Baseball Tops NCAA Tournament in Spring Popularity, Poll Finds

The start of the Major League Baseball season is the most eagerly awaited spring sporting event, according to a Seton Hall Sports Poll, proving more popular with the public than the national men’s college basketball tournament or the National Football League draft.

Forty-seven percent of Americans surveyed this week throughout the nation said they’ll be paying attention when baseball’s regular season begins next month. The first game of the season is April 5, as the Chicago Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals, with 14 games scheduled for the following day.

By comparison, 38 percent of respondents said they’re looking forward to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, which begins March 17 and runs through April 6, when the championship game is played in Indianapolis.

The three-day NFL draft, which will be held April 30 to May 2 in Chicago, has appeal for 34 percent of Americans, the Seton Hall Sports Poll found.

Although it’s the NFL offseason, the event’s popularity topped that of the National Basketball Association playoffs, which begin April 18. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed are looking forward to the NBA playoffs.

Golf’s Masters Tournament ranked fifth among the spring sporting events, at 20 percent, followed by the National Hockey League playoffs (18 percent), Major League Soccer (17 percent) and the women’s World Cup (17 percent).

Major League Baseball this season is implementing initiatives designed to speed up pace-of-play. Major league games averaged 3 hours and 2 minutes last season, the first time they climbed to more than three hours since at least 1981, when the average was 2:33.

Among those who follow baseball closely, 51 percent said they’re in favor of trying to speed up the game. Forty-three said they preferred to keep the game as it is.

A-Rod Return

Alex Rodriguez is returning to the New York Yankees’ lineup after sitting out all 162 games last season while serving the longest performance-enhancing drug suspension in the sport’s history. Of those polled, 51 percent said the ban was severe enough, while 49 percent said Rodriguez should have been suspended longer -- or for life.

The telephone poll of 751 Americans has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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