By J.D. McKay
This summer I began working for the Louisville Bats Ground Crew. It is a pretty sweet job, and I am having a lot of fun, but that is not the point. Baseball is evolving. I am sure that anyone who follows sports has heard something like this: “Baseball fans are dying,” or “baseball is boring and losing popularity.” Baseball has heard them, especially minor leagues, and is making changes.
One change is making uniforms fun and entertaining for fans. The MLB has recently started a players weekend where players are allowed to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys. Plus, they wear special Mother’s Day, Veterans Day, Father’s Day and Fourth of July hats and uniforms.
The Minor Leagues have not stopped at those holidays to wear special uniforms. On May 4 they often wear Star Wars uniforms to celebrate May the Fourth be with you. One new very cool thing most of the MILB is doing is adding Copa de la Diversion uniforms. They take their team’s typical uniforms, and make it something from Spanish-speaking culture. For example, the Delmarva Shorebirds are becoming the Gallos de Delmarva, meaning the Roosters of Delmarva. The Bats are becoming the Murciélagos de Louisville and wearing them on June 28. Those uniforms will make the game a little more fun, and you will get to see me dragging the field between the fourth and fifth innings. The Bats also introduced the Louisville Mashers last year and the Derby City Mint Juleps this year. Both uniforms have dope hats and jerseys.
The MILB also introduced a pitch timer in 2015. If it took a pitcher more than 20 second to pitch, a ball was called without throwing a pitch. This fixed some things, but it did not always fix the problem. For example, if I am at a game, it will inevitably take four hours, even with the timer. However, just last Tuesday, I was at a game that took one hour and 59 minutes. So the timer can be successful.
The last change is the amount of dingers hit. It is wild. Homers are being hit at an alarming rate over the past two years and into this year. There are several explanations for this. One is that bat angles are changing, accounting for more strikeouts but also more homeruns. Another part is that athletes are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, so that probably accounts for it. The last, partial conspiracy is that baseballs are being made differently. Some people say that baseballs are being made basically to add more pop. That seems unlikely to me, but it is certainly possible. Pro baseball has denied that a lot.
Baseball can certainly do more to be more interesting, it could add a DH to the NL. That is kind of a lame idea that real baseball fans like myself disagree with, but small fans might like that more. They could also play fewer games. That is unlikely, but it could happen if the game was truly collapsing.
All in all, baseball will not ever completely die. It is the first sport many Americans play, so that feeling of their first home run will always stick with them. I am sure that some parts will change over my life, and I am looking forward to seeing what. But right now, baseball is evolving at all levels.