Attendance for Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field are down more than 12 percent so far this year, but the Rays are far from alone: 20 of Major League Baseball's 30 franchises are in similar slumps.
Lovers of the sport are watchful.
"At the moment yes, I think there is a decline," said Travis Phelps, former Rays pitcher and current high school baseball coach and owner of 61 Sports Baseball Academy. "I think the interest is dropping a little bit."
Phelps said there are many contributing factors, but at the top of his list?
"I think you're coming out of a bad economy, you're coming out of a lot of players in the steroid era that was putting up big numbers, the numbers are coming down now," he said.
Baseball fan Brian Rothman agreed with Phelps on the economic reason. Rothman has three sons who play Little League and a daughter who also loves to go to Rays games -- but those plans get pricey.
"It's an expensive proposition to bring myself and four kids to a game," he said.
Rothman said tickets and food and beverages quickly makes it a $200-plus outing.
"I'm not saying it's not worth it, but it's expensive," he said.
According to the Web site baseball-reference.com, total MLB attendance was 34,682,942 as of Wednesday. That is 1.46 million fewer tickets compared to the same period last year, a four percent drop from 2012 to 2013.
MLB attendance peaked in 2007, fell dramatically in 2008, 2009 and 2010, then increased in 2011 and 2012. The bottom line: A 5.8 percent shrinkage from the 2007 peak to the end of the 2012 season.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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