By: Aaron Sapp
After a very exciting 2016 World Series that lasted all seven games with a Cubs victory, baseball fans across the country are geared up for the 2017 season, which started in February with spring training. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I’m looking forward to seeing how this year plays out!
Playing baseball throughout my childhood and into college gave me the opportunity to enjoy and learn so much about the game, from the rules of the sport, to how those regulations affect each game. I spent my first college baseball season at Lincoln Land Community College before transferring to University of New Orleans for my next three seasons. After graduation, I continued to play for one season with the Springfield Capitals.
I was intrigued when I read that baseball is experimenting this year with shortening extra-inning games by giving teams a runner on second at the start of every inning after the 9th. Two rookie leagues will give this new rule a try, as well as the World Baseball Classic this spring.
With 162 games played by each Major League Baseball team over seven months, some involved with baseball seem to be wondering how it may be slightly modified to entice more fans to follow a game that is slower paced than other popular sports.
For those looking to shave off a little time, there could be a few opportunities that may not drastically affect the game.
For instance, the teams frequently switch pitchers, especially in the last few innings, and new pitchers get eight warm-up pitches. Since new pitchers come straight from warming up in the bullpen, allowing an incoming pitcher just four warm-up pitches instead of eight could move things along.
Limiting managers to one visit to the pitcher’s mound per inning is another possibility; if a pitcher needs to be switched out, the manager can signal from the dugout. A few other options that could reduce game time might include:
- Maximum 20 seconds between pitches before a ball is called
- Maximum of 12 seconds for the batter to get ready before a strike is called
- Maximum of 2 pick-off attempts between pitches
Changes like this could easily speed up the pace of baseball for fans or officials looking for a shorter game time.
Baseball, however, is an iconic sport with a devoted following, regardless of how long the games last. After having grown up in the sport, I truly enjoy not only watching professional teams, but now also watching my 14-year-old son play baseball.
Youth baseball is really taking off, and it’s very different from when I was a kid. My son’s team has been everywhere from Milwaukee to Nashville to Indianapolis, even to showcase events in Florida and Houston. Youth baseball is bustling, and what’s exciting is that if they’re playing it now, they’re probably going to be watching it as adults.
While football probably ranks as most popular sport in the United States, I believe baseball is a nationally beloved game that evokes the nostalgia of decades-long tradition.
In particular, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk in the Central Illinois area about baseball, probably because the Cubs and Cardinals have such excellent teams right now. I’m excited to see if the Cubs can repeat last season this year, and I’m especially looking forward to Opening Day at Busch Stadium. It’ll be enjoyable to watch this rivalry over the next three to five years!