Stuck in the Past: It's Time for Baseball to Change

Spring is my absolute favorite time of year. The sun is shining, the grass is growing, and yes, baseball season is upon us! Like so many of you reading this, I fell in love with the game by losing track of time in my grandpa and grandma’s back yard. He would patiently slow pitch baseballs to me while my sister played in the “outfield”, waiting, just waiting, for me to finally hit the sweet spot and send one flying her direction. The proud look in grandpa’s eyes as he watched that ball fly over his head or the look in my father’s as I busted my hump playing for the youth softball team he coached embodies my love for the game, and which I feel to this very day.

My story isn’t an uncommon one; my relationship with my grandfather was extremely special, and even now, years after he passed away, my connection to him is strongest when baseball is on my mind. On March 22, 2016, as the Tampa Bay Rays became the first MLB team since 1999 to play a game of baseball in Cuba, the global impact of baseball has hit me on a deeper level than I ever thought possible.

Our beloved sport has an ability to bring people together unlike any of its brethren, even soccer, but it can also do so much more. Most of us are vaguely aware of the atrocities that happened during Fidel Castro’s reign over Cuba, but few of us have even the slightest clue of what really took place there. (This is not something I can even begin to understand, nor is it my place to explain. Dan Le Batard of ESPN and the Miami Herald put it much more eloquently than I ever could in this piece, which I can’t recommend reading enough.) Though forgiveness is, justifiably, a long way away, maybe a simple game of baseball can begin the long path to healing for a group of people that never deserved the hand they were dealt in the first place.

For all of the incredible things baseball can do, it’s suffering a ridiculous identity crisis. While we all know what the game is, we cling to an archaic, unwritten book of rules that has left a sport, once dubbed America’s Game, in the 20th century. Whether it’s Goose Gossage going on some ridiculous rant about the sanctity of the game being violated by a few young men flipping their bats and having fun, or we as the fans refusing to embrace rule changes that could potentially make the game more exciting for casual fans, baseball and its fans are both having an awful time embracing change, and it’s going to ultimately lead to the death of something we all hold so dear. Whether we like it or not, it’s time for baseball to change.

Thanks to the implementation of pitch clocks and new rules preventing batters from taking so much time outside of the box between pitches, baseball is finally doing its part. It’s time for the fans to do theirs. It’s time to stop condemning anyone who “plays the game the wrong way”, and start showing a younger generation just how magical baseball can be.

I want to be able to pass the torch to my daughter, but in today’s fast paced world, baseball is getting left in the dust and I’m afraid she’s never going to get to experience the same connection with the game. I’m afraid she won’t get to see just how much a simple game can change the world. Those things can still happen. Every time I read about the game, write about it, or watch grandpa’s Cubbies on TV, I’m a kid again. I can still see that look in grandpa’s eyes when I’d send that ball over his head. That’s how I know the magic isn’t gone yet. But unless we as a community throw out our ancient, unwritten rule book, baseball is going to be stuck just where we’ve left it: in the past.

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