Baseball is alive and well in Detroit, America

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DETROIT - Forget the snow. It's baseball season.

Today, at 1:05 pm the Tigers open their exhibition season in Orlando against the Atlanta Braves.

And this weekend, fans will be able to go to Comerica Park and pick their seats for the fast-approaching 2013 season.

You get the feeling there will be plenty of takers for tickets. Fans don't want to miss out on a team with another chance to get to the World Series for a second straight season.

Last season, the Tigers -- who lost to the San Francisco Giants in a four-game sweep in the World Series -- drew over three million fans.

That's an incredible number when you also factor in the hardships this city has suffered the last few years.

Nationally, baseball has had to fight another demon.  But despite the taint of performance-enhancing drugs, fans keep coming to baseball games.

It wasn't long ago, say 10-12 years, some said baseball was a dinosaur. Some even suggested that the NFL overtook it as the American Pastime.

It wasn't true then and still isn't now.

In baseball, fans just can't get enough. In 2012, MLB recorded its fifth-best attendance mark in history with 74.8 million fans attending games. It was the sport's best mark since 2008.

Even more impressive, baseball's attendance increased for the second straight season, remarkable during these tough financial times. Normally, when money is short, the first thing cut from the budget is going out to see entertainment. Instead, most will simply stay home and watch TV.

It truly is a testament about the mass appeal of the sport and the desire to go out to the ballgame.

And people aren't coming out in just the big markets, but all over the country. There were nine teams that drew over three million fans last season.

The bad Colorado Rockies had the 13th-best attendance in the game.

For all the talk about the Steroid Era, baseball has enjoy its best attendance years mostly after all the homeruns left the yard.

Most want to always go back to the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run battle which had the nation watching in 1998.

And even when all the homer magic wore off and it was revealed to fans that some of their favorite stars had used PEDs, fans didn't respond as if it was fake like wrestling or like they had been hoodwinked.

Instead, they came out in even bigger numbers. People always considered the Golden Age of baseball to be in the 50s. Not true. It's right now.

Baseball has never been healthier.

The best five attendance years in baseball history have come in the last eight seasons. And it's incredible when you realize just about every single baseball game is on TV every day. Fans don't have to go, yet they do.

And if it's all about TV ratings and not attendance, why does the NFL still have that silly TV blackout rule? It's simple. Without it, the NFL would be embarrassed to have mostly half-empty stadiums being broadcast on TV.

The NFL can stick its chest out about its TV ratings, but how hard is it to get fans in the cold-weather months to stay in on a Sunday afternoon once a week.

If the NFL -- which changed its blackout policy to 85% of the tickets have to be sold this season from a complete sellout 72 hours before the game -- was all about ratings, it would drop the blackout all together. Fans could stay at home and the TV rating go even higher. But that's not going to happen because they understand how important attendance is to a sport.

You can have your TV football broadcast all you want, but there's nothing better than going to Comerica Park, sitting in the bleachers on a crystal-clear, warm June evening with a hot dog and a beer.

Baseball's robust attendance numbers tell you that America agrees.

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