The cinema has been in charge of spreading it and Philip Roth, Don DeLillo and Bernard Malamud have dedicated splendid novels to it. But baseball remains the least exportable of American sports. Its rules are complex, its rhythm, syncopated. Its mystique, its centuries-old traditions and its aura of everyday epic hardly ever cross borders. In Spain there are only 3,294 federated members and the Baseball World Cup, the main competition for national teams, was held for the last time in 2011 and obtained extremely poor audiences. In spite of everything, if something it is exemplary Major League Baseball (MLB), the great North American league, is beginning to take the fight against climate change very seriously.
These days, the MLB prepare a contingency plan whose main objective is to reduce the environmental impact of the competition. It is about proposing shorter regular seasons, with fewer crossings between teams from very distant geographical areas and giving priority to land trips or regular flights. Last November, Seth Wynes, a researcher at Concordia University in Montreal, published a study showing that the carbon footprint of the four major professional leagues in the United States had been reduced by 26% in the last two seasons due to to the impact of the pandemic. The reduction reached a very significant 50% in the case of the NHL, the ice hockey league, due to the application of a very strict protocol that had led to the cancellation of a high number of games.
The MLB, despite maintaining a very active competition calendar, had registered a drop in emissions of around 22%, in contrast to the 15% of the NBA or the meager 6% of the professional American Football League (NFL). In light of these data, Sammy Roth, an expert in energy and the environment at Los Angeles Times, concluded in an article that it is “highly desirable” to consolidate this positive change that has occurred as a result of exceptional circumstances. Roth found it disheartening to witness a final stretch of the 2019-2020 season “with empty stadiums and a predominance of home games, so that, for example, the Los Angeles Dodgers did not play any games against the St. Louis Cardinals or the New York Mets.” However, in his opinion, a balanced average term, with around 10 days less in the regular season and a certain rationalization of trips, would already reduce emissions by a very significant 11%.
For one of baseball’s most committed active players in the fight against global warming, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter, it would be a step in the right direction, if perhaps not enough. In an interview with Hannah Keyser, editor of Yahoo Sports, Suter recalls that MLB regular seasons are “marathons in which each of the 30 teams plays a total of 162 games, 81 of them on the road, and that involves flights to places as far apart, in our case, as San Diego, Los Angeles, or Miami.”
The United States has become accustomed to the “toxic” routine of its baseball players competing every other day, in lucrative games, but of often very dubious sporting significance. For Suter, professional players are already among the main stakeholders in the competition schedule being lightened “substantially” to make it more sensible and sustainable: “10 years ago, when I was talking about climate change in the locker room, my teammates They looked like it was a two-headed monster. Today, the vast majority have surrendered to the evidence. They’re sick of playing 90-degree games in July in places that not long ago enjoyed balmy summers, like Milwaukee.”
A study by Climate Central pointed out that the average temperature at which MLB games are played has increased by more than 1.5 degrees since 1970. For Suter, we are not only destroying the planet, but also a century-old game that is not It was conceived to be practiced in extreme conditions. “Against these threats, individual commitment is not enough”, concludes the player, “it is essential to adopt ambitious collective measures”. Starting with a professional sport that accepts the need to play fewer games, travel by train whenever possible and, above all, give up those private flights from coast to coast that have become the most aggressive symbol of the opulence of the great American leagues.