This week’s column was basically going to be on how the various operational changes in the Atlantic League have gone this season in the league that features the West Virginia Power.
But before I get to the main topic of this week’s column, I need to bring everyone up to speed on a major change.
Earlier this month at a news conference at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, Chuck Domino, president of the minor league club, announced, beginning the second game of a scheduled double header on Sept. 28 against the Long Island Ducks, the team’s geographical identifier will be Charleston, not West Virginia.
The team had planned to unveil its new nickname during the same game at Power Park. However, local sports reporter Tom Bragg did some digging after the news conference and scooped everybody by announcing the team’s nickname was going to be the Dirty Birds.
A tip of the baseball cap to Tom, for an awesome reporting effort. He hit that one out of the park.
Now back to this week’s main topic, and that’s getting feedback from the Atlantic League’s President Rick White on a few of the changes on the baseball field this season.
For those you who might not know, Major League Baseball uses the Atlantic League to try out new rules the powers-that-be think might improve the sport.
Take, for instance, the runner at second base to start every extra inning. Yep, that made its maiden voyage in the Atlantic League. Now it is being used in the MLB, but word has it, it won’t be next year. We will just have to wait and see.
I personally feel the biggest change in how the game is played took place the first week of August, when the pitchers mound was moved back a foot to 61 feet, 6 inches. Any baseball nut knows that 60 feet, 6 inches has been the distance from the pitcher to the batter since the Cincinnati Red Stockings started playing way over a century ago.
I wanted to know from White what he has heard since that extra foot was added.
“We heard a great deal of chatter prior to the test rules being started,” he said. “But in a month’s time, the move’s impact has been quite modest, far less than was predicted by on-field personnel prior to that time. The statistics comparing the first half of the year to the second half of the year haven’t changed to any great extent over the month. We feel the players have adjusted quite quickly to the additional 12 inches.
“Of course, there was a large amount of questioning prior to the change, but we feel those questions have been answered.”
White said it will be up to MLB if that mound change experiment continues next season.
Another rule change which actually began last season, but was used for baseball in Charleston, is the electronic zone for umpires to call balls and strikes.
White explained to me that it has gotten a passing grade from league members.
“Clubs have universally accepted the electronic strikes and balls zone. We have had a few tweaks here and there to make sure all of the electronic monitoring was dialed in for each ballpark. The adjustments have actually been to the fields, as we have learned that some have more dirt around home plate than others and we had to get that matched up.”
Needless to say, it has stopped pretty much all of the arguing by players over balls and strikes.
Do I like the changes? Well, the jury is still out on that. I remain open-minded for anything to improve the game.