Every now and again I sit around and think about what I would do if I had the ability to change anything I wanted in baseball.
Don’t get me wrong, I think baseball is doing fine without my input. But like everything in life, we can always do better. The administration of Major League Baseball in the central office in New York and in the local franchise offices can always make a tweak here and a tweak there to improve the quality of the game.
Here are a few minor changes I would like to see implemented.
OPEN THE GATES FOR BATTING PRACTICE
I love watching Arizona Fall League games and spring training games when fans gather in the right field and left field bleachers to watch the teams take batting practice. In most cases, the gates are open when teams are on the field and in the batter’s box taking batting practice well before game time.
Most of the people in the bleachers are younger fans. However, there are plenty of aging adults chasing down home runs and foul balls. They hope to leave with a baseball and even more prized, an autographed baseball.
There are many major-league parks that keep the gates closed during batting practice. What’s up with that?
I don’t get it. Why would you deprive baseball fans of a tradition that has gone on for years by locking people out of the pre-game 5 PM ritual of batting practice?
In Phoenix, the gates are not open in time to see both teams take BP. That happens in other major-league cities as well.
It really is a thrill to watch Giancarlo Stanton take batting practice. He has hit some of the longest home run balls I’ve ever seen before and during the game. It’s a thrill to watch a baseball scream off his bat and head to Mars or somewhere else.
Aaron Judge is another guy that can put on a monster show.
And the list goes on and on. Every team has at least one, if not more than one player that can send a soft batting practice pitch out of the park and into the stratosphere.
I remember seeing Jose Canseco hit the very top of the light pole in a spring training park years ago. I had a hard time even finding the top of the pole, that’s how high it was.
And while batting practice is going on inside most parks, baseball game ticket holders are standing outside biding their time waiting for the gates to open. Did I say I don’t get it? I don’t get it.
Does it cost that much more to open the gates for another hour? Isn’t the support staff already in place within the park?
Aren’t the concession stands ready to open? If they aren’t, they sure could be. And wouldn’t the concessions sell an extra hot dog or soda in that time? You bet they would.
So one of the first things I would do if I were empowered is open the gates in time for fans to see the home team and the visiting team taking batting practice.
CHANGE THE BATTING PRACTICE UNIFORMS
OK, I’ve changed the time the gates open for batting practice, now I have to change one of my other pre-game pet peeves.
In those places where fans do get to watch batting practice and for the scouts who watch batting practice diligently before every game, they may not know whom they are watching.
Without any identification on his uniform, it is very difficult to know the identity of the person in the batting cage. Teams have pre-game uniform tops. Players wear sunglasses at times. Even the best scouts can’t identify every hitter in the cage during batting practice. The solution is simple. Every team should put the name or number of the player on his pre-game uniform jersey. Even those teams that don’t put the name on the back of the game uniforms should find a way to identify the player during batting practice. That isn’t asking too much, is it?
I can’t think of any valid reason to keep names or a number off pre-game “practice” jerseys.
WHERE ARE THEY WHEN YOU NEED THEM?
And my final game-day tweak for this edition of BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD is really simple.
Whenever a driver pulls into a parking lot surrounding the ballpark there is an attendant ready, willing and able to take the amount of money required for parking. In some cases, a driver needs to obtain a bank loan to afford parking anywhere near the venue. But that’s not my gripe.
Here’s my gripe. Some of the parking lots I see are dark and difficult to negotiate after a night game. Where’s the parking attendant? Gone. The driver is left to fend for him or herself.
In many parks owned by the club, services for dead batteries and/or flat tires are offered. I applaud that. Truthfully, most team owned lots have an attendant at the lot after the game. But not all. Clearly, not all. Some leave the driver alone to navigate an often times dark and unfamiliar location.
For someone from out of the area not knowing exactly how to navigate around the city, it would be nice to have someone available to provide directions. Things look different at night. It would be nice to have someone available in the event of a security issue or car malfunction.
So this is for the parking lot owners near and around the ballpark. You have no problem providing someone to take the money before the game, but many, many game area parking lots are totally void of lot attendants after the game. Not cool. Not good.
THE GAME DAY EXPERIENCE
I regret the pricing of game tickets and expenses; concessions, parking and all game day related costs are what they are. In many ways I believe teams are their own worst enemies when it comes to pricing. Wouldn’t they sell many more hot dogs at $5 each than at $8 each and make up for the difference in volume? Can you even find a hot dog for $8? Parking a car for $40? Are you kidding me? And that doesn’t even touch the inflation during playoff games or the World Series.
Then there are so-called “premium” games when ticket prices are inflated for popular visiting teams with popular players. Does that imply that every other team is less than premium? I guess it does. I think charging more to see Team X rather than Team Y is a total rip-off and very, very bad for baseball.
As long as fans are willing to pay the price, every aspect of game day pricing will remain as it is or increase. But fans want to see games in person and there is no choice but to pay the price.
So no, other than letting volume take over as a pricing tool, I don’t have many ideas to change the pricing structure of major-league baseball game day.
I’ll have more ideas for gameday in coming editions of BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD. For now, however, I’ll be thrilled if the team would allow fans in to see both teams take batting practice with the players having their name or number on their pre-game jerseys. I would also be thrilled if there were an attendant at every game area parking lot when fans exit the lot. There is always someone there to take the money before the game, but somehow, some way in far too many parking lots drivers are abandoned and left to fend for themselves after games. Especially in lots that are bit more remote and need the attendant the most.
The bench-clearing incident between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland is a total black eye for baseball.
It is shameful that grown men have to be vindictive and engage in throwing at the hitter or charging the mound just to get even in some juvenile, macho and outdated manner.
These guys pitching today are huge. They can throw the ball in the high 90’s with little or no effort.
Can you even imagine being hit anywhere on your body by a baseball going 95 miles per hour from a man standing that close to you and standing 6-foot-5? I don’t even want to think of how that feels.
What does a pitcher think will happen if the ball hits the batter intentionally? What does the pitcher want to have happen? Is it remotely possible that a ball meant to hit a guy in the rear end ends up hitting him in the head? You bet it is.
I can understand a ball getting away from a pitcher. I can’t and I will never understand a pitcher throwing at a hitter with the intent to hit him. Ever.
Retaliation from the mound is a practice I disliked years ago. I dislike it even more now.
Should a hitter charge the mound? No. A hitter should retaliate and get even with base hits, stolen bases, home runs and his offensive prowess. And I know that makes it seem like the hitter is weak. He isn’t. Get back by adding runs to that pitcher’s ERA and WHIP. Change his won-loss record.
The answer I believe rests with the manager and the front office.
The manager must stop seeking revenge for his players that are hit with pitches. The manager and the front office have to take a stand against throwing at hitters. Now. Before it’s too late.
Lets put the macho years behind us, and end throwing at hitters with intent. Today would be a good day to begin.
HANG OUT WITH ME IN CUBA
I hope you will hang out with me in Cuba from January 19 thru January 26, 2018. What an itinerary we have planned. You’ll see 1950’s cars by the hundreds and take in the culture and baseball of a beautiful island with fantastic people. For details, contact me on e-mail at BPleskoff@aol.com. Do something for yourself-give yourself a trip to Cuba. You’ll never regret your decision.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff