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updated: 2/13/2017 8:05 PM

Rozner: Baseball doesn't need change; it needs kids in the stands

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  • Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber signs baseballs for young fans in 2014 back when he was a member of the Kane County Cougars at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.

    Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber signs baseballs for young fans in 2014 back when he was a member of the Kane County Cougars at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.
    Daily herald file photo

 
 

Every sport wants the same thing and every commissioner sounds like a fool when he says it.

They all want more scoring and they all want shorter games.

Anyone want to reconcile this brilliant approach?

No sport has more conversation regarding this than baseball, the only major sport that owns much of its romance to the simple fact that it doesn't have a clock.

The leisurely pace that made the game so beloved for generations is now the very thing the experts despise about it, experts that seem to have no connection to the game whatsoever.

So there is more talk than ever that baseball needs to change in order to keep up with the times.

And it's nonsense.

You don't get young people interested in baseball by shaving 180 seconds off a game with fundamental and damaging changes.

Is Rob Manfred merely paying lip service to the critics who never cared about baseball in the first place, or is he really this obtuse?

Five years ago, the average time of game was 2:55. Three years ago it was 3:02. Last season, it was 3:00.

It's baseball.

The idea of taking pitches and making pitchers work is nothing new. The sooner you get into a team's bullpen, the better off you are.

They knew this 100 years ago. Theo Epstein didn't invent the concept. He's just better than anyone at finding players who can do it.

And when his players do it well, the games are longer.

Know any Cubs fans complaining that the games were too long when they won 103 last year? Anyone angry that their march to a World Series title meant playoff games ending at 11:30 p.m.?

This entire argument is nonsense. There's nothing wrong with the game itself.

You're not going to get young people more interested because of pitch clocks, starting extra innings with a man on second, 7-inning games, starting every batter with a 1-1 count, stopping mound visits for catchers or managers, limiting pitching changes or changing the strike zone.

(And by the way, eliminating the low strike will create more offense and, wait for it ... longer games. If you want to shorten games, you make the strike zone bigger, not smaller.)

The game is great. That's not the problem.

If you want kids watching games, you need kids going to games.

If you want kids watching games, you need kids playing the game.

That's the problem.

Most of us who enjoy the game grew up going to games with our moms or dads and we watched games on TV with our moms or dads.

We also played pickup games every day on the street or in a park or against a wall or in a vacant lot.

You don't see much of that anymore. If games aren't organized -- and costly -- the games aren't taking place.

As for going to games, the average cost nationally for a family of four attending a game last year, including food, parking and extras, was about $200.

And the average family can't afford that, so they're not taking small children to games more than once every couple years, if at all.

But that's how you get young people hooked on baseball.

If it's all about apps and phones, what game lends itself better to allowing people to use their phones while there's a break in the action? The time between pitches is perfect for that.

But eliminating intentional walks isn't going to fix baseball. Eliminating multiple pitching changes in an inning isn't going to fix baseball. Eliminating three or four minutes from a game isn't going to fix baseball.

That's because baseball doesn't need fixing.

Make the game affordable and you'll get young children back in the stadiums and loving the game.

Get kids out playing the game and they'll appreciate the game.

Play good baseball and win more games and you get more young people wanting to watch the game again.

Those who truly love baseball will probably tell you quietly -- when the baseball thought police aren't nearby -- that there's nothing wrong with the game and it doesn't need saving.

The reality is if you want to get more kids involved, get them to play it, love it and appreciate it.

That's the real answer.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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