Sunday’s game between the Padres and Braves started at 11:35 am in Atlanta, an awfully early first pitch by Major League Baseball standards. The early start time is something brand new this year called MLB Sunday Leadoff. Every Sunday, Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, will have an exclusive morning game.
San Diego was the first west coast team to participate and it was definitely a little different.
“Yeah, it was like an 8:35 game for us,” said outfielder Wil Myers, who drove in three runs in a 7-3 Padres win. “I had a 6:30 alarm. I’ve never had that before in the big leagues. But, it was good to get out here, get the game over with, good crowd here so it was a lot of fun.”
More than 41,000 people packed Truist Park to watch, and that’s in the churchgoing South, so the idea is obviously popular with baseball fans. This year all 18 of Peacock’s Sunday Leadoff games will start in the Eastern time zone, but with the concept already getting such positive reviews, it begs the question:
Will we ever see Sunday morning baseball at Petco Park?
“I don’t want to speak for anyone else but I would love that,” says Ahmed Fareed, who hosts the pre- and postgame shows on Peacock from the field. “Honestly, I’d be all about it and I hope this catches on because there’s something about … and maybe this is just me because now I’m a father of two who are seven and six years old, but my day has shifted more morning than night, but I don’t think I’m alone.”
He’s certainly not. In fact, Peacock did not specify keeping all 18 Sunday games out east, implying they’d be open to doing a game at all 30 Major League ballparks. There are seven teams in the Pacific time zone, including five in California alone. The novelty of breakfast burritos and baseball is awfully appealing to fans and broadcast partners.
“I think it’s something unique, which is what every sport is looking for,” says Fareed. “Football has got the uniqueness of just one game per week. This would kind of give baseball a little bit of that unique, event-type feel every single Sunday if we could pull something like that off.”
However, as fun as the idea sounds, there are a whole lot of obstacles to clear.
“There are certain rules and regulations in the Collective Bargaining Agreement on how many games can start before noon so I think MLB had to weigh that against what we were proposing,” says Fareed.
The C.B.A. contains no fewer than seven pages focusing solely on what times of day games can and cannot be scheduled. As it stands now, no big league contests are allowed to start before 10:00 am. Of course, things like that are always open for negotiation and if early games mean more money for everyone they could make a change.
Alas, odds are they won’t push for that because the logistics from an operational standpoint are, at best, prohibitive. Putting on a Major League game is an all-day undertaking.
Gates for a game open two hours before first pitch, meaning Petco Park would have to open at 6:35 am. Food and beverage crews would have to be there a couple of hours before that.
Batting practice would start at 5:30 in the morning, and although the crack of the bat is a fabulous sound it’s something folks in the condos around the ballpark might not be too excited to hear that early on a Sunday.
So, sipping a Machado Mimosa while eating Hosmer Hash Browns at the yard is likely just a dream. The Padres do have another early game on Peacock, though, on August 14 in Washington against the Nationals.
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