by Kenneth Matinale
April 4, 2008
If a ball is batted it should be in play. Here is a simple way to achieve that. Had ice hockey been invented before baseball it might have been incorporated from the beginning. Then again if hockey and especially basketball had been invented before baseball, baseball would never have been slowed down to its presently unacceptable state. Slow pitch softball is the essence of the game. Put the damn ball in play. Eliminate leads by base runners and eliminate stealing. Speed slows down the game.
Side boards, baby! That's it. Bring the stands to the foul lines with a barrier to protect the fans: plexyglass or see through fence like that in the Japanese park where Boston and Oakland recently opened the 2008 season. Any batted ball that hits the board is in play. If hit over, it is a foul out of play like balls hit into the stands now. Some would describe this sarcastically as arena baseball. So? It eliminates all that standing around that sucks the life out of a baseball game. The action would be much more flowing. Offense may not increase as much as some might expect. Balls hit off the board between home and first or third base would probably result in an out. Now it's just more pointless waiting for something that counts to actually happen.
Runners would not be able to cut the angle of first and third base but could bounce off the board to propel themselves forward. Without stealing, there are no throws to first to hold the runner close. The pitchers could use one motion to the plate and concentrate on the batter. Runners would have further to run if they could not leave the bag until the ball crossed home plate. There might be many more double plays.
Behind home there would be a limited area in play; use something like the batting cage used in batting practice. Passed balls and wild pitches would be a distant memory.
Imagine sitting in the first row down the line? Fans would be so much closer. You do not want to sit behind a barrier? You like having your life in danger from balls and splintered bats? Have you ever sat behind the glass during a hockey game? It's amazing. Of course baseball would still be slow by comparison but you could be so much closer to the action.
Read my post about padding the walls.