Just being honest here, not sure these baseball rule changes for the recently underway 2023 season make me very happy.
For those of you that don’t care about sports, you can probably stop reading right now.
I have a longtime friend, my daughter’s godmother actually, who has told me a few times that if my column focuses solely on sports, she doesn’t enjoy it much. Except when I got her involved in watching San Jose Sharks games back about 10 years ago or so; I didn’t get that channel anymore and she did so I would bribe her with some dinner and settle in to watch a game at her house now and then. She learned quite a bit about it and often remarked on how cute some of the players were.
But I digress.
Back to baseball.
The new rules that went into effect this season to shorten the game and make it more fan-friendly (at least that’s what they say) on the surface rub me the wrong way. I know it was agonizing sometimes when the pitcher spent five minutes walking around the mound, fixing the dirt after every pitch or when the batter would adjust and readjust his batting gloves 10 times before stepping in to the batter’s box. But that’s part of the game’s uniqueness, the idiosyncrasies of the various players. Now every pitcher has to throw the ball within the time frame of a pitch clock or it’s a called ball. He can only attempt a pickoff throw two times during an at bat; if he does it a third time and doesn’t catch the runner leading off, it’s a balk. Plus the bases are now bigger, making it easier to steal and the defense can’t employ the ‘shift’ which is expected to lead to more hits and most likely more runs.
So the goal, I guess, is to make it a more offensive game than defensive and everything is supposed to move faster, allowing for fans to stay connected instead of losing interest if the pitcher is taking several minutes between pitches.
That also means less time to get your concessions, but on the upside, maybe that means we won’t spend that extra $11.50 for a pretzel ($13 if you want that cheese sauce for dipping) while we are the ballpark.
Truthfully, I was never really a fan of the shift anyway so that one doesn’t bother me too much. Defensively, I understand the concept but I like to see two players on the left side and two players on the right side when I look at the infield.
As with any change, it also makes sense to me to see what these actually bring to the game and maybe they won’t be as detrimental as I think, they will just take some time to get used to. So for now I will reserve judgment.
As hard as it was, I got used to that automatic runner on second to start extra innings. Although it totally went against my purist baseball heart; that is what you do in high school, not the major leagues.
I also got used to the challenges and replays, and can see where that has made a difference. If a guy is out in a crucial situation and the umpire got it wrong, replay can get it right.
Baseball has been a constant for me. I played it for years with my brother and cousins, was on the softball team at my high school (league champions one year) and very nearly became the first girl allowed in to Little League in my hometown back in the dark ages. I practiced with the team and the coach wanted me on his roster but the board said no; too big a change to implement, I guess.
Change, though, is inevitable. Ultimately, it’s how we deal with it and incorporate it into our lives that’s the important part. So, get in the game.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.