Baseball is back.
Over this most recent past extended Easter holiday, Major League Baseball staged a comeback. And get this? Stadiums were bustling with spectators. It was a welcome sight for sure, except for fans of the Atlanta Braves.
Staying on cue, the start of the area’s school-related and recreational-level baseball seasons are just around the bend. Officially, prep-level preparation for a late-arriving start can get underway beginning Monday. Local recreation programs are already scheduling practices for that start of play as well.
Of all the major sports, and we are not about to rattle off that list for the sake of offending respective participants, perhaps baseball is the one that has simply not caught up with the times.
As a result, the time is now to at least ponder some new playing guidelines.
It’s no secret that baseball has lost some of its luster. There are those who cite the game’s pace of play as a primary culprit. There are avenues for solving the issue.
In practically every other sport, matters are pro-rated based on the age and levels of play. For instance, the timing of basketball quarters are shortened accordingly based on phases of play. The length of the periods for recreational as well as middle school and junior varsity gradually increase until they reach their peak at the high school varsity level.
The same rings true for football. Lengths of the quarters again are different at each of the progressing levels until reaching the high school varsity phase.
Baseball needs to get in on the act.
At no level below high school varsity play should more than six innings be held. At the recreational level, games lasting five innings should be the rule. Most of the time, games at this stage are held under time-limit restraints. In only a few exceptions are games played to their conclusion before the time expires.
Middle school level play should also be comprised of five innings per game. In addition, the distance for the pitching mound and length of the base paths should also be shortened considerably.
For all junior varsity play, games should be maxed out at six innings each. It should also mark the first level at which players conduct business – pitching and running the bases – from all regulation distances.
Once arriving on the high school varsity scene, games can be held at regulation seven innings with all the remaining traditional restrictions also in place.
The American Legion baseball organization is slowly making some progress in this direction. Over the past few seasons, the program has set the length of its games at both the Senior and Junior divisions at seven innings each.
The next phase of play is the collegiate level, where contests traditional are conducted over the course of nine innings. Professional baseball also follows the game plan as well.
At practically all levels, from the weekend travel to all school-related matters, a run-lead mercy rule should always be in effect. In most cases, a double-digit advantage secured through a certain phase of play is set as a bar to be reach. Even in shortened games, such a rule can continue to be applied.
For baseball to continue to appeal to prospective players, it must create a game plan designed to bring them back to the field.