Clocking Out

Once again, it’s time for the timeless. At least for this season.

Yes, baseball has finally returned with all its glorious rituals. The crack of the bat. The sounds of the organ. Even that slight bit of hope beating in the hearts of all Colorado Rockies fans … and destined to last all of three innings.

But it’s not about winning, right? (At least, not if you live in the Denver area.) Like any good show, it’s about stepping outside of normal life for a while. You leave behind a hurried world and enter a reality that works to its own rhythm, where outs matter more than hours. It’s a place where time doesn’t run out, only chances.

But that may change in 2023.

Next year, for the first time, Major League Baseball may add a pitch clock.

“It is something that remains high on the priority list of ownership,” commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN. “We have a great game, but historically, I think the game was a little crisper the way it moved along.”  

One could argue that maybe less off-the-field drama and fewer lockouts would do more to bring fans back to the game. But hey, that would be petty.

It’s not an unambiguous argument. Pitch clocks have been part of the minor leagues for a few years now (typically giving the pitcher 20 seconds to make his delivery) and when first introduced, they did shave about 11 minutes off the game. But as Baseball America notes, that didn’t last. Even with the attempt to push the pace, the time crept back up again … in fact, Double-A and Triple-A games are now 12 minutes longer than they were before the pitch clock was introduced.

Pretty crisp, huh?

Mind you, I’m not a total curmudgeon. Baseball has been tinkering with itself since the very start. It’s altered the pitch count, the strike zone, the lineups, the gear. Most of the changes have become second nature by now. Some remain controversial, like the now-universal designated hitter or instant replay. (Everyone who believed replay would cause less arguing about an umpire’s calls has never watched an NFL game.)

But the object should always be to make a better game. Not just a faster one.

No, baseball doesn’t have the relentless march of a rigorously timed (and just as long) NFL football game. It’s a different game with a different lesson. Football is about seizing the moment before it slips away from you, making use of your time … and possibly staring in despair when you realize there’s some situations you just can’t come back from.

Baseball teaches hope.

Any at-bat may be the one that turns it around. Any pitch may be the one that snuffs a rally. No matter the deficit, if there’s even one out left, there’s a chance – a forlorn chance, maybe, but a chance. And every fan, at some point, has seen that chance fulfilled.

It’s a more patient view of life. One where things take as long as they take. Where you can always look for another opportunity and strive to make up for past mistakes.

That sort of forgiving outlook doesn’t have to stay between the white lines. It’s a kinder way to live with each other. And with ourselves, too.

Baseball, like life, happens best when it’s not pushed. Let the story tell itself again, with all its quirks and curiosities. On the field and off, leave room for hope to happen.

And with that, I’ll wind up.

I might even do it in less than 20 seconds.  

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