The Atlantic League – Leading the Way in Pace of Play or Publicity Stunt?

The independent Atlantic League is no stranger to the Pace of Play initiative to speed up the game of baseball.  In June of 2014, the league formed a Pace of Play Committee.  The committee is “tasked with reviewing ways to reduce the average time and enliven the pace of baseball games in order to enhance overall fan experience.”

After reviewing extensive data collected throughout the 2013 season and soliciting ideas from the fans, media, and baseball personnel, the committee worked on implementing different pace of play rules during the 2014 season.

As of August 1, 2014, five pace of play rules were put in place for all Atlantic League  games.

  1. The Time-Out Rule – “The defensive team, including any manager, coach or player, shall be limited during a game to a total of three (3) “time-outs” in which mound visits or on-the-field conferences are conducted with a pitcher.” Each “time-out” is also limited to 45 seconds.
  2. Directing umpires to apply and enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04 – “The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters ‘stepping out’ of the box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).”
  3. Directing umpires to control the pace of play – “ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game on in a timely manner.
    The umpires shall adhere to the strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and to observe that definition when calling pitches ‘balls’ or ‘strikes.”’
  4. Reducing the number of warm-up pitches – “Reduce the limit for preparatory ‘warm-up’ pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from 8 to 6 (as provided for in Rule 8.03).”
  5. Automatic awarding of an intentional walk – “When a manager or catcher of the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.”

You can read the rationale for the decisions HERE.

In addition to the rules already in place, they are also reviewing six other potential pace of play initiatives.

  1. “At the start of each half inning, require that the leadoff batter take his position in the batter’s box and the pitcher take his position on the rubber and be prepared to deliver his first pitch within 120 seconds from the time of the last out in the preceding half inning.”
  2. “Install stadium “shot clocks” to time and count down (a) the delivery of the pitch to the batter, (b) timeouts, (c) pitching changes, and (d) the interval from the last out of one half inning to the first pitch of the next half inning.”
  3. “Amend Rule 3.05 (b) so as to require a relief pitcher to pitch to more than one batter during the inning in which he enters the game.”
  4. “Develop an on-going program to educate players, managers, coaches, umpires and administrators about the need to be attentive to the pace of play.”
  5. “Initiate an electronic system that would provide for communication and relaying of signs from the dugout to the catcher and/or the pitcher.”
  6. “Modify or eliminate the DH rule.”

Even more initiatives have been tabled for future review. The rules listed for future review can be found HERE.

The Pace of Play committee has already rejected five rules that were found to be completely irrelevant or impractical to put into place during a game.

  1. “Limit the number of pitching changes a team may make.”
  2. “Raise the height of the pitching mound.”
  3. “Limit the number of foul balls allowed a batter once he has two strikes.” *Take note of this rule*
  4. “Disallow batters who have become base runners from discarding their elbow sleeves and other protective armor.”
  5. “Outlaw Velcro batting gloves.”

The Atlantic League is looking to take things one step further to speed up the game, but only for one exhibition game. The league announced that they will try two more pace of play rules when the Bridgeport Bluefish visit the Long Island Ducks on April 18th.  These two rules were proposed by a 68-year old baseball fan and author, Paul Auster.

The batter will:

  • be given a walk for three balls rather than four and
  • be called out for a two-strike foul ball. (Which is a lot like the rule completely dismissed by the committee.)

The Atlantic League president, Rick White, claimed that these rules were not being considered for the long term, but that they are going to continue as an “experimental laboratory for ways to improve the pace of games.”

But why even put these rules, which greatly change the dynamic (not just the pace) of the game, into place for one exhibition game? Why use different rules for an exhibition game where there will be players who are trying to get noticed and land a spot on the team?

If the league isn’t seriously considering these drastic changes, is it just a way to get fans in the seats and the Atlantic League in the news?

Let’s stop trying to be a publicity stunt and just play the game as it was meant to be played, balls and strikes included.

No Ulterior Motives Here, Women Can Be Passionate About Baseball Too

Women are in and around baseball everywhere. I think that it is pretty awesome to turn on the TV and see a knowledgeable woman reporting from a game. I also enjoy having great discussions with fellow female fans during a game at a ballpark. However, I always feel as if there is this stigma that females can’t be just as passionate about the sport as men. That we always have to have some ulterior motive when enjoying the sport. I’ve heard so many different things over the years: women just like to look at the players, they only pretend to watch so that they can impress their boyfriends, or that they’re “cleat chasers.”

According to the MLB, females make up nearly half (47%) of their fan base, but often times they aren’t viewed as equals to their male counterparts.  Whether it’s the pink jerseys, hats, and shirts (WHY is it assumed ALL women like pink??), “ladies night” promotions, or male fans asking females trivia questions to make them “prove” that they’re a “true” fan (this has honestly happened to me more times than I can count), the disparity between how male and female fans are viewed is very evident.  The same can be said for how male and female sports reporters are being viewed and judged differently. It’s slowly getting better, but it is nowhere near where it should and needs to be.

I never wanted to get into this personal subject on my blog, but I felt as if now was the time to bring up some of my experiences. Recently, as both a writer and a fan, I’ve had things that have been said to me that probably would never have happened if I was a male.

First off, I haven’t posted a new article in over a week. The reason? It’s been hard getting players who want to tell me their stories. I’ve had quite a few ideas for player features over the last couple weeks and have reached out to them in hopes of getting an interview or some quotes for a blog post. One player flat out told me that he doesn’t take a blog about baseball seriously if it is written by a female because we can’t play the sport. This is probably the one thing that can be said that really bothers me.  Assuming that I do not know the sport just because I cannot play it at a professional level is absurd. I have spent every summer for the last seven years at a ballpark, and yes, I pay attention and watch the game. I don’t go to “gossip” with my friends or just “stare at the players”!

A couple of other things have happened this past week that weren’t “female” related, or they possibly could be and it just wasn’t given as the reason.  Another independent player, who has spent time in affiliated ball, told me he wasn’t going to be with an indy team long, so he didn’t want to be associated with an independent based blog. And finally, most players just don’t reply to my inquires or blow off my request for an interview because I’m not “official” or associated with some media outlet. A “no thank you” reply is much nicer than a “No, you don’t know how to write” reply. I know that I’m not official, and I don’t expect players to agree to an interview. However, I do expect some sort of professionalism and respect.

On the flip side, it has been even worse as a fan. If anyone knows me, they know that I’m passionate about the sport and the guys who play it. I’ve been a season ticket holder for a major league team and an independent team since I was in college.  Being at a ballpark practically every night, you get to know the players that you see all summer long. In addition, I’m pretty big into social media, so I’ve followed and have become friends with many players on and off the field over the years.

I’m a very giving person. I love to help out anyway that I can.  Most of the time, that means sending care packages to players during spring training or throughout the season if I know that they need or want something that they don’t always have the luxury to get with their indy or minor league salaries.

I also LOVE to draw. I have even written a blog post about my drawings HERE. For me, baseball players are a natural choice for subject matter to improve my skills and drawings during the season.

However, recently my care packages and drawings have led to fellow fans labeling me as a “stalker.” I understand that for an outsider who doesn’t know my friendships with players, it appears odd.  But I really wish that they didn’t talk about me, spread lies and gossip about stuff that they don’t understand without getting to know me and who I am.

The same can probably be said about players’ girlfriends. The care packages aren’t really a new concept with me. I’ve actually sent one to a specific player for the last three years.  This off season, he started dating a girl who didn’t understand me at all and wouldn’t bother to listen to my side of the story. She sent me a message telling me to forget about sending him candy this spring and that I better “stay away” from her man. When I tried to reply, she blocked me. Another player, who recently broke up with his girlfriend, told me that he wasn’t allowed to be my friend during the season when he was dating her, but we can be friends now that they broke up.

Sometimes, issues like this completely blow my mind. I’m not out to steal anyone’s “man.” I don’t dress provocatively at the ballpark or try to bring a player home with me. I’m just trying to be a nice fan and help out any way that I can.

If the care packages and drawings bring a smile to a player’s face after a hard day at the field or a tough road trip, then it is all worth it. If I can make a player’s day by featuring them in a blog post, it’s worth it.

And really that’s all that matters to me.

Writing and sharing stories about Independent Baseball.