High school baseball opened for the Eagles this past Friday and the St. Louis Cardinals, and other lesser teams, will begin play tomorrow.
No other sport has Opening Day like baseball.
Football has “Game 1” and basketball has…well, they just roll the ball out there and start not playing defense in the NBA.
But Opening Day in baseball is considered by may to be a major holiday.
All of the celebration, however, is for a sport that some think is on its way out.
Football and basketball draw larger audiences and baseball is seen as the last century’s sport.
But baseball – at all levels – could easily fix itself. Here are a few remedies for taking a sport that has become uniquely slow and pedestrian and cut to the chase more quickly with plenty more excitement.
If I were Commissioner of All Baseball:
1. Start the spring season in warmer weather – this means Major League games will open in Atlanta and Texas and California and anywhere in a dome. No more fans and bullpen pitchers warming up in a down sleeping bag. Missouri high schools would not begin their season until mid-April and finish their season in mid-June. Hey, Iowa plays its state championship in late June – it can be done.
2. Speed up the game – Once players begin an at-bat, they can only step out of the box once during the rest of the at-bat. Get in there and swing the bat.
3. “Courtesy runners” in the HS game are designed to get more kids in the game. OK, but only three per inning and they have to have a helmet on their head at the beginning of the inning. It shouldn’t take five minutes to replace a base runner.
4. Major League relief pitchers entering the game at mid-inning only get two warm-up pitches. They have been throwing for at least the past 15 minutes – their warm, for goodness sake!
5. All base runners would score on a ground rule double. From Little League to Major League, this simple rule change would benefit the offense – instead of a foolish limitation due to a two-base rule.
6. At high school games, admission would hereby cost one dollar more – but your first hot dog is free. Everyone should have a hot dog, sit in the sun and enjoy a baseball game.
7. The National Anthem should last no longer than 1:15 seconds – the amount of time it takes to the Navy band to play it – and country-western singers will just have to “warble” a tad faster.
8. Between innings, players are required to run to their position. Or run back into the dugout. You learn this as a ballplayer when you are six or seven years old. Somehow as a teenager, you seem to think you’re too cool to hustle out to your position. Then, when you get your first contract, you’re definitely too cool to hustle. Either hustle in and out of the dugout or sit on the bench. Simple.
9. Cut down on the yakking. No at-bat meetings between the coach and batter, one visit to the mound by a coach per inning, one additional visit by the catcher.
Professional games commonly were played in two-and-a-half hours and less – and high school games should play 7 innings in less than two hours. Let’s see a little hustle out there!