Baseball is Changing – For the Worst

Abner Doubleday is spinning in his grave right now.

Wednesday, I had the chance to visit Eck Stadium, at Wichita State. Collegiate baseball fans and media members know that Eck is one of the meccas of college baseball. The 7,800-seat ballpark has seen one of the greatest coaches in all of college baseball, one of the perennial powers of college baseball, and countless post season appearances by the Shockers. The picture above, taken on Wednesday, was not shot well before the game or in the ninth inning. It was right smack in the middle of the ball game. About 120 of us filed in to the massive stadium to watch a game between Oklahoma State and Wichita State, two of the winningest programs in college baseball.

Admission was free. As was the parking located a, perilous, 75 yards from the gate.

Baseball, as a whole, has taken a turn for the worst – especially at the scholastic level. With all due respect to football, baseball has become too much like its fall counterpart.

There’s nothing like sitting in the sun, at a ballpark, Hall and Oates blasting over the public address system, popcorn and soda in hand, while watching a baseball game. What was once a beautiful sport has become grossly technical and has lost much of its pull.

This column is not to say I have tapered off from my baseball fandom, because that is far from the truth. This column is to say that the sport that I, and millions of other Americans love, is tapering away from itself.

First and foremost, baseball is a sport meant to be played outdoors and on dirt and grass. Not on turf and/or a dome. The only complaint I had about Eck Stadium was its disgraceful turf field. Scholastic baseball programs are designed to prepare its players for baseball at the highest level, and big-boy baseball is played on good ol’ fashioned dirt and grass. Just 1/3 of Big 12 teams play baseball on a natural surface. TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State. (Josh Holliday has confirmed that the new OSU park will feature a natural surface). Two of those schools, Oklahoma State and TCU, dominate the Big 12 year-in-year-out. Coincidence? I think not. And as for those domes … get rid of them. (OK, I’ll give Toronto a pass) but Houston, for instance, does not need a dome. Baseball, in its purest form, is meant to be played outdoors on dirt and grass. A pure sport should be played in pure conditions.

Speaking of purity, how the game goes should be dictated by the players. Seeing a timer on a baseball field makes me sick. There’s a reason players must get 27 outs to finish a game. There’s a reason pitchers need to throw three strikes, and hitters need to put the ball in play. Timers give an artificial feel to baseball, which baseball fans and players alike could go without. We’re willing to sit at the yard for a few hours. Let the game play out organically and make it more enjoyable for all. Some teams are even using play cards these days. If I could chose one thing to outlaw in baseball it would be play cards. Reserve those for football. It takes away from the flow of a game when a pitcher has to put on his quarterback pants. What happened to hand signals?

The MiLB implemented the international tiebreaker rule for their level of play. The international tie breaker rule puts an automatic runner at second for extra innings. Talk about a disgrace. In no other sport do you get that much of a freebie. Even free-throws have to be earned. Make players earn that scoring position. A base hit score from the ITBR runner is disgustingly anti-climactic. Baseball has had the best “overtime.” Baseball just keeps going until one team scores more runs. There are no special rules, no coin tosses, no advancements, no limits, just continuous ball.

Of late, television ratings for baseball have declined, and for obvious reason. Baseball is losing its draw by the day. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of baseball purists out there. Let them have the sport that they love. America’s past time is not something to be tampered with. Why isn’t the White House green? Because it’s traditional. There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. We’ll take our artificial sport, football, in the fall, but please, allow us the pure sport us fans love, baseball.

Photo via Instagram // @bookgirlproblems

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