After being mostly housebound and sick for about 5 weeks, suffering in the coldest and wettest Bay Area winter in a long time, I have made it to Scottsdale, Arizona. I am staying with two wonderful friends that I met in Paris! The sun is out and the temperature is pure heaven: 70o Saturday, 71o yesterday, and 72o today. I cannot remember when I last saw those numbers on the weather app of my phone.
I flew Southwest Airlines from Oakland Airport Saturday morning. Somehow I’ve lost my TSA pre-flight status and had to stand in line for 45 minutes to get through security. When you are in a line for that long a time, you eventually start talking to people around you. No one could figure out why the long line on a Saturday morning. It seemed to me to be too early for Spring Break but who knows. People who fly SWA more than I do said it was unusual. People behind me were going to miss their flight and I urged them to walk ahead as if they knew what they were doing and get to their gate. They felt a bit bad. I asked ‘Would you let someone in your position through?’ They said ‘yes, of course.’ So off they went. At that point, I thought I had plenty of time. As it turned out I didn’t, and I also had to cut in front of some people to make it to the gate. Ah, the joys of flying.
I was with two baseball buddies that I have known from pre-Paris years when I was a season ticket holder for the Oakland Athletics. In those days, my ‘baseball family’, made up of people who sat in similar sections at the Ballpark, would go down to Phoenix for 4 days, a week, sometimes 2 weeks. We’d see baseball in the sunshine, meet many of the players, hike in the hills around Phoenix and Scottsdale, and have a glorious time. In 2015, the Oakland A’s moved from their Phoenix home at Papago Park to Hohokam park in Mesa. The Chicago Cubs had played there for years and been the most sold-out ballpark during Spring Training. They built themselves a beautiful new ballpark up the road still in Mesa.
My friends and I landed in Phoenix, picked up their rental car, and drove to Hohokam. My first Spring Training game in nine years. In those days, I would have brought many baseballs and baseball paraphenalia that I hoped to have autographed by the players. As I sat down in my seat, I looked over at the autograph seekers and couldn’t remember why the urgency to get the autographs. From my spot in section 107, it seemed too much energy to get up and fight my way to the front of a small crowd of people that included children, to get an autograph. Maybe I’d grown up a bit and was going to leave that stuff to the children. It was fun I must admit.
That game was my chance to watch the new rules that MLB has regulated for the majors so that the game will go faster, more runs will be scored, and the hope that it will bring fans back to Baseball. I’m not sure why it hasn’t occured to them to lower prices and that might bring fans back. My Spring Training ticket cost $35. For a family of four to go to a regular season game, it would cost $200 or more for good seats and that is without buying any food. Baseball used to be America’s pasttime. According to The SportingNews Blog: The Most popular Sports in the United States
- American Football – 74.5% American football takes the crown when it comes to popularity, and this is the most-watched sport in the US. …
- Basketball- 56.6% …
- Baseball- 50.5% …
- Boxing- 23.4% …
- Ice Hockey- 22.1% …
- Soccer- 21.6% …
- Golf- 19.7%
So back to the new rules. The time clock. Just as in basketball, baseball now has a digital clock that players and fans can see that counts down the seconds that the pitcher holds the ball. He has 15 seconds to throw the ball if the bases are empty, 20 seconds if a player is on base. If he goes over that number, the batter is given a ball. If the batter takes longer than 15 seconds to get himself ready, he gets a strike. The game did seem to go faster. The first three innings were over in thirty minutes. Then it slowed down.
No more shift. At all times, two players have to be on either side of second base. This is so the batting team has a chance for more runs.
Bases are bigger. From 15’“ across, they are now 18” and they are lower to the ground.
Pick offs. If a pitcher doesn’t pick off the player on first base (or any base) on his third try, the player is awarded an extra base. Pitchers used to attempt pick offs to stall the game for whatever reason. No more.
These games were clearly spring training for the umpires as well as the ballplayers. I saw an ump go up to a brand new pitcher and check his ball for substances. I asked my seatmate why he would do that at ST game. The answer was that the umps are doing everything they will need to do at a regular season game.
The game tied at 4-4 at the bottom of the ninth. Game over. Spring Training knows how to keep games shorter! What heaven sitting in sunshine for almost three hours. But being the first sun of the year for me, it was hard on my skin. I started itching and scratching. I had to wear a long sleeve blouse but still…..Sun and baseball!