It's the best game in the world
It's the most strategic, fascinating game with the most options available, and you are bound to see something each game that you may have never seen before.
It's a game with the greatest names of plays: the bunt, the bunt and run, the slash, the butcher boy, the sacrifice, the sacrifice fly, the hit and run, the run and hit, the steal, the delayed steal, the safety squeeze, the suicide squeeze, the walk, the balk, all capable of being seen at the field at anytime
Yes, baseball, especially youth baseball, is quite fascinating
If you can stay awake long enough to watch it
Yep, gone are the days where games would take under two hours to play. The 2-0, 3-1, 1-0 games that would be over before the end of the movie you decided to watch that started at the same time.
What we have in some instances is a tooth-pick-over-the-eyelids, three espresso, no need for Ambien, coma inducing snore-a-thon where games that last six or seven innings can last up to two and a half hours. What is the reason that these games are taking so much longer? Even snails are thinking: Can we pick up the pace a little?
Routines....and the silliness of them all
After watching a 15U summer league game between two Cleveland area baseball programs (Not teams, programs) I have found some things that maybe, just maybe, contribute to this feeling of staring at static on your TV set.
Pitcher: Gives up a hit to start the inning (Ok, no big deal)
Batter: Before stepping into the box, he adjusts his batting gloves, spins the bat to where he wants the logo, taps the plate, wipes the dirt of the barrel of the bat, spreads dirt in the batter's box, looks down for the sign from his third base coach, taps the dirt from his cleats, and stands in. (What was he doing in the on-deck circle? Getting a manicure?)
Pitcher: Throws Ball one. This is followed by the sequence of: Spit, adjust the hat, crotch grab (It's still there, big guy), and a trip around the mound. He then takes a deep breath and calmly steps back on the rubber,
Batter: Repeats sequence from above (Why anyone would have to adjust their batting gloves after not even swinging yet is anyone's guess)
Pitcher: Throws over to first to check the runner (Considering the guy at first is five foot four and weighs two hundred and thirty pounds, whose running form resembles a puppet being controlled by a puppet master, I don't think he is stealing. It isn't like you have Usain Bolt over there. Pitch the ball!!)
Batter: Repeats sequence...(You get the idea)
Pitcher: Walks the batter on four pitches (I guess the spitting, hat adjusting, and crotch grabbing didn't work)
Visit to the mound by the pitching coach: I understand the need to calm a pitcher down. To remind the pitcher of the situation and the amount of outs. Does the home plate umpire REALLY need to go out and break up the meeting at the mound? (Here is an idea. Pitching coaches come out, get to the mound, say "throw strikes", and without breaking stride, return to the dugout)
Pitcher: Falls behind 2-0 to the next batter. (He asks for a new ball. He then steps behind the mound, rubs the ball, takes off his hat, and tries to re-group. Isn't that what the pitching coach was supposed to get him to do?)
Catcher: Seeing his pitcher is out of sorts, he makes a visit to the mound (Considering that the pitching coach was just out there two pitches ago, what POSSIBLY could the catcher be saying to his pitcher? Comparing Twitter followers? Why he ignored the SnapChat he sent last night? The latest cat dancing Vine video? The state of the economy? Foreign policy?)
Wait....we have a foul ball!!! (It's always good when the "ping" from the new BBCore bats can double as an alarm clock)
Umpire: "We need that one!!" (While we wait for the ball that was just fouled off to be retrieved, it boggles the mind why there is only 4-6 new balls used for most games. Secondly, why can't the players that aren't playing in the game help retrieve other foul balls, so we don't have to sit and wait to see if the nine year old that picked up the foul ball is going to throw it back to the field, or try and keep it for himself)
Hold on, we have a ray of hope.... The other team's catcher has reached base with two outs, so a courtesy runner, usually the batter who made the previous out, can run for the catcher, presumably so that catcher can "gear up" and be ready when the inning ends (One of the all-time great rules)
Unfortunately.... After a 10 pitch at-bat by the hitter, numerous stepping out of the box by the hitter, and stepping off the rubber by the pitcher, the batter makes the third out. The teams change sides, and the opposing pitcher is on the mound, ready for his five warm-up pitches. One problem. There is no one behind the plate to warm him up. So we wait until the catcher, whose has already had five minutes to get his gear on, to make it out of the dugout. (Two things here. First, have a coach ready to warm up the pitcher, get the five warm-ups pitches in, and have the catcher catch the last one to throw down to second. Secondly, if you have been a catcher your whole life, and it still takes you ten minutes to get your gear on, then dude, find another position)
There is light at the end of the tunnel.... The first batter of the inning grounds out on the second pitch of the at-bat. The second batter strikes out on four pitches (Now we're talkin'. A perfect pace to the game. No coffee, Red Bull, or Mountain Dew needed to stay awake this inning)
Too bad it's an oncoming train.... All's well DOESN'T end well. After the third strike by the previous hitter, the catcher then throws to the third basemen, so the infielders can throw the ball around before getting the ball back to the pitcher. One problem. The catcher throws it wide, and the ball ends up in left field, where the left fielder, who isn't paying any attention, has to be yelled at four times to get the ball (As someone who played the outfield when I wasn't pitching, I can confirm that us outfielders pay ZERO attention between batters. NONE. Not one ounce. We kill the time by checking out what is happening on the tennis courts behind the fence, checking out the planes overhead, and checking out whose parents are in the stands. We always ask the questions of: Why are those group of parents sitting together? Why do some parents choose to sit where they do? Why did they bring blankets and sweatshirts when it is 85 degrees outside? Who is going to be the first of the younger siblings to fall off the hill off the third base side behind the dugout? We also count the number of players on our team that wear the high socks, compared to the players that wear their pants down to their ankles....You know, generally productive thoughts)
Batter: Gets hit in the thigh by a pitch. Granted it was a curveball that hit him, and the thigh is probably one of the best places to get hit by a pitch, the coaches, never the less, come out to check on their player, who is hobbling around. After five minutes of deciding weather or not the batter is going to live, he sprints down to first base. (What a miraculous recovery) Funny thing is, the kid ends up stealing second. (I know I shouldn't joke about players getting hit by a pitch. However, there is no need to re-enact the scene of Wilem DaFoe dying in "Platoon" every time you get hit. When you sprint down to first base after being hit, the people in the stands AREN'T saying "Wow, what a tough kid", they are saying "Wow, what a Euro soccer player")
How do we fix this?
Pitchers.... Throw strikes and work at a quick pace. Have a plan to each hitter and follow it. Get the ball back from the catcher and get to the mound ready to pitch. The more strikes you throw, the fewer pitches you will make, and the quicker the outs and innings will be. You will have a lower pitch count and work deeper into the game
Hitters.... GET IN THE BOX AND HIT. Use the on deck circle to get all your little habits and routines worked out. Be aggressive and do your job as soon as possible. (I am all for working the count, but if I see a 2-0 fastball right down the middle, I am hammering that sucker, not taking a pitch just to see if the pitcher can throw a strike)
Fielders.... Us as fans can handle errors from time to time. What we can't handle is a comedy of errors on very basic plays. Throw and catch the ball like you belong as a member of a baseball program. Be energetic and excited. It sharpens your focus, and allows to be to quicker both physically and mentally, leading to shorter innings
Coaches.... Hold the kids accountable. MAKE them play at a faster pace. Be proactive as far as what to expect (Getting pitchers and catchers ready before your team's at-bat is over). Not every situation needs to be explained on the fly. Assign a couple of players that aren't starting to help retrieve foul balls
Umpires.... Keep the game moving. Get the hitters in and out of the box, and remind the pitchers to pick up the pace.
Baseball, in my opinion, is the greatest game in the world. Yes, it can be at times painful to sit through a three hour game, where at times there is more action in between pitches and batters than time where the ball is in play. To really KNOW the game is to LOVE it even more than the casual fan.
Yes, there can be some improvements to the game during the summer season. Games need to be quicker, and not every batter has to work the count full before swinging. That being said, there is nothing better on a summer afternoon or evening than sitting down and enjoying your son play this fine game.
Excuse me for now.....I have a baseball tournament in Chicago to attend this weekend......Anyone seen my case of Red Bull and Mountain Dew?