Something new is coming to a Double-A and Triple-A ballpark near you in April. Are you ready, teams, players, umpires and fans?
In the Yankees system, when you walk into Arm&Hammer Park at Double-A Trenton, or PNC Field, the ballpark in Moosic, Pa., where the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders play, you will be greeted with a reported three 20-second pitch clocks. Two will be placed on infield walls, offset from home plate, while a third will be in the outfield.
In an effort to speed up the game, as was tested in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago, a pitcher will have to send one toward the plate within 20 seconds or risk the batter being given an automatic ball. A hitter must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times, and be set within 20 seconds, except in cases of a foul ball, wild pitch and the like. If not, he can have an automatic strike called on him.
The rudiments of all this, announced last week and designed to pick up the “pace of the game,” have yet it be put in place. Teams, according to reports, will be trained in March, when the clocks will be installed in 60 upper-level minor-league baseball parks.
It is known each minor-league club will have to hire and pay a timer/operator. Major League Baseball Advanced Media will pay for all equipment and installation. Umpires will also participate in preseason clock training and the new rules. which are part of all this.
“We’re not sure of the process, except we know we will have the clocks,” said Trenton Thunder Director of Community Relations TJ. Jahn. “We will do whatever is implemented.”
Naturally there have been both positive and negative reaction to this experiment, which likely is a prelude to the majors eventually adopting a clock. Some might remember Athletics owner Charlie Finley installing a 20-second pitch clock on the Kansas City Municipal Stadium scoreboard in the 1960s, At that time “a long-forgotten rule” – along with the clock – were ignored.
There are many who feel games do drag, and the experiments conducted in the Arizona Fall League did cut minutes off time played. So there is a legitimate argument for speeding up the game.
Most pitchers feel 20 seconds is plenty of time to wind up and throw or deliver out of the stretch. None are like Steve Trachsel, nicknamed the “Human Rain Delay” among pitchers.
Most hitters agree on the time as well – few emulate Chuck Knoblauch or Nomar Garciaparra, who spent at least 20 seconds adjusting their batting gloves between pitches. Of course, among hitters, Mike Hargrove earned the hitters’ “Human Rain Delay” tag for his walkabouts while batting.
Some team officials, as well as players, have voiced concerns the array of clocks in the ballpark will detract from a fan’s enjoyment of the game. The point is legitimate. The clocks, when new, could, as a novelty, draw fans’ attention, In that case, one would think, after awhile, they would be as innocuous as game clocks in the NFL or shot clocks in the NBA.
On the other hand, if educated fans see an opposing pitcher is getting close to the zero mark, there is a 3-2 count on a hometown hitter, and he gets an automatic “Ball Four” and a spot on base, cheers might erupt.
How many times did Phil Rizzuto tell his WPIX (Channel 11) Yankees audience “there is no clock in baseball?”
No more, my friend.