Imagine that: baseball runs late

Published 10:34 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

It’s an argument that’s been made before in this space, but it’s still relevant. Baseball games at the college and high school levels last too long.

The latest example was Alabama’s first contest in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament. The Crimson Tide and South Carolina were scheduled to play the fourth game of the first day of the tournament at Regions Park in Hoover. The game was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m. but was pushed back to 9:57 p.m. It ended at 1:54 a.m.

Now most don’t have to be told that 2 a.m. on a weeknight—or, um, weekmorning—is too late—or early—for most people to be watching a baseball game. So the tournament, simply through its schedule, essentially eliminated the fan base that would have produced the most revenue for the league.

And there was no way state media outlets were able to cover the game. That may not matter to those that don’t write for a newspaper, but coverage of an event like the baseball tournament is essential to keeping people excited about and wanting to attend the event.

The obvious solution would seem to be to alter the schedule, but there’s an even easier answer: do what it takes to shorten the game. That encompasses several possibilities: switch to wooden bats, build bigger ballparks, make pitchers bat—or enforce the rules already on the books.

That’s what the American Baseball Coaches Association has asked the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee to do. Some rules—like the one that puts a 20-second limit on the time pitchers can take between pitches or the one that says only 90 seconds can elapse between half-innings—would shorten the game significantly but aren’t enforced.

Of course, many disagree that enforcement of the rules would be a good thing, though that sounds ridiculous in itself. “The pace of the game is very attractive to fans,” former LSU coach and current athletic director Skip Bertman told The Birmingham News.

It’s doubtful the fans that stuck around for the end of the Alabama-South Carolina would agree.