a decent shot of ending at a reasonable time.

3. Reasonable end times

Speaking of reasonable end times, one of the major arguments for the lackluster early season attendance is always school. With games starting at 7:05 and sometimes not ending until 10 or even 10:30, many parents choose to avoid weekday night games. The end result is a lot of empty seats. BY starting the games an hour earlier, the Indians are hoping to make early season weekday games more appealing. It may even increase TV ratings because kids will able to watch a game to its conclusion.

4. Benefits to the economy

With games starting at 7:05, people working a normal 9-5 job have time to run home, eat something, and still make it to the game on time. Starting at 6:10 eats away at a chunk of that time. That means fans will be more likely to stop at bars or restaurants to grab something quick on their way to the game, or splurging on stadium food when they get there. The earlier end times, as mentioned above, also lend themselves to the local bar scene. Fans attending games might be more likely to stop in at Panini’s, Local Heroes, or Winkling Lizard after the game if they can still make it home at a reasonable hour.This doesn’t directly affect the Indians, but one has to think that what’s good for the city and local economy will ultimately be good for the team.

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