Interleague play in MLB is more mainstream than ever. Actually, scratch that. It becomes even more mainstream next season.
Major League Baseball announced its 2013 schedules on Wednesday and, depending on your perspective, Interleague play is the star of the show next year. For a number of reasons.
Before we get to the new changes, consider Interleague play's history since it debuted in 1997.
MLB drew 8.7 million fans to Interleague games in 2012, which is the third highest total in the 16-year history of the NL and AL dueling during the regular season.
This summer also marked the third-highest average attendance for Interleague games. The average Interleague game this year drew 34,693 fans per game - a figure that is higher than 19 MLB teams' average attendance, period.
Clearly, it's working. And it's no novelty, nor is it a product driven by modern greed. Interleague play was discussed in MLB as early as the 1930s, and had been considered in nearly every decade before debuting in '97.
If anything, it took forever to get going. That pretty much torpedoes any "purists" who oppose Interleague play based on baseball's history. It's always been around.
Record-wise, the AL holds the all-time advantage with 2,111 wins to the NL's 1,909. The Yankees have racked up the most Interleague wins (170), and the Pirates have the fewest (91). The Bucs are the only MLB team that hasn't reached the 100-win mark.
The Texas Rangers blew the doors off the Interleague schedule in 2012, winning 14 of 18 games. The worst was Colorado, which lost 13 of 15 against the AL.
Which leads us to the surprises learned on Wednesday when MLB released the 2013 schedule.
For the first time ever, an Interleague matchup will open the new season. Though the matchups have been traditionally saved for midseason, next year the Reds and Angels meet in the opening series starting April 1 in Cincinnati.
It's one thing to open the new season with the fun fanfare of Interleague-spiked attendance - which clearly fans respond to. Also new to the mix in 2013, however, Interleague series' will close the regular season as well. Detroit and Miami, for one (or, is it for two?), face off in the final weekend in September 2013.
Is that a great thing, when division rivals jockeying for playoff position during season-ending matchups is one thing that makes the final weekend so terrific?
Time will tell. But if time has already told us one thing about Interleague play, it's that everything seems to work.