CAMDEN — A minor baseball league is attempting to speed up the game and hopes if it succeeds, some of its methods could be adopted by Major League Baseball.
The Atlantic League plans to have its umpires call a strict strike zone, encourage pitchers to work quickly and keep batters from stepping out of the box often. Limiting mound visits by players, coaches and managers is also part of the new initiative from one of the top unaffiliated baseball leagues in North America.
“Duration and pace of games have become out of touch with our fan base who need to go to work and go to school in the morning,” league executive director Joe Klein said in a statement. We hope to come out of this season with faster games and some ideas that could be considered.”
Klein, a former general manager for three big league clubs, also said it’s the minor leagues that have historically innovated
“For example, back in the day, all baseball games were played in the daytime, until the minor leagues first experimented with lights for night games. Once it was perfected, the big leagues adopted it,” Klein said. “We hope to come out of this season with faster games and some ideas that could be considered by Major League Baseball. Some of the things will work and, invariably, some will not but we know that this is has been an issue in our game for a very long time.”
The Atlantic League says that average game times have crept up over three hours, and so it will require a report from umpires for any game that exceeds 2:45.
Umpires will also be instructed to call the strike zone as it exists in the rule book, rather than as it is often called at all levels, making pitches above the belt and below the armpits strikes, rather than balls as they frequently are now.
We are not trying to change the game,” Klein said, “only to help to keep it in tune with the times.”